2012 Tulsa Preview - Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Tulsa Golden Hurricane Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The Golden Hurricane is hopeful that the system trumps any one individual player. Tulsa hung up 440 yards and 33 points a game in 2011, but that was when senior G.J. Kinne was calling out signals. He’s gone, leaving high-profile Nebraska transfer Cody Green to try and keep the train on the tracks. He’s rich in physical ability, but still light in experience. Fortunately, the junior will have plenty of help running coordinator Greg Peterson’s balanced, fast-paced and unpredictable attack. Behind him will be one of the nation’s most underrated one-two punches, running backs Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas, who both went for more than 800 yards a year ago. In the passing game, seniors Bryan Burnham and Willie Carter will contend for All-Conference USA honors. Besides the uncertainty at quarterback, Tulsa’s biggest concern will be at left tackle, where senior Jared Grigg expects to be a regular for the first time in his career.
Star of the offense: Senior H-back Willie Carter
Passing: Kalen Henderson
8-29, 122 yds, 3 TDs, 4 INTs
Rushing: Ja’Terian Douglas
112 carries, 883 yds, 4 TDs
Receiving: Willie Carter
61 catches, 868 yds, 7 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Cody Green
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Keyarris Garrett
Best pro prospect: Junior RB Ja’Terian Douglas
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carter, 2)Douglas, 3) Senior WR Bryan Burnham
Strength of the offense: The ground game, backfield depth, big targets in the passing game, the interior of the line, balance
Weakness of the offense: Inexperience at quarterback, offensive tackles, O-line depth
Four years ago, the Golden Hurricane landed a high-profile transfer quarterback, one-time Texas Longhorn G.J. Kinne, who helped ignite the offense. The school is hoping to use that same formula for success in 2012 and 2013. Back in 2009, Tulsa wasn’t even in the running for four-star recruit Cody Green, who eventually chose to play for Bo Pelini at Nebraska. Now, he’s the program’s probable cornerstone behind center. The junior has the desired blend of arm strength and athletic ability neatly packaged in an imposing 6-4, 247-pound frame. He also had the edge coming out of spring in the hotly-contested race to pilot one of America’s most prolific and diverse offenses.
Just behind Green is sophomore Kalen Henderson, a player the staff feels would excel if pressed into the lineup. Last year’s backup to Kinne played sparingly in five games, going 8-of-29 for 122 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. The 6-0, 210-pounder can’t match Green’s overall package of physical ability, but does have a good grasp on the system.
Although not a threat to start in 2012, it’s worth noting that 6-2, 200-pound true freshman Dane Evans has already risen to No. 3 in a field of six contenders. The rookie took part in spring practice, impressing the staff with his maturity and quick release.
Watch Out For .... Green to show flashes of brilliance … and flashes of inconsistency. The heir apparent to Kinne has a very high ceiling, but it might take a full season of action before he actually achieves it in 2013. Fortunately, the Golden Hurricane has a far more manageable September schedule than a year ago, which will help the former Husker’s transition at the controls.
Strength: The future. While you don’t get better overnight when a player like Kinne graduates, the program is excited about its future at quarterback. Green has all-conference ability. Henderson is a sophomore with a letter. And Evans is just getting started. All three players are eligible through the 2013 season.
Weakness: Experience. Yes, Green played some in Lincoln, but 122 passing attempts is not exactly the definition of being battle-tested. While those reps help, the drop-off from Kinne in this area is going to be noticeable. Tulsa just hopes that it’s less obvious as the season unfolds.
Outlook: Green’s arrival and availability could not have come at a better time. The loss of Kinne is a painful one, but the presence of a budding playmaker with two years of eligibility remaining supplies the hope. The Golden Hurricane will be patient with the development of No. 7 who has as much physical ability as any quarterback to play the position for the program.
Tulsa produced two tailbacks who rushed for more than 800 yards in 2011. Both return in 2012 with two years of eligibility remaining. Junior Trey Watts is listed as the starter, but the underrated ground game will be operated by committee once again this fall. The 5-11, 190-pound son of former Oklahoma QB J.C. Watts carried a team-high 157 times for 881 and three scores. He also showcased his versatility and soft hands by catching 31 balls for 242 yards and three more touchdowns. A one-time walk-on with the program, he continues to impress the coaching staff with his toughness, work ethic and unselfish attitude.
