TULSA FOOTBALL PRE-SPRING OFFENSIVE OUTLOOK
Feb. 29, 2012
Tulsa, Oklahoma -
The talk of spring practice will center around the quarterback position as Tulsa will be looking to replace three-year starter G.J. Kinne.
"The most visible race that will be going on will be for the quarterback spot. We're excited that we have a load of talent to compete this spring with four scholarship players and several walk-ons. It will be an interesting competition going on," said Head Coach Bill Blankenship. "I don't expect to have any answers anytime early at all. 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.
Henderson saw his most playing time against nationally-ranked Oklahoma State in the third week of the season when Kinne went down with a first quarter injury. Henderson completed six passes for 104 yards and two TDs after coming into the game having only played a couple series a week earlier at Tulane.
Green has more collegiate experience but in a different offense at Nebraska. He played in 17 games and started four contests for the Cornhuskers while completing 54-percent of his passes for 657 yards and five TDs and rushing for 254 yards in his two seasons.
Calcagni spent time last year taking snaps with the third team offense and also helped with the scout team offense. As a two-year starter at Springdale (Ark.) High School, he threw for 4,718 yards and 42 touchdowns. The true freshman Evans started for three years at Sanger (Texas) High School and completed 64-percent of his passes for 9,074 yards and 94 TDs.
Four walk-on candidates will also take snaps in the spring, including Thomas Rouse, Malachi Blankenship, Jeff Calvert and newcomer Gabe Davis, who has returned to college after spending time in the United States Military and serving several tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. A junior, Davis played his prep football at Wylie (Texas) High School and spent two years in junior college before entering the military.
QUARTERBACK DEPTH CHART 15 Kalen Henderson (6-0, 210, So-1L) 7 Cody Green (6-4, 247, Jr-RS) 18 Joseph Calcagni (6-1, 202, Fr-RS) 11 Stephen Rouse (6-0, 202, Jr-SQ) 5 Malachi Blankenship (6-1, 182, Jr-SQ) 9 Dane Evans (6-2, 200, Fr-HS) 13 Gabe Davis (6-2, 210, Jr-TR) 8 Jeff Calvert (6-1, 182, Fr-RS)RUNNING BACK
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.
Douglas earned second-team all-C-USA honors and Watts was an honorable mention selection. Douglas gained 883 yards for a 7.9 average per carry, while Watts rushed for 881 yards and a 5.6 average. Singleton was the bruiser on short yardage situations with 279 yards and a team-high eight rushing TDs.
Red-shirt freshman Zach Langer will have an opportunity to contribute, but will also have the luxury of learning behind a stable of experienced running backs.
TAILBACK DEPTH CHART 22 Trey Watts (5-11, 190, Jr-2L) 25 Ja'Terian Douglas (5-11, 189, Jr-2L) 8 Alex Singleton (6-1, 260, Sr-2L) 24 Zack Langer (5-11, 204, Fr-RS) 29 Josh Cade (5-8, 195, So-RS)
There was no fall off when Charles Clay, a contributing rookie with the Miami Dolphins last year, graduated after the 2010 season and left the H-Back position to Willie Carter. The senior to-be led the Hurricane in receiving with 868 yards and caught seven TD passes.
Carter's absence in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl was obvious when he was forced to sit out the game against the BYU Cougars after being injured two days prior to the game. His loss left the Hurricane with no true back-up with Carter's skill-set.
The depth at the H-Back position has been addressed with gray-shirt Michael Sorrells, who rushed for 1,629 yards and 24 TDs as a senior and caught 13 passes for 234 yards in his final two seasons at Austin (Texas) McCallum High School.
Junior Cody Wilson, who's playing time was limited last year on defense, will make the switch from linebacker to H-Back this spring.
H-BACK DEPTH CHARTRECEIVER
Just like at running back, the Tulsa coaches feel good about the experience returning to the receiver position and are excited about a group of young players able to red-shirt last year.
