2007 Tulsa Preview - Offense

Posted Jun 19, 2007

Preview 2007 Tulsa Golden Hurricane Offense

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Preview 2007 - Offense

- 2007 Tulsa Preview | 2007 Tulsa Defense Preview
2007 Tulsa Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Tulsa Preview 

What you need to know: Can Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense really work at this level … take two.  All the buzz about Malzahn’s fancy playbook fizzled in Fayetteville last year, but unlike at Arkansas, Tulsa coach Todd Graham is on board and prepared to see all of the offense’s bell and whistles.  The system aims to control the tempo, physically and mentally wear out opponents, and sort of run a two-minute offense for four quarters.  Senior quarterback Paul Smith is liable to go berserk running this offense, but a makeshift offensive line and a whole new set of receivers will be two major stumbling blocks.  When the Hurricane runs the ball, it’ll turn to senior Courtney Tennial and junior Tarrion Adams, arguably the best running duo in Conference USA.    

Returning Leaders
Passing: Paul Smith
233-350, 2,727 yds, 15 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Courtney Tennial
171 carries, 845 yds, 14 TD
Receiving: Tarrion Adams
31 catches, 262 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Paul Smith
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore WR Jesse Meyer
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Dion Toliver
Best pro prospect: Senior RB Courtney Tennial
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith  2) Tennial  3) Tolliver
Strength of the offense: The backfield
Weakness of the offense: The offensive line, receivers


Projected Starter: Considering how much change the Hurricane offense is facing in 2007, it’s awfully comforting to know that senior Paul Smith will be back at the helm.  A third-year starter, he’s got the poise to work with a very green receiving corps and the acumen to digest Gus Malzahn’s new hurry-up, no-huddle offense.  A high percentage passer that limits his mistakes and can take off and run, Smith has thrown 36 career touchdown passes to just 16 interceptions, scrambled for 15 scores and is Tulsa’s No. 2 all-time leading passer.  An underrated game manager, he’s on the brink of a much bigger spotlight in his final season on campus.       

Projected Top Reserves: Backing up Smith will be David Johnson, a junior that shares many of the same qualities as the starter.  He doesn’t have a rifle, but throws with accuracy, moves well around the pocket and has been the No. 2 man the last two seasons.  Johnson has thrown 55 passes over the last two seasons. 

By 2008, redshirt freshman Clark Harrell could be holding the keys to the offense.  No stranger to the spread offense from his days at Ennis (Tex.) High School, he might be the gunslinger this offense is seeking.  He has good arm strength and is the fastest of the three Tulsa quarterbacks.   

Watch Out For… Smith to adapt quickly to the new system, but get held back by a supporting cast that includes a completely revamped offensive line and a receiving corps that must start from scratch.  There’s only so much the senior can accomplish before the turnover in personnel catches up with him.
Strength: Smith.  He’s no glamour boy of college passers, but he does about 90% of what you need from a quarterback.  Smith has been especially crisp at running the two-minute offense, which will serve him well in this fast-paced offense.
Weakness: The receivers.  Take out the backs, and Tulsa’s leading returning receiver is tight end Ted Curtis who caught 13 passes for 93 yards in 2006.  Smith pass-catchers are young, inexperienced, and not likely to strike fear in the minds of opposing defensive backs.
Outlook: Although Smith will be just fine in 2007, the players surrounding him are an entirely different story.  With enough time to throw and enough sure-handed receivers, he could pick up the 3,453 yards needed to pass T.J. Rubley as the school’s all-time leading passer.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Tulsa enjoys a rare luxury for a Conference USA team, two backs with the skills and the experience to carry the load.  Senior Courtney Tennial and junior Tarrion Adams are No. 1 and No. 1A, respectively, heading into the season with both figuring to get plenty of reps this fall.  An Oklahoma transfer, Tennial had a breakout season with the Hurricane in 2006, running for 845 yards and 14 touchdowns and catching 15 passes for two more scores.  A compact runner at 5-9 and 214 pounds, he’s physical and very difficult to stand up once he gets a head of steam.    

Projected Top Reserves: Adams should get 8-10 carries a game, but is most dangerous when he becomes a receiver from the backfield.  A terrific pass-catcher, he was third on the team last year with 31 catches, giving him 55 in his first two seasons at Tulsa.  Not your typical third down back, Adams is 6-1 and 205 pounds and hits the hole hard every time he touches the ball. 

Out of nowhere, redshirt freshman Jamad Williams carved out some playing time in the fall with his performance in the spring.  A converted defensive back, he displayed soft hands and a little wiggle that the other backs lack. 

Watch Out For… Williams to spend as much time in the slot as lined up behind the quarterback.  Todd Graham wants to get him on the field, and there’s a far greater need at receiver these days than in the backfield.
Strength: Pass-catching.  With the addition of Williams, the Hurricane now has three backs with great hands.  That’s especially critical in an offense that plans to throw more in 2007, likes screens and is facing sweeping changes at wide receiver.
Weakness: Big play potential.  Maybe Williams becomes a difference-maker in this area, but more realistically, Tennial and Adams will get 90% of the touches; neither has shown a knack for finding seams and leaving defensive backs in their wake.
Outlook: Tennial and Adams give Tulsa a one-two punch that’ll challenge Southern Miss for tops in Conference USA.  Even as the offensive scales shift more toward the passing attack, the running game will not be ignored.
Rating: 7


Projected Starters: Although the Hurricane receivers weren’t exactly scary good last year, losing its top three performers at the position has the offense mining for new talent in 2007.  One player that’s made a nice impression since arriving from junior college is Dion Toliver, who made a bee line to the top of the depth chart in his spring debut.  A slippery receiver at just 5-10 and 175 pounds, he makes people miss in the open field and appears capable of being the playmaker that this group is seeking. 

