When Jim Harbaugh left the program he had built to join the San Francisco 49ers on January 7, 2011, Stanford football stood at a crossroads. Most observers believed the program would crumble and that the assembled recruiting class would splinter in the four weeks that remained before National Signing Day, but that didn't happen. This series will take a closer look at some of the players from that landmark class who are poised for greatness in 2013.
Ty Montgomery arrived in the fall of 2011 with physical tools that rivaled those of any receiver ever to play at Stanford University, so it wasn't much of a surprise when he began contributing as a true freshman. His first big moment came when he scored on a 96-yard kickoff return on the final play against Washington State midway through the season, and he quickly gained the confidence of Andrew Luck with a breakout performance in Stanford's epic triple overtime win over USC. Montgomery caught five balls for 87 yards in that game, and again showed his speed as he caught a 62-yard pass from Luck. He had another solid game against Notre Dame, and was Stanford's leading receiver with 7 catches for 120 yards in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State.
With that solid finish, the expectations were high for 2012. (At this time last year, I predicted 50 catches and 700 yards for Montgomery in 2012.) He opened with a solid game in the opener against San Jose State, pulling in 5 receptions for 49 yards, but he wouldn't top that yardage total again. His season was marred by injuries and a handful of dropped passes, and he didn't find the end zone at all. By the second half of the season, Montgomery had become an afterthought in the passing game and was rarely targeted beyond the line of scrimmage. He had only eight receptions over the final six games, and most of them were wide receiver screens.
The good news for Montgomery, however, is that his season finished on a positive note. He caught three balls in the Rose Bowl (and came tantalizingly close to a game-icing touchdown when he slipped behind the defense but was overthrown by Kevin Hogan). As I walked out of the stadium that night, I crossed paths with one of Montgomery's family members. She might've been his mother, or maybe an aunt; she was wearing his #88 jersey. Our conversation was short but substantive.
"I really thought he had that long touchdown," I said.
"I know!" Her face looked pained, but only for a split second.
"You know what, though? I think next year is gonna be his year," I said.
Her face lit up with a smile. She agreed.
I still stand by that statement. This season should be a turning point for Montgomery, and his decision to switch from #88 to #7 could be an indication that he has that same idea.
He is the clear number one receiver, and reports indicate that he is healthy again. With his combination of size (6'2" and 215) and speed, Montgomery definitely has the tools to be an above average wide receiver in the Pac-12 and the potential to be even better than that. Also working in Montgomery's favor is Hogan's emergence. With a full off-season to become more acquainted with the offense -- and presumably to work with Montgomery -- Hogan promises to be even more confident in 2013.
In two years Montgomery has career totals of 50 receptions for 563 yards and two touchdowns. The prediction here is that he eclipses those numbers in this year alone.