2000 Tulsa Football Outlook
Aug. 1, 2000
Not only does first-year Head Football Coach Keith Burns bring enthusiasm and excitement to the Hurricane football program, but the experience and knowledge of how to win football games.
His plan is pretty simple, "don't beat yourself, no turnovers, attack on defense and be solid in the kicking game, using it as a weapon," said Burns.
As success has followed Burns while serving as one of the nation's top defensive coordinators, "The Code" has become a common theme. "There are four basic principles to 'The Code' -- be prepared, play hard, play at maximum speed and finish," said Burns. He expects his team to live by "The Code", and develop the attitude of winners.
The Hurricane returns 37 letterwinners, including six offensive starters and eight starters on defense for Burns' first squad.
The offensive unit appeared to make a smooth transition to the new coaching staff. "As a group, the offense adapted extremely well to the change in terminology during spring drills, which enabled us to install the entire offense," said offensive coordinator Jim Gilstrap.
For the offense, the quarterbacking position appears to be in good shape as the Western Athletic Conference's Freshman of the Year Josh Blankenship, and senior Michael Wall bring plenty of quality game experience.
Blankenship completed 51-percent of his passes for 1,416 yards in 10 games last year, while Wall completed 63-percent of his passes for 819 yards and four TDs in his six starts before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Although the Hurricane lost its top two receivers, the cupboard was not left bare. Junior Donald Shoals and senior Corey Brown return as Tulsa's top two receivers combining for 664 yards and three TDs.
"The mentality of our football team aligns with both the offensive and defensive front. We need to be strong in both places," said Burns. "If the offensive line plays together with one heartbeat, then we'll have success on offense."
On defense, 21 letterwinners return for the 2000 season, including eight starters as well as three part-time starters.
"Our defense starts with the front," added Burns. "If our big guys up front play with great effort -- consistent and relentless -- then we've got a real good chance at having a solid defense. Our linebackers have to have the ability to close a hole and make a play, while in the secondary we cannot give up big plays."
Eight letterwinners return to the defensive front, but the group is still rather young as just three seniors are among them. Three of the nine returning lettermen were starters in 1999, including ends Chris Odom and Drew McLaughlin and tackle Jeff Hewitt.
"We need to get a pass rush, get sacks and create turnovers on defense," said defensive coordinator Jeff McInerney. "We can do that by getting more speed and athletic ability up front."
Six letterwinners return to the linebacking corps including starters Ashon Farley and Brad Hawkins. For the second straight season, Farley led the Hurricane in tackles with 85 stops, while Hawkins tallied 52 tackles a year ago.
Senior Philip Abode came out of spring drills as the starter at one linebacker slot, while Hawkins and Farley will battle for the other starting position.
Five players return to the bandit/rover and secondary positions with prior starting experience -- sophomores Brett Butler and Keithan McCorry, junior Harold Burgess and seniors Chris Miller and Sedrick Lusk.
"The more pressure, more sacks, more negative plays and more turnovers we're able to create, gives us a better chance to be successful because it puts the ball in the hands of our offense a higher percentage of time and with better field position," added McInerney.
Wall started the first six games of the 1999 campaign before suffering a season-ending knee injury against TCU. Blankenship took over as Tulsa's signal-caller and came out of spring drills as the starter.
Blankenship was selected as the Western Athletic Conference's Freshman of the Year after throwing for 1,416 passing yards and seven touchdowns a year ago. He completed 51-percent of his passes and had four consecutive games of throwing for better than 200 yards.
In his five starts, Blankenship completed 57-percent of his passes for 1,109 yards, a 222-yard per game average.
Wall, who was relegated to non-contact work during spring drills, completed 63-percent of his passes for 819 yards and four TDs in six games last year. Wall enters his final season with 2,007 career passing yards and 12 touchdowns in 22 games.
In addition, true freshman James Kilian (6-3, 200), who set the national record for eight-man football and Oklahoma all-class records with 8,426 yards and 120 touchdowns over four varsity seasons, adds depth at quarterback.
The Running Backs
Bohanon rushed for 299 yards and a team-best nine touchdowns last year, while Smalls, who will also see time at receiver, transferred to Tulsa from the University of Illinois. Freshman Jorma Bailey (6-0, 180) entered school at semester break and brings solid prep credentials as he rushed for over 1,600 yards as a high school senior in Clearwater, Florida.
As a receiver at Illinois, Smalls caught 11 passes for 101 yards and a 9.2 average during the 1998 season.
A trio of newcomers will receive an opportunity to contribute as true freshmen this season, including Eric Richardson (5-9, 170) and Donte' Hart (5-11, 185), both of whom enjoyed solid seasons as prep seniors in Texas. Hart rushed for just over 2,000 yards as a senior, while Richardson gained 1,439 yards. Joining them is freshmen Roswell Kinnard (5-9, 190) who turned in an impressive senior campaign at Claremore (Okla.) High School.