Junior Nick Henderson is the elder statesman of the likely starters and one of the position’s few returning letterwinners.  More steady than spectacular, he runs tight routes and catches everything that’s thrown within his reach. 

Jesse Meyer is only a sophomore, but he has more upside than any of the Hurricane receivers.  At 6-3 and 200 pounds, he has tremendous wheels and an overall physical package that dwarfs those around him.  After catching eight passes as a freshman, the pieces are in place for Meyer to be the team’s long ball threat if he cuts down on his number of drops.                

Back at tight end is senior Ted Curtis, who caught a dozen balls last year, and was tied for second on the team with a pair of touchdown receptions.  Built like a fullback at 6-1 and 242 pounds, he’s not the type of receiver that’ll torch a linebacker down the middle of the field. 
Projected Top Reserves: If Tulsa is going to have any kind of depth at receiver this year, it’s up to three previously anonymous seniors to leave their marks on the program.  Kyle Grooms, Cameron Clemons and Corey Kizer have four letters between them, but very few catches and a big responsibility for the upcoming season.  A former JUCO star, Kizer has the right blend of size, speed and leaping ability to be a major impact player for the offense.  Grooms is a big, 6-3 target that has earned his letters and playing time on special teams.  Like Kizer, Clemons came to Tulsa after a successful career in junior college.  The 5-11, 180-pounder played in five games last year, but will be expected to contribute much more in 2007.  

Watch Out For… lots of dropped passes and tipped balls that become picks.  The ball will be in the air a lot this year, increasing the number of times an inexperienced receiving corps will make errors.
Strength: Paul Smith.  While the learning curve will be particularly steep for these guys, they’ll be helped by the presence of a veteran quarterback that completes two-thirds of his passes and throws a very catchable ball.
Weakness: Lack of a true No. 1 receiver.  It wouldn’t be so bad if the Hurricane had someone to deflect attention away from the other starters as they get accustomed to new roles.  Instead, Toliver, Henderson and Meyer are all twos and threes that are being asked to play like a go-to guy.
Outlook: If Gus Malzahn’s offense tanks in year one, this group of receivers will likely be the culprit.  Toliver, and Meyer have exciting upside, but most of it won’t be realized until 2008.
Rating: 5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: After enjoying stability and strong play on the line the last couple of years, Tulsa will be rebuilding its front wall with just a single returning starter, junior right guard Justin Morsey.  The extreme turnover makes new line coach Herb Hand one of the most important members of the staff in 2007.  Undersized at 6-2 and 282 pounds, he showed good quickness in last year’s ten starts and is embracing his new role as the group’s leader. 

At left guard, 6-3, 305-pound sophomore Curt Puckett has won the starting assignment.  A key backup in 2006, he stepped up his game in the spring and is versatile enough to play some tackle, if needed. 

One of the biggest stories of the off-season was the move of senior Walter Boyd from defensive to offensive tackle.  A three-time letterwinner, he’s made a smooth transition so far.  Boyd still needs plenty of work on his technique, but has shown great footwork for a 320-pound linemen and a tireless work ethic. 

At right tackle, Tulsa has anointed hulking junior Rodrick Thomas after a breakout spring.  At 6-4 and 347 pounds, he’ll maul opposing linemen, but his weight is literally a big concern in an offense that is unforgiving to out of shape players. 

Sophomore Jody Whaley is on the verge of locking down the center job for the Hurricane.  A very physical player at the point of attack, like so many of his linemates, he’s capable of playing multiple positions.

Projected Top Reserves: Easily the most important player on the second team will be senior Wade Whitlow, a veteran that’s listed as a backup at both right guard and right tackle.  While Morsey and Thomas are relatively safe on the right side at this time, Whitlow will be a key part of a rotation that’s way short on experience. 

Sophomore Travis Wike has added 35 pounds since leaving high school, switched from tight end, and settled in nicely at center.  Still a little light at 279 pounds, he compensates by being one of the most athletic of the interior linemen.  

Watch Out For… the role of true freshmen tackle Tyler Holmes and guard Brandon Washington.  Although Holmes is a good one that got a bunch of offers in February and participated in spring, it’s never a good sign when a couple of teenagers play a vital in such an important part of the offense.
Strength: Run blocking.  If nothing else, the revamped line has good size and will be particularly physical, good news for backs that grown accustomed to running room. 
Weakness: Inexperience.  One returning starter can be overcome if the newcomers got extensive action as backups, but that’s not the case with this unit.  There’s nothing even remotely close to an anchor and the second team is very spotty. 
Outlook: Up and down the roster, nothing makes new head coach Todd Graham more nervous than this unsettled group.  Who could blame him? Without enough quality blockers, the line will prevent the offense from finding its rhythm in 2007.
Rating: 5


Related Stories
2007 Tulsa Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 19, 2007
2007 Tulsa Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 19, 2007
2007 Tulsa Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 19, 2007

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