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POSITION BREAKDOWN: WIDE RECEIVERS

Thomas Roberson started as a true freshman in 2010, but sat out last year with an injury.
Thomas Roberson started as a true freshman in 2010, but sat out last year with an injury.
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Aug. 22, 2012

Tulsa, Oklahoma - The first words Head Coach Bill Blankenship uttered when asked about the receiver position was "what a difference a year makes."

"It's really amazing. We went into the Oklahoma game last year with virtually no game experience at wide receiver. But as the year progressed, Burnie (Bryan Burnham) and Jordan (James) played the entire season," said Blankenship. "Thomas Roberson is coming off a year he had to sit out, but he started and played nearly a full season as a freshman. Now, add Keyarris Garrett, who has really matured and becoming a tremendous weapon, to that group and you have four experienced guys."

Offensive Coordinator and receivers coach Greg Peterson is just as excited as Blankenship about the receiving corps.

Tulsa returns 1,241 yards and 10 touchdowns between returning starters Bryan Burnham and Jordan James. After missing most of last season with an injury, Thomas Roberson returns to the receiving corps, and add the emergence of sophomore Keyarris Garrett and the Hurricane receivers have the makings of one of Conference USA's top receiver groups.

Roberson had 367 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the 2010 campaign, while he started nine games as a true freshman.

"Through preseason camp we've made a lot of progress. I like the young guys that we have. I like the signees with (Josh) Atkinson and (Adam) Boyd. They'll be fine football players, but what a difference a year makes. Last year, we had hardly anybody who played the position, but now we've come through camp getting ready for Iowa State and receiver should be a strength on offense for us and at times we've been very, very good," said Peterson.

 

 

"When you have an experienced and veteran group, you have guys that understand the system and understand the game. Burnie and Jordan have been invaluable in the summer workouts as coaches on the field and have helped the young guys learn the system and the plays. As we go through practice, these guys have been there and done that. They know how the practice tempo goes, where we need to go, line up on the field and do things right, so having those veterans make a difference," said Peterson.

"I really admire and appreciate Thomas' toughness and overcoming his setback in the injury he had a year ago, because most players don't come back from that. He's back looking better than ever. Here's a guy as a true freshman had 30-35 catches and made great plays, so we can had him into the mix. He's performing at a high level and he'll really give us a solid receiving corps.

Peterson is not only exited about the leadership and experience returning to the receiving corps, but also the speed of the unit.

"We saw the speed in the spring. Guys can be 4.4. on a stopwatch, but play slow. But what our guys are learning to do is play fast. We have guys with excellent speed. We have guys that can run. Look at Burnie. He's very deceptive. He's a long strider that can eat up cushion and has had a great camp. Jordan is playing faster. Thomas was a track athlete in high school. Keyarris can run and separate," said Peterson. "And that's just our first four players, but overall we do have more speed as a unit."

Some of those younger guys include red-shirt freshmen Zach Epps, Conner Floyd and Derek Patterson. Senior Khiry Cooper, a transfer from Nebraska, has also had bright moments during fall camp and provide game experience and leadership. Cooper had 21 receptions for 140 yards in 27 career games for the Cornhuskers.

Blankenship is also excited about the younger group of receivers in the system. "We're getting really good play from the young ones behind them. We're in a different place than we were a year ago," said Blankenship.