DAY 16 REPORT: Position Look at Offensive Line
Aug. 17, 2014
Tulsa, Oklahoma - The Tulsa football team returned to campus Sunday morning after spending Saturday on a retreat at Dry Gulch USA in Adair, Oklahoma, on the shores of Lake Hudson. The Golden Hurricane will take off Sunday and return to the practice field Monday afternoon to continue preparations for season-opening opponent Tulane.
Tulsa opens the season on Thursday, August 28 against the Tulane Green Wave in the friendly confines of H.A. Chapman Stadium. Game time is set for 7:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased online at TulsaHurricane.com, by calling 918.631.GoTU (4688) or stopping by the TU Athletic Ticket Office at the Reynolds Center, Monday-Friday, 8:30-5 pm.
Despite losing three players who totaled 32 starts between them last year, the Hurricane offensive line returns eight letterwinners, and Tulsa coaches feel good about the developing depth.
The center position and left side of the offensive line has been consistent throughout fall camp with tackle Garrett Stafford (6-5, 314) returning as the veteran of the group, left guard Chris Wallace (6-5, 311) and center Dylan Foxworth (6-1, 281), both sophomores, holding down starting spots.
Stafford moved into the starting lineup in the 13th game of his red-shirt freshman season against UCF in the Conference USA Championship game due to an injury, and has not looked back. Last year, Stafford just switched sides from right tackle to left tackle and will hold down that position for the Hurricane in 2014.
"Obviously, we've got players that haven't played a lot at certain positions, but we've been able to stockpile a little bit, and I do think we're a lot deeper on the offensive line," said Blankenship. "I think we can go a couple deep and feel like those guys can actually help us win - for sure three tackles, maybe four."
"The fact that Davis (Walton) has missed a lot of the preseason camp, gave Blake Belcher a chance to catch up after he missed the spring," said Blankenship. "Blake, Davis and Garrett (Stafford) are really good, and Evan Plagg is behind them, so that's three or four tackles that can really help us.
Foxworth, who played in all 12 games, became a permanent fixture on the front with eight starting assignments at center last year.
Due to some early injuries, the right side of the line has been in a little transition. Junior Billy Lafortune (6-0, 283) began fall camp at right guard, while Garrett Gladd (6-4, 303) started at right tackle due to a foot injury that sidelined Davis Walton (6-5, 285) at the start of fall camp.
When Lafortune was sidelined with an injury, Gladd moved inside to the guard spot and sophomore Blake Belcher (6-5, 300) took control of the right tackle position. Both Walton and Lafortune are back practicing with the Hurricane, giving the Tulsa offensive front good depth.
Gladd and Belcher still have a hold on the starters' positions on the right side of the line.
Red-shirt freshman Rob Boyd (6-4, 319) and sophomore James Floyd (6-2, 301), who has recently returned from an injury that sidelined him from early in spring drills add depth at the guard spots. Walk-on Evan Plagg (6-4, 275), a red-shirt freshman from Guthrie (Okla.) High School, has been a pleasant surprise to Tulsa coaches, and will back-up on the right side of the offensive front at tackle, while another red-shirt freshman Zac Uhles (6-3, 265) will share backup duties at center with Lafortune.
"At left guard, I've been very impressed with Chris Wallace and his progress has allowed us to move Garrett Gladd, Rob Boyd and Bill Lafortune around at those two guard spots, so we feel like we have four guys that can play the guard positions," added Blankenship.
"Billy will still have to do some work at center occasionally, but we have (Dylan) Foxworth and Zac Uhles working at center with Billy being the swing guys," said Blankenship. "We feel like we have 8 or 9 that we're not afraid to play at all on the front line, and then you feel like there's truly a two-deep and by the time we get to October we should be in pretty good shape with those guys."
ATHLETICS TICKET OFFICE