Breaking In New Weapons
Nov. 15, 2011
Written by: Cedrique Flemming, University of Tulsa Media Relations
G.J. Kinne was the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in 2010. He put up video game numbers as the Tulsa quarterback his junior year, and he was expected to have even more success in his final campaign because nearly all of his favorite weapons were set to return.
That was until Jameel Owens transferred. And Thomas Roberson was lost to a season-ending injury. And Damaris Johnson was suspended indefinitely. Kinne also lost H-back Charles Clay (now with the NFL's Miami Dolphins) and Trae Johnson to graduation.
"There's not one guy at receiver right now that started in the Hawai'i Bowl, and we expected to have them all back," Kinne said. "That was a difficult transition, but we have a veteran offensive line who really helped us get to where we are now."
Kinne said he had a tough time adjusting to life without most of his playmakers from last year.
"In the past, the receivers have known what I want. I wasn't able to get a lot of work in with the new guys this summer, so this fall camp was huge for us," Kinne said. "It's been a much different season for me because I've always had receivers who know what I want. I talk to the guys after each throw in practice because I want to be on the same page with them."
It took a few games, but Kinne has broken in his new weapons and has led Tulsa to a 6-3 record and a perfect 5-0 mark in Conference USA play. He has completed 166 of 263 passes (63 percent) for 2,098 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has also thrown eight interceptions, but only two of those have come in Tulsa's current five-game win streak.
"The trust is getting there with all the new guys, but it's also nice to have veteran players like (senior tight end) Clay Sears, (junior H-back) Willie Carter and (sophomore running back) Trey Watts," Kinne said. "Those three guys have really been an important part of the passing game this year."
Sears has transformed himself into one of Kinne's favorite targets this year. He has 25 catches for 312 yards and six touchdowns.
Carter and Kinne have been a spectacular threat as of late, as they have hooked up 38 times for 542 yards and four TD's over the last five games. That included a career-high 13-catch, 173-yard performance against SMU Oct. 29.
"Willie and I just started clicking lately," Kinne said. "It's getting really special what we have out there on the field. All the guys are starting to understand what I want from them on certain coverage's and how I throw the football. I think we're close to peaking right now."
Burnham had at least one touchdown in each of the first four games, and he leads Tulsa with seven scores through the first 10 games. James hasn't found the endzone yet, but he is fourth on the team with 22 catches for 285 yards. Junior Ricky Johnson also has 10 catches for 158 yards and three scores.
Kinne also credits the offensive line and the running backs as being huge reasons why the offense hasn't missed a beat this year in conference play.
"I think another position that gets lost in the shuffle is the running backs," Kinne said. "They play an important part in the passing game, and they've done a really good job. I have a lot of trust in Trey Watts. I think he is a special player. (Sophomore) Ja'Terian Douglas and (junior) Alex Singleton also a vital parts of the offense."
During conference play, Tulsa has the top-ranked rush offense with 224.5 yards per game. The team is second in total offense (505.2 yards per game), scoring (37.8 ppg) and first downs (25.8). TU is also third in pass offense (280.7) and third-down conversions (43.3).
Kinne is rewriting the Tulsa record books in just three years with the program. He is currently second all-time in total offense (10,064 yards), passing touchdowns (74) and 300-yard passing games (13). He is also third in passing yards (8,782).
Which one of those stats does Kinne care most about?
"A lot of people have asked me this year about my stats, but I've said from the beginning that my No. 1 stat this year is winning," he said. "I don't really look at stats as much as I did in year's past because it's my senior year and I just want to win a conference championship. That's the only thing I care about."
Tulsa has two more games remaining in the regular season, starting Nov. 19 at UTEP. That will be followed by a showdown with No. 10 Houston at 11 a.m. Nov. 25 at H.A. Chapman Stadium. The matchup with the Cougars will decide the Conference USA West Division Champion.
Kinne and his receiving corps are hitting their stride at the right time and are ready for what the rest of the season has in store.
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