Sophomore D.J. Barnett (5-11, 197), who saw playing time in seven games before suffering a fractured fibula, will sit out this year. He gained 116 yards on 35 carries in seven games.
Shoals caught 30 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns, while Brown was Tulsa's "big play" receiver with a 17.2 average per reception on 19 catches for 326 yards. Senior Andrew LeCrone (6-3, 207) and junior Donald Moten (5-11, 192) have seen playing time for the Hurricane.
LeCrone, who has battled injuries his entire career, receives a sixth year of eligiblity. He caught seven passes last season for 76 yards, and this year will be expected to make major contributions. Moten had three receptions for 16 yards while playing in seven games a year ago.
A group of six returning squad members, one redshirt freshman and four true freshmen will battle playing time.
Senior Tariq Green (6-3, 174), who saw most of his playing time last year on special teams, is joined by juniors Jarrett Nixon (6-2, 215), Dustin Hoffman (6-2, 167), Sam Duregger (6-0, 185), Darriel Johnson (50-11, 167), sophomore Brandon Birks (5-10, 174) and redshirt freshman Clayton Gaddis (5-10, 165).
The true freshmen who will be given an opportunity to contribute include Carl Scott (5-7, 160), who was named Tennessee Mr. Football in 1999, two Oklahoma all-state performers Derrick Williams (6-2) and Darrell Wimberly (6-0, 170), and Montiese Culton (6-0, 185).
Smalls who doubles at running back, is also expected to see playing time at the receiver position. He had 11 receptions for 101 yards as well as a 23.0 kickoff return average in 1998 for the Illini.
The Offensive Line
Schiller, a three-year starter at center, and Wiedower, a two-year starter at guard anchor a young offensive line. Both Schiller and Wiedower earned honorable mention all-WAC merits a year ago, while Shaffer turned in a solid year in his first as a starter.
Schiller has started 31 games at center for the Hurricane, while Wiedower has 20 career starter at guard under his belt.
From left to right, Shaffer anchors the tackle spot and is backed up by senior Phil Franks (6-8, 266) and newcomer Rob Frederick (6-4, 320), who is the younger brother of fellow TU lineman, Ron.
Redshirt freshman Ron Frederick (6-5, 300) and newcomer Zack Newby (6-3, 270) add depth behind Daniluk at the left guard position. Newby brings solid prep credentials from Putnam City North (Okla.) High School.
Schiller will be backed up by sophomore Anthony Taylor (6-1, 280), a walkon from Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School. Taylor had a solid spring, and took all the snaps in the srping game due to an injury to Schiller.
Wiedower holds down the starting spot at right guard, while a host of young players are listed behind the senior. Redshirt freshman Earl Ireson (6-4, 306), followed by true freshman Matt Black (6-2, 285) and Dustin Traynor (6-5, 310) will battle for playing time behind Wiedower.
Lining up next to Wiedower on the right side of the line will be either redshirt freshman Tony Katic (6-4, 274) or sophomore Jake Stoetzner (6-6, 296). Both had good spring seasons, while Katic enters fall camp as the starter.
Katic made the move from tight end to tackle during spring drills, while Stoetzner has starting experience from a year ago. He started the Hawaii game at quick tackle, and saw plenty of action in a reserve role throughout the season. In addition, newcomer Tony Guined (6-7, 250) adds depth at tackle.
The Tight Ends
Carey, who caught five passes for 40 yards last year after making the move from the defensive side of the ball, is the only returning tight end with college game experience. He started three games a year ago.
Roach, who showed his versatility as a prep standout by playing four offensive positions his senior season, moved over from wide receiver during spring drills. Freshman Austin Chadwick (6-3, 253), who entered school at mid-semester break, participated in spring drills.
In high school, Chadwick was on the receiving end of passes from Blankenship at Union High School, catching 12 passes for 182 yards as a prep senior.
In addition, a pair of 6-5 newcomers, Cole McNair (6-5, 200) and Josh Reed (6-5, 240), join the tight end position from the prep ranks. McNair had 1,670 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns as a high school senior wide receiver, while Reed was his school's starting tight end his sophomore and junior seasons.
End Chris Odom (6-4, 234), a two-year starter, returns the most experience for the Hurricane up front. Odom tallied 42 tackles including five stops for -18 yards and two sacks for -12 yards.
Junior letterwinner Justin Dixon (6-1, 237) is listed behind Odom at one end slot, followed by redshirt freshmen Jason Collier (6-3, 232) and a pair of talented freshmen, Jeremy Davis (6-1, 237) and Michael Ware (6-3, 210). Dixon tallied 15 tackles last season.
Redshirt freshman Sammy Umobong (6-3, 240) had an excellent spring and came out of drills as the starter opposite Odom. Junior Drew McLaughlin, who missed spring drills with an injury, gives the Hurricane a solid one-two punch behind Umobong. He will look to regain his starting position from a year ago. McLaughlin, who moved over from tight end prior to last season, tallied 31 tackles in nine games.