"We have an exciting skill-set on offense because we basically have everyone back from last year. In reality, the backfield stays the same, the receiving corps is essentially the same as to what we played with last year, and then we have a number of freshmen that we were able to red-shirt and now in the mix," said Blankenship.
Tulsa 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.
"I think we'll be much improved at the receiving corps compared to where we were this time last year. Competition will be really strong. We add back a healthy Thomas Roberson to the mix of returning starters Burnie (Bryan Burnham) and JJ (Jordan James) and all of a sudden you have three returning starters in that group, not to mention the talent behind them," added Blankenship.
Roberson, who was able to receive a medical hardship last year, looks to return this spring in good health after totaling 30 receptions for 367 yards and two TDs as a true freshman in 2010.
Backing up Burnham will be junior Freeman Kelley and true sophomore Keyarris Garrett. Both Kelley and Garrett saw limited time at wide-out a year ago. At the flanker position, junior Samuel Crabtree and red-shirt freshman Conner Floyd will back-up James heading into spring drills.
WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH CHART
"We certainly have some needs that we need to identify offensively. 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-in at that position," said Blankenship.
Sears caught 37 passes for 469 yards and seven TDs a year ago. This spring, Tulsa returns only one letterwinner to the tight end position, Greg Brown, but he earned his playing time last year mostly on special teams.
So the Hurricane will be looking to fill the tight end position between two scholarship players and four walk-ons, before a JC transfer (Taylor Grove) and top high school recruit (Tyler Wilson) join the troops for two-a-day drills.
Brown and 6'8" red-shirt freshman Colt Clontz are the two scholarship players, while senior Matt Hesterberg, sophomore transfer Charlie Copa from Syracuse and red-shirt freshman Harrison Lowe and Colby Scott will be competing to put their name on top of the list at tight end heading out of spring drills.
TIGHT END DEPTH CHART
Tulsa lost three starters on the offensive front, including the left side of the line that saw guard Clint Anderson and tackle Tyler Holmes start 83 games between them over the last four seasons. Notre Dame transfer Matt Romine started all 13 games at right tackle last year as well.
"Certainly losing three starters in the offensive line is a big deal. In talking with coach (Denver) Johnson, the tackle spots are the keys for us," said Blankenship.
But, it's not panic time, because the Hurricane has developed depth on the offensive front over the last two years and can have good depth in 2012 as well. "The older guys are strong, but you add the young ones and hopefully we can build some really good depth," said Blankenship.
The two starters returning up front for the Hurricane are senior center Trent Dupy, who has started all but two games since coming to Tulsa with 36 career starts, and right guard Stetson Burnett, who has started 20 games in his two seasons.
"Stetson is an experienced guy who will be out this spring with an injury, but he's proven. Even though we're replacing three starters, Brian DeShane has been a starter multiple times, so he has a leg up, but he's been a utility guy who has played guard and tackle for us. We'll really look at him early in spring at the right tackle spot," said Blankenship.
"Beyond that, we think we have some really good depth. We were able to red-shirt Garrett Gladd and Garrett Stafford from the freshmen class, and then bringing in Davis Walton from NEO, I think those three guys all of a sudden add to the depth we have," said Blankenship. "Upperclassmen like Gabe Moyer has played, we're excited about Jake Alexander at guard, and Jared Grigg is a guy we think will step in at tackle and compete well for that starting left tackle spot."
Deshane started two games in 2009 at left guard, nine games in 2010 at right tackle and two contests in the 2011 campaign at right guard. He will start out at the right tackle spot during spring drills and will get pushed by the JC transfer Walton, who was a tight end at Tulsa's Bishop Kelley High Schoo before playing tackle in his final year at NEO A&M.
At left tackle, Grigg and Gladd will compete in spring drills for the starting spot, while Alexander and Stafford will battle for the starting left guard position.
"We expect a battle at the tackle positions," said Blankenship. "The young ones are really talented, but I think experience goes a long way on the offensive line, and that's what Grigg and DeShane possess. They have game experience and there's no shortcut for that. They have a leg up to start spring, but I really expect there to be a battle."
OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART
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