Talent, competition at kicking positions has Hurricane confident entering season
Senior Cody Green set for second season under center for TU
Tulsa returns starters to receiving corps
Depth strong on offensive front
Tulsa kicks off season Thursday at Bowling Green
After three years at the helm of the Tulsa football program, alumnus Bill Blankenship has taken the Golden Hurricane to two Bowl games and led his 2012 team to the winningest season in school history, tying the 2008 team for most victories with 11 wins.
Blankenship has guided TU to an overall 22-17 record in his first three seasons. He won a total of 19 games through his first two campaigns, thus becoming just the second coach in school history to accomplish that feat in his first two years. He trailed Todd Graham's (2007-08) 21 wins, while surpassing Francis Schmidt (1919-20) and Henry Frnka (1941-42), both with 18 wins in their first two campaigns.
Facing a rebuilding year in 2013 after losing 13 starters due to graduation and three more starters due to injury and suspension, Tulsa won three games a year ago.
In 2012, Blankenship led the Hurricane to an 11-3 overall record, a second consecutive 7-1 Conference USA mark, the C-USA West Division title and C-USA Championship with an overtime victory over UCF. Tulsa closed out the season with a 31-17 victory over Iowa State in the 54th Annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
Blankenship garnered C-USA's Coach of the Year honors for Tulsa's performance during the 2012 campaign.
In his first season as the Hurricane head coach, Blankenship led Tulsa to an 8-5 record against a murderous early schedule against No. 1-ranked Oklahoma, No. 7 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Boise State within the first three weeks of the season and against No. 7 Houston in the season finale. Tulsa closed out the season with an appearance in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in 2011, the school's sixth bowl appearance in seven years.
A former Tulsa quarterback, Blankenship has been a part of the Hurricane coaching staff for seven years, including the last three as head coach. He was promoted as the school's 28th head football coach on January 14, 2011.
"I'm ecstatic. This is a day I've dreamed about for a long time. There's an old coaches quote that says `Luck is when preparation meets opportunity'. I feel like I'm prepared and have been prepared. Fortunately, the opportunity presented itself, and I'm excited to take what I think is a great program and help propel it to even greater heights," said Blankenship at his introductory press conference.
In his seven seasons, Tulsa teams have won 58 games, three Conference USA West Division titles (2007, 2008 and 2012), shared one West Division crown (2010), made three appearances in the C-USA Championship Game (2007, 2008 and 2012), won the 2012 C-USA title and played in five Bowl games. During his seven years on the Hurricane staff, Blankenship has been a part of four of the nine 10-win seasons in school history, including two years with 11 victories.
Before his appointment as head coach, Blankenship spent four years as an assistant coach for the Hurricane under Todd Graham. He returned to his alma mater in January 2007 to coach the wide receivers. In 2008, Blankenship was named special teams coordinator and in 2009 added the responsibilities of running backs coach as well.
In 2010, Blankenship served as senior associate head coach, running backs coach and special teams coordinator.
In four seasons as an assistant coach, Blankenship was a part of 36 victories, two straight Conference USA West Division titles (2007, 2008), shared one C-USA Western Division crown (2010), played in two C-USA Championship Games (2007, 2008), two GMAC Bowl Championships and the 2010 Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl Championship.
Blankenship was a key member of an offensive coaching staff that saw the Hurricane lead the nation in total offense two straight years, with an average of 543.9 yards in 2007 and an average of 569.9 yards in 2008. In 2007, Blankenship's receiving corps had three players total more than 1,000 yards on the season (Brennan Marion, Trae Johnson and Charles Clay). In 2010, Tulsa was once again among the national leaders in offense ranking fifth in total offense (505.6), sixth in scoring offense (41.3), 13th in passing offense (288.6) and 15th in rushing offense (216.9).
Blankenship headed up Tulsa's special teams for the previous three years, and nearly every area of special teams showed improvement each season. In 2010, Tulsa ranked first in punt return yardage defense, ninth in net punting, 10th in kickoff return yardage defense, 21st in punt returns and 48th in kickoff returns. The Hurricane punt coverage unit allowed just 1.5 yards on 19 returns for its' number one ranking.