Watts’ tag-team partner out of the backfield will be 5-11, 189-pound Ja’Terian Douglas, one of the best all-around playmakers on the team. While built similarly to his teammate, the Second Team All-Conference USA performer has an extra gear that allows him to jet past would-be tacklers. Despite only starting two games and toting the ball 112 times, he still led the Hurricane with 883 rushing yards, while averaging at least 7.8 yards a carry for a second straight season. He’s a dangerous all-around weapon who can be a particular nuisance on fly sweeps and misdirection plays that enable him to get out into space.
Although senior Alex Singleton has drifted a little further down the depth chart, his 6-1, 260-pound frame ensures that he’ll still have a role within the offense. A true thumper in short yardage situations, he has barreled his way to 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Watch Out For … more of the same. The Golden Hurricane located the right formula in 2011, using Watts and Singleton for the tough yards, and unleashing Douglas like a missile. Will anyone get enough carries to reach 1,000 yards? Maybe not, but in Tulsa’s case the output on the ground should be every bit as prolific as it was last fall.
Strength: Diversity of talent. From the powerful style of Singleton to the flash of Douglas, the Tulsa backfield offers a little bit of everything for the coaching staff to tinker with this fall. Plus, Watts is blue-collar and dependable, while even H-back Willie Carter is capable of earning some tough yards in a pinch.
Weakness: Blocking. It’s a bit of a nit-pick, but the Hurricane backs can still hone their ability to keep the pocket clean for the new starting quarterback. Picking up blitzes is a vastly underrated skill for running backs, who are often the last line of defense for hard-charging pass rushers.
Outlook: One of the well-kept secrets in Tulsa is that the program consistently does an outstanding job of producing yards on the ground. Last year’s squad, for instance, ranked 26th in the country at 191 yards a game. With Watts and Douglas back in the fold and sharing carrries, the Hurricane will once again be deep and talented in the backfield, wearing down opponents for all 60 minutes.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Only one of last season’s top five pass-catchers, TE Clay Sears, has departed, ensuring that the new starting quarterback will have quality targets at his disposal. The best of the ensemble of wide receivers is senior Bryan Burnham who took full advantage of the season-long suspension to star Damaris Johnson. Unheralded when the season, the converted defensive back went on to catch 54 passes for 850 yards and nine touchdowns. While no speedster, he has a long stride and outstanding body control, using every inch of his 6-2, 197-pound frame to gain an advantage on smaller defensive backs.
Joining Burnham in the lineup at flanker will be 6-2, 203-pound junior Jordan James, a returning starter from 2011. He caught 31 passes for 391 yards and a touchdown in 2011, numbers he’s aiming to soar past this season. When James is not catching passes, he’s usually doing a nice job of blocking downfield.
The breakout star of the offseason so far has been sophomore Keyarris Garrett, the probable starter at split end. Although he contributed sparingly in seven games a year ago, he’s really turned the corner and become a more dangerous weapon since January. At 6-4 and 207 pounds, he has the frame to create mismatches, especially near the end zone.
Providing a more seasoned complement to Garrett at split end will be 6-3, 195-pound sophomore Thomas Roberson. The well-sized local product from Tulsa started nine games, and made 30 catches for 367 yards and two scores in 2010, but was forced to sit out all of 2011 with an injury.
The Hurricane’s secret weapon in the passing game is its H-back, senior Willie Carter. The 6-2, 231-pound reigning all-star epitomizes the job description for the position, doing a little bit of everything for the Golden Hurricane. The Second Team All-Conference USA selection led the team with 61 catches for 868 yards and seven touchdowns, consistently finding the seams in defenses. But wait, there’s more. Carter is also a factor in the running game, blocking downfield with all of the force of a linebacker, and carrying the ball 13 times for 62 yards and two additional scores. If not the most valuable, he certainly is the most versatile cog of the offense.