In addition, junior Lee Vick (6-4, 238) moved back to the defensive side of the ball after spending a year at tight end. Vick and freshman Josh Walker (6-4, 221) will provide depth behind Umobong and McLaughlin.
Senior Da'mond Robinson was moved inside from end to tackle during spring drills and enters the fall as the starter. Robinson totalled 22 tackles and four stops for -17 yards last year. Sophomore Sam Rayburn came out of spring drills as the starter at noseguard. As a true freshman last year, Rayburn collected 19 tackles and three stops for -8 yards.
Sophomores Beau Gray (6-2, 271) and Mark Mallory (6-6, 239) will battle for playing time on the interior. The duo saw valuable playing time a year ago, and combined to total 53 tackles and 11 stops for lost yardage as redshirt freshmen.
Incumbent starting tackle Jeff Hewitt, who had 19 tackles a year ago, will battle for playing time at noseguard.
Abode, who has 11 career starting assignments and tallied just seven tackles last season, came out of spring drills as the starter at one of the outside linebackers spot. Farley enters the fall as the other starter, but will get a strong push for the starting position from Hawkins.
For the second straight year, Farley led the Hurricane in 1999 with 85 tackles, including a team-high 12 stops for -31 yards. He also intercepted two passes and returned one 63 yards for a touchdown against UTEP. Hawkins tallied 52 tackles to rank fifth on the squad a year ago.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Fuqua (6-0, 210) and junior Ryan Cook (6-3, 215) will battle for the backup spot behind Abode. Cook, who sat out last year with a low back stress fracture, will look to return to his 1998 form when he totalled 66 tackles as a redshirt freshman.
Incoming freshman Jason Wiltshire (6-3, 215) is expected to make an immediate impact at linebacker, while redshirt freshman Erik Lechtenberg (5-11, 209) adds depth.
After Farley and Hawkins battle for the starting spot at one linebacking position, seniors Dani Mouri (5-9, 215) and Clay Johnson (6-1, 220) add quality depth. Mouri saw valuable time last year, mostly on special teams, while Johnson had 16 stops in six games a year ago before suffering a shoulder injury.
The Bandits and Rovers
Sophomore Keithan McCorry (6-0, 177) and senior Chris Miller (5-10, 185) return solid experience to the playing field for the Hurricane, and four redshirt freshmen will help make up the two positions.
McCorry, as a redshirt freshman, held his own as a starting cornerback last year and came away with 43 stops and three pass breakups. He made a smooth transition to the newly created rover position, and came out of spring drills as the starter.
Miller is the squad's second-leading returning tackler, having tallied 61 tackles a year ago as the starter at strong safety. He enters fall camp as the backup at both bandit and rover.
The Defensive Secondary
At cornerback, sophomore Brett Butler (6-0, 190) and senior Sedrick Lusk (5-11, 178) hold down the starting slots. Butler was the starter at free safety a year ago, and moved to cornerback during spring drills. He tallied 39 tackles and his three interceptions tied for the team-lead a year ago.
Lusk played in all 11 games a year ago, but started just one contest. He started six games his sophomore season at cornerback for the Hurricane. Lusk totalled 17 tackles last season.
Filling out the slots at cornerback are senior Frankie Johnson (5-11, 188), who has been hampered with injuries much of his career, sophomore Rockie Young (5-7, 160), who saw limited time a year ago, and true freshman Sherman Steptoe (5-9, 175).
The free safety spot has two returning letterwinners in the likes of junior Harold Burgess (5-11, 186) and senior Gavin Engle (6-2, 182). Burgess came out of spring drills as the starter, while Engle and sophomore Terrell Siegfried (5-9, 170) will compete for the backup role.
Burgess tallied 28 tackles last seson in eight games, while Engle had 14 tackles in his first season after sitting out the 1998 campaign with an injury. Engle transferred to Tulsa from Mesa (Ariz.) Community College
Freshman George Delonia (6-0, 165) joins the Tulsa roster from nearby Rogers High School, and will add depth in the secondary at safety.
The Kicking Game
Earnest handled kickoff duties and shared time for PATs and field goals last year. Lipscomb punted 61 times for a 40.7 average and placed 12 of his punts inside the 20-yard line.
Newcomer Thomas Perrault (6-2, 250) will take over the deep snapping duties from graduated four-year starter Robbie Geurin.
Despite losing the top kickoff and punt returners from a year ago in the likes of John Mosley and Spencer Braggs, the Hurricane will have an abundance of talent to choose from including junior Donald Shoals (5-10, 175) who returned 13 kicks for 278 yards and had two punt returns for an average of 11 yards.
Receivers Corey Brown (6-1, 190) and Donald Moten (5-11, 192) also have experience returning kicks, while among the newcomers expected to make an impact is senior transfer Terrance Smalls (5-6, 168). In 1998, he returned seven kicks for 161 yards and a 23.0 average at Illinois.
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