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Position Look at Tight Ends/H-Backs and Special Teams

Sophomore tight end Tyler Wilson
Sophomore tight end Tyler Wilson
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Aug. 22, 2014

TULSA, Okla. - Tulsa will field a young but talented group of tight ends in 2014, while the H-Back position may not be as young from a class standpoint, but will not have as much game experience with a pair of juniors.

The tight end group is led by sophomore Tyler Wilson (6-6, 248), who caught nine passes for 79 yards as a red-shirt freshman last year. He accomplished that with basically the use of one arm. Wilson underwent shoulder surgery at the end of the season and missed most of spring drills, but has fully participated in preseason camp.

 

 

True freshman Payton Prince (6-4, 237) possesses the size and ability to contribute this season if called upon. Prince had a strong senior season by catching 36 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns at Norman North High School.

Redshirt freshman Kolton Shindelar (6-6, 252) received multiple repetitions in the spring with Wilson out, and turned in a solid spring. Shindelar, however has missed preseason camp with an injury of his own, but is expected to contribute this year. He played in a run-oriented offense at Liberty (Mo.) High School, but managed two TDs on four receptions his senior season.

"Tight end is a little depleted numbers-wise right now," Tulsa Head Coach Bill Blankenship said. "Kolton Shindelar has had to rehab. We'll have him late on in the fall, but right now the only experienced tight end is Tyler Wilson, and he's doing a good job. We're pushing true freshman Payton Prince really hard to give us some depth there. He's done a great job of catching the football, but he still has a little ways to go as far as the physical play inside."

The H-Back position is led by Pittsburg State transfer Mandel Dixon Jr. (6-2, 238). Dixon emerged as a big surprise in the spring and has held onto his position as the starting H-Back. He started at fullback on Pitt State's 2011 national championship team, and in his two seasons there scored seven touchdowns.

Returning junior Colby Scott (6-2, 235), a walk-on, has established himself as a key figure in the Hurricane offense and a solid backup to Dixon after suffering through some injuries in his first two seasons.

"H-Back seems to be a solid place for us right now," Blankenship said. "Mandel is playing extremely well. Mandel and Colby Scott all give us some real legitimate depth right now."

THE SPECIAL TEAMS

Tulsa returns its placekicker and punter, but will have to fill holes in the return game for kick-off and punt returners as well as find a kick-off specialist.

Senior Carl Salazar (5-8, 172) was nearly perfect last year from inside the 40-yard line on field goals, as he converted 16-of-19 of the three-pointers. After missing his first two collegiate field goal attempts in the season opener, Salazar knocked through his next 11 including the game-winner as time expired in the second week of the season against Colorado State.

"Carl has done a very solid job on the placements," said Blankenship. "He's had a day or two that wasn't his best, but he always comes back very focused. Redford Jones has been a pretty consistent No. 2 placekicker, although Preston Soper shows the big leg. It looks like he can stretch it out if we needed the long field goal."

The punting game appears to be in good hands with sophomore Dalton Parks (6-3, 202) handling those duties. As a true freshman last year, Parks punted 66 times for a 39.5-yard average with 11 carrying over 50 yards.

Salazar and red-shirt freshman Redford Jones (5-10, 172) will compete for the kick-off duties left vacant when Cole Way decided to forego is final season after being picked in the major league baseball draft by the Kansas City Royals.

Rey Higuera (5-11, 210) has handled the deep snapping duties for the Hurricane the last two years,

"Dalton Parks has been very solid at punter, and Soper would be behind him, but Redford is doing that as well," Blankenship said. "Rey Higuera is the starter at snapper and hasn't flinched, and Zach Downing is a very solid backup. We're still working on kickoffs. All three of them we're looking at and trying to figure out who gives us the best hangtime. They're all about the same in terms of distance."

Tulsa will have plenty of players looking to fill the holes left by Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas in the return game.