Watch Out For … Garrett to emerge as the second most dangerous wide receiver on the roster. Bill Blankenship and the coaching staff could not stop raving about the sophomore, whose lack of experience is his only glaring shortcoming to success. The fact alone that he has jumped a more seasoned teammate, Roberson, on the depth chart is a clear sign that he’s poised for a coming-out party.
Strength: Length. Up and down the two-deep, the Hurricane is flush with big and physical receivers capable of creating matchup headaches for opposing defenses. None of the primary targets are smaller than 6-2, which will afford the quarterback an opportunity to occasionally float passes with the knowledge that one of his receivers will come down with the ball.
Weakness: Burners. Although the Hurricane pass-catchers have good size and physicality, they’re not blessed with an abundance of speed or explosiveness. It’s a group that’s more likely to muscle its way to yards after the catch as opposed to consistently getting behind the secondary. It’ll stretch the field horizontally more than it does vertically.
Outlook: While not spectacular, QB Cody Green will have access to a very solid set of hands this fall. The foundation is stable, with Burnham providing a steady presence on the outside, and Carter locating soft spots wherever they appear. The key will be the emergence of James, Garrett and Roberson, who’ll be asked to take some heat off the go-to guys.
Unit Rating: 6.5
One of the biggest hurdles on offense will be to find three new starters up front, including the entire left side of the line. Solace can be found in the return of senior C Trent Dupy, a grizzled veteran of 36 starts since moving into the lineup as a freshman. While only 6-2 and 285 pounds, and not likely to bury his man, he’s a skilled tactician at the pivot, and is the undisputed leader of the offensive line. Dupy is one of the most valuable players in Tulsa, even if he doesn’t get the notoriety to match his importance.
The team’s other returning starter is 6-4, 303-pound RG Stetson Burnett, though he has been slowed in the offseason by an injury. The junior has been in the lineup in 20 of his 22 games, and has a high ceiling that should be approached this fall. His long arms and light feet are a good fit for an offense that wants its linemen to be nimble and athletic. Because Burnett was unable to participate in spring drills, he’s currently deadlocked at right guard with 6-2, 291-pound junior Gabe Moyer. The junior earned his first letter a year ago, and will bring much-needed experience to the depth chart.
Completing the right side of the line will be 6-3, 305-pound senior Brian DeShane, a vet of three letters at Tulsa. He’s done a little bit of everything for the program, and will be counted on to join Dupy as one of the line’s leaders.
Senior Jared Grigg has been slotted in at the all-important left tackle position. Despite being on campus for his fifth year, the 6-4, 280-pounder has not played many minutes, meaning he’ll wear a target on his back as opposing pass rushers try to test him in the early stages of the season.
Rounding out the starting unit as spring practice ended was 6-2, 294-pound sophomore Jake Alexander. He fought his way back from knee surgery to contribute in 2011, showing the drive blocking and intensity that made him such a coveted recruit in 2010. This season could be his coming-out party.
Watch Out For .... Grigg. The Hurricane’s left tackle could hold the key to the fate of the O-line this season. Not only does he lack a lot of relevant experience at this level, but he lines up at a position that can completely derail the passing attack if not handled properly.
Strength: The interior of the line. Tulsa should be plenty tough at center and guard this fall, provided the starters remain off the trainer’s table. Dupy provides a solid base at the pivot, while Burnett and the up-and-coming Alexander possess the potential to be Conference USA all-stars before they’re through.
Weakness: Proven depth. While the staff really likes its young kids, it also really hopes they don’t get forced into action in 2012. Four redshirt freshmen, LT Garrett Gladd, LG Josh Bencke, C Billy Lafortune and RT Garrett Stafford are currently listed as second-teamers. The youngsters, especially Gladd and Stafford, bring excitement for the future, but some trepidation for the present.
Outlook: With the likes of Dupy, Burnett and DeShane, there are enough seasoned players for the Hurricane to feel cautiously optimistic about its blockers for the upcoming season. However, Tulsa’s margin for error is not what it was a year ago, thanks to the graduations of three key players. Staying healthy, and developing the freshmen on the fly will be essential between now and September.
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