A year earlier, Tulsa ranked eighth in NCAA statistics for punt returns, 29th for punt return defense and 33rd for net punting. He also coached the nation's No. 7 punter (Michael Such) and No. 8 punt returner (Damaris Johnson). For two consecutive seasons - 2009 and 2010 - Damaris Johnson was the nation's all-purpose yardage leader.
In 2008, Tulsa's special teams ranked eighth in the nation for kickoff returns, while Damaris Johnson earned Freshman All-America honors as a kick return specialist.
After the 2008 campaign, Blankenship was recognized by the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame with the "Merv Johnson Integrity in College Coaching Award." He was inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame in July 2009.
Before entering the collegiate coaching ranks, Blankenship spent 23 years as an Oklahoma High School coach. Blankenship resigned as the head football coach at Tulsa's Union High School in December 2005 after leading his team to a second consecutive state championship at the Oklahoma Class 6A school.
Before being appointed to the Tulsa coaching staff, Blankenship served as the state director of Oklahoma for the Coaches Outreach Ministry during his one year away from coaching,
As a head coach on the prep level, Blankenship compiled a 205-68 record, including an average of 10 wins per season for his last 20 years, appeared in the state championship game eight times and won three state titles. He was named the District Coach of the Year eight times, twice was selected as the Region Coach of the Year and served as head coach for the Oklahoma team at the 1998 Oil Bowl All-Star game.
He spent 14 years as the head football coach and athletic director at Union High School, where he registered a record of 154-26. His teams qualified for the state playoffs 14 times, reached the quarterfinals 10 times and made the semifinals in nine seasons. Blankenship's teams made the state championship game seven times.
He guided his Union team to Oklahoma Class 6A state titles in 2002, 2004 and 2005. Blankenship's teams at Union won eight straight district championships and had a 56-game home winning streak from 1997 through 2005.
Blankenship had more than 100 student-athletes receive college scholarships in his 14 seasons at Union High School.
Before moving to Union, Blankenship coached two seasons at Edmond Memorial High School, where his teams made two state playoff appearances. Before that, he posted a 34-17 mark in four seasons and made one state championship game appearance at Spiro High School. Blankenship also coached at Sapulpa High School as offensive coordinator in 1985 and was the head coach at Eastwood Christian School for the 1983 and 1984 seasons.
Blankenship credits a number of coaching influences in his life for this opportunity to coach the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
"I think back to some defining moments in my career. I go back to F.A. Dry sitting in my living room in 1975 and giving me the chance to come to The University of Tulsa to be a quarterback. Later that month, Barry Switzer sat in my living room giving me the opportunity to go to Oklahoma. They ran the wishbone and he said they would let me be a quarterback, but that I would probably play defense. I respectfully declined because I wanted to play quarterback, and that has probably set this course in motion. I came here and I loved what I did," said Blankenship. "There were a number of coaches that had tremendous influences on me, from F.A. Dry and Jerry Rhome, who was my first quarterbacks coach, to John Cooper, a Hall of Fame coach, and Larry Coker, who was my last quarterbacks coach here. I was raised in a coachs' household. My dad was a high school hall of fame coach. L.D. Johnson, also a high school hall of fame coach, coached me in high school. When you start putting all the pieces together, you can tell that I was blessed with the good fortune of being impacted by some tremendous people in my life."
Blankenship was a three-year letterman and quarterback at Tulsa during the 1975-79 seasons. After red-shirting in 1976, Blankenship started eight games in the 1977 season and six contests in 1979. During his playing career, he threw for 2,113 yards and eight touchdowns. Blankenship earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1979, and received a master's degree from Northeastern State in 1985.
He and his wife, Angie, have three sons, all three of whom played college football. Their oldest son, Josh, played quarterback at Tulsa before earning All-America honors at Eastern Washington University. Caleb was an all-conference tight end at Tulsa, while their youngest son, Adam, played at Illinois State. Josh is in his first year coaching the Tulsa quarterbacks, while Adam is in his fourth season as Tulsa's defensive ends coach.
THE BLANKENSHIP FILE
The University of Tulsa (Quarterback), 1975-79. Red-shirted in 1976. Started at quarterback in both the 1977 and 1979 seasons.
Bowl Games as a Player 1976 Independence Bowl (Tulsa)
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