Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN Tulsa Preview
2008 Tulsa Offense Preview
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2008 Tulsa Depth Chart
2007 CFN Tulsa Preview
2006 CFN Tulsa Preview
need to know:
A star will be born as soon as the staff decides on its next
starting quarterback. The hurry-up, no-huddle offense is that
prolific under coordinator Gus Malzahn. The early edge goes to
David Johnson, who backed up Paul Smith for three seasons and
spent a year in the system. However, he’s no lock to win the
job, and will get challenged by Clark Harrell and Jacob Bower, a
coveted JUCO recruit. The transition to a new starter will be
made easier by the presence of a veteran line and 1,000-yard
receivers Brennan Marion, Trae Johnson, and Charles Clay. As if
the Hurricane needs more weapons, the program’s leading rushers
from the last two years are also back. Tarrion Adams ran for
1,225 yards and caught 30 passes after starter Courtney Tennial
was lost with a season-ending Achilles injury.
Passing: David Johnson
4-8, 56 yds
Rushing: Tarrion Adams
219 carries, 1,225 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Trae Johnson
70 catches, 1,088 yds, 13 TD
of the offense:
Senior WR Brennan Marion
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FB Charles Clay
Best pro prospect: Marion
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Marion 2) Sophomore WR
Trae Johnson 3) Senior RB
Strength of the offense: Depth and talent at the skill
positions, the right side of the line
Weakness of the offense: Inexperience at quarterback and
Projected Starter: Now that long-time starter Paul
Smith has exhausted his eligibility, the Hurricane needs a new
triggerman to direct one of the nation’s most prolific
offenses. The front-runner is senior David Johnson,
who’s thrown 63 career passes, but more important, has that one
valuable season as a backup in Gus Malzahn’s system. Not unlike
Smith, the 6-3, 217-pounder doesn’t have a gun, but throws a
catchable ball, moves well in and out of the pocket, and won’t
be intimidated by being in the spotlight. Although it’s only
one season, Johnson has a unique opportunity to make the trip
from anonymous backup to household name in Conference USA.
Projected Top Reserves: Keeping Johnson from
getting cozy will be a couple of talented sophomores, Clark
Harrell and Jacob Bower. Harrell is a veteran of the
no huddle offense from his years at Ennis (Tex.) High School and
a player with a lot of upside. He’s got good size at 6-4 and
193 pounds, with adequate arm strength and a quick release
that’ll serve him well in this system. While not a runner,
Harrell does throw well on the move, another one of his myriad
Bower comes from BYU by way of Bakersfield (Calif.) College,
where he was one of the nation’s most sought after JUCO
quarterbacks. The hardest chucker of the three at 6-3 and 233
pounds, he’s a mature leader that can make all the throws. Even
if Johnson locks down the job, the on-going battle between
Harrell and Bower will be a meaningful preview of what’s to come
Watch Out For…the drop-off from Smith to be less
precipitous than most would expect. The Hurricane boasts three