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TULSA SPRING FOOTBALL BEGINS MARCH 6

Senior receiver Bryan Burnham is one of Tulsa's key returnees on offense.
Senior receiver Bryan Burnham is one of Tulsa's key returnees on offense.
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Feb. 28, 2012

Tulsa, Oklahoma - The University of Tulsa football team is just a week away from starting spring drills and begin preparations for the 2012 football season. The Golden Hurricane will participate in its first of 15 spring practice days on Tuesday, March 6.

"We're excited to get spring drills underway. I think better prepared for spring practice this year than a year ago. Last year, it seemed like we were scrambling a little bit with putting together a new staff, finishing out recruiting then getting ready for spring drills. Now, we've been able to have some consistency and carry over," said Blankenship.

"We know our guys and we know each other. We're not spending time learning the offense and defense, now we're spending time actually preparing how to use our guys this spring," added Blankenship. "We're so much more knowledgeable about our players than we were at this time last year."

The most visible competition during Tulsa's spring football drills will be at the quarterback position.

"The quarterback position is the area that everyone will want to talk about. It's the most visible race that will be going on this spring," said Blankenship. "We're excited that we have a load of talent to compete this spring ¬-- four scholarship players and several walk-ons will be trying to sort it out."

"It will be an interesting competition. I don't expect to have answers anytime early," added Blankenship. "I think it will go on all through spring. It's my goal to have a clear number one leaving spring practice, but we'll see if that happens."

The four scholarship players competing for the position will be sophomore Kalen Henderson, the only returnee with playing experience in the Tulsa offense, Nebraska transfer Cody Green, red-shirt freshman Joseph Calcagni and true freshman Dane Evans, who enrolled at mid-semester.

 

 

Quarterback isn't the only area on the offensive side of the ball that the Hurricane coaching staff will use spring practice to fill some graduation losses.

Tulsa returns six starters on offense, including two receivers, tailback, H-Back and two offensive linemen.

"We certainly have some needs that we need to identify offensively," said Blankenship. "We have to replace some offensive linemen, but I think the biggest concern apart from quarterback will be can we find a tight end. That's an area that has gone under the radar. Clay Sears was certainly an outstanding player and we need to find out if we have someone that can begin to fill that position."

"We have an exciting skill-set on offense because we basically have everyone back from last year. In reality, the backfield stays the same and the receiving corps is essentially the same as to what we played with last year," said Blankenship. "We also have a number of freshmen that we were able to red-shirt last season and are able to throw them into the mix this year."

The running back position is in solid hands as Tulsa returns all three tailbacks from a year ago -- starter Trey Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton - who combined to rush for 2,043 of Tulsa's 2,492 yards on the ground. Senior H-back Willie Carter led the Hurricane in receiving with 868 yards while catching seven TD passes.

Tulsa also returns its two starters to the wide-out positions in senior Bryan Burnham and junior Jordan James. Burnham and James each burst onto the scene last season for the Hurricane. The duo came into the year with only one catch for 27 yards between them and closed out the 2011 campaign by combining to catch 85 passes for 1,241 yards and 10 touchdowns.

On defense, Tulsa returns seven starters from last year, but essentially nine starters return to the lineup. Linebacker DeAundre Brown did not start last season, but has started 18 career games while missing the 2010 campaign, and cornerback John Flanders has started 22 career games, but sat out last year as an academic red-shirt.

The Hurricane will need to find a defensive end, two linebackers and a starting cornerback for the 2012 campaign.

"Defensively, there's no doubt we have to find a middle linebacker to replace Curnelius Arnick and we'll continue to find out if we have the depth at defensive end that we think we do, because losing Tyrunn Walker will be a tough replacement at the defensive end spot," said Blankenship.

"We also need a cornerback, but the exciting thing is that John Flanders had a great fall and a good winter. We're anxious to get him back out there. I think he'll have a leg up on the competition, but certainly it will be open competition at cornerback," added Blankenship.

"If you just look at our spring roster the depth we have at the interior defensive tackle positions is pretty good," said Blankenship. "We certainly didn't have that last year at this time."

Returning to the Tulsa defense is starting tackles Daeshon Bufford and Derrick Jackson and end Cory Dorris up front, all seniors. Shawn Jackson will anchor the linebacker corps for the Hurricane. The junior has 23 career starts and has tallied 189 tackles in his two seasons.

"The exciting thing is that we have a core nucleus of secondary guys that have a lot of football behind them. Dexter McCoil, Marco Nelson, Lowell Rose and John Flanders have all played a lot of football. Those guys are known commodities," said Blankenship.

Tulsa was able to red-shirt 14 true freshman last year and gray-shirt another three players.

"Partly because we were able to red-shirt some people we're going into this spring with more depth than we've had and that should play itself out with really good competition for starting spots," said Blankenship.

"The young red-shirts should be in a great situation. Red-shirting is good for our guys. It's not what most guys want to do, but now they have four years to play in front of them," added Blankenship. "It's a matter of do they want to be four-year players. We've had really exciting off-seasons from many of our freshmen that red-shirted. I think we'll see some exciting players on the field this spring."

Tulsa will begin 2012 spring drills with seven practice sessions before spring break and eight of the allowed 15 days of spring practice following the week break. The Hurricane will take the field on Tuesday, March 6 for the first time this spring. Tulsa's practice sessions will normally take place Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays during the spring, but one Wednesday practice is scheduled before spring break. Tulsa's final practice before spring break will be on Thursday, March 15. After spring break, Tulsa returns to the practice field on Tuesday, March 27 for the first of the final eight practice sessions of the spring season. The Annual Spring Game will be played on Saturday, April 7 at 1:00 pm.

Practices are closed.

TULSA TIDBITS . . .

POSITION CHANGES -- Junior Cody Wilson has moved from linebacker to H-back . . . he has played linebacker the last two seasons for the Hurricane . . . Brian DeShane, who played guard last year, moves back to right tackle, the position he started during the 2010 campaign.

IT'S ALL IN A NUMBER -- Some Tulsa players have changed numbers from last year . . . receiver Thomas Roberson moved from #7 to #26 and receiver Samuel Crabtree changes from #26 to #82 . . . OT Jared Grigg changed from #77 to #72 . . . OG Jake Alexander moved up one number from #76 to #77 . . . QB transfer Cody Green will wear #7.

LEAVING -- Receiver Brett Davis, safety Trent Wilkins and safety Cody Lambert, all with eligibility remaining, will not return to the Golden Hurricane after already graduating or graduating this May . . . senior-to-be receiver Ricky Johnson has quit the team and is expected to transfer . . . freshman walk-on defensive tackle Michael Peterson has left the team.

MISSING SPRING, AND THE LIMITED -- Sitting out spring practice due to rehabilitation from injury is offensive guard Stetson Burnett, linebacker Zik Asiegbu, safety Marco Nelson and safety Kwame Sexton . . . linebacker DeAundre Brown will miss the first two weeks of spring drills, but will return to full practice after spring break . . . sophomore linebacker Mitchell Osborne will be limited to non-contact work during spring practice.

FOUR-YEAR STARTERS -- Senior Trent Dupy will enter the 2012 season looking to start at center for the fourth consecutive season . . . he has started 36 career games at center . . . he has started all but two games in his career . . . he did not start at center two times as a freshman . . . Dexter McCoil has started since his true freshman season as well with 30 career starts . . . he started six games as a true freshman in 2009, 11 of 12 games in 2010 and all 13 games in 2011.

FROM ARMY RANGER TO TU QUARTERBACK -- Walk-on junior transfer quarterback Gabe Davis played his prep football at Wylie (Texas) High School and graduated in 2004. He attended Trinity Valley Junior College for two seasons and then joined the military. He was a member of the 1st Ranger Battalion in the Army and served 4.5 years in the military. He served two tours of duty in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan . . . at age 26, Davis now has returned to school . . . he left the military in May 2011 . . . he spent last semester just as a student at North Texas, and transferred to Tulsa at mid-semester . . . said Blankenship "Here's a young man that is quite a bit older and has some life experiences about him. He's a natural leader. It will be interesting to see what he's able to do with the opportunities he's given this spring, but he's certainly a great story."

BLANKENSHIP ON THE QUARTERBACK CANDIDATES --

Sophomore Kalen Henderson (6-0, 210) . . . Kalen has the most experience in our offense as he backed up G.J. all season and had some significant playing time and certainly has that edge . . . he saw his most extensive playing time against Oklahoma State, where he completed 6 passes for 104 yards and two TDs.

Junior transfer Cody Green (6-4, 247) . . . sat out last season after transferring from Nebraska . . . brings more playing time, but out of a different system at Nebraska . . . Cody did a great job leading our scout teams last year while sitting out after the transfer. I am excited to see him in our offense. He brings a lot to the table.

Red-shirt freshman Joseph Calcagni (6-1, 202) . . . We were fortunate to red-shirt Joe Calcagni last year and saw him develop. He actually practiced a lot of the time with our third unit, so we watched him grow in his understanding and ability to run the offense.

True freshman Dane Evans (6-2, 200) . . . Dane is intriguing for us because he comes in as a true freshman. He's our one scholarship quarterback in the 2012 class and he was able to come at mid-semester and be a part of our offseason conditioning. He'll be thrown into the mix and we'll find out pretty quick how prepared he is, but I'm really excited about him. His upside is fabulous.

Junior Malachi Blankenship (6-1, 182) . . . a walk-on athlete . . . Malachi has done a good job as a walk-on quarterback for us. He's done a wonderful job with the scout teams as well. He'll be battling to get some consideration.

Junior Stephen Rouse (6-0, 202) . . . a walk-on athlete . . . Stephen got work most of the year as our third-team quarterback and had a little bit of playing time, and continued to develop. He, too, will battle to get some consideration.

Freshman Red-shirt Jeff Calvert (6-1, 182) . . . a walk-on athlete . . . Jeff came last year as a walk-on and is doing a good job.

Junior transfer Gabe Davis (6-2, 210) . . . a walk-on transfer . . . Gabe is an interesting story. He came out of Wylie, Texas, and went to junior college for a couple of years. He then joined the military and went on several tours to Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army. He came back and has two years to play, so he's using some of his benefits to give himself an opportunity to play. Here's a young man that is quite a bit older and has some life experiences about him. He's a natural leader. It will be interesting to see what he's able to do with the opportunities he's given this spring, but he's certainly a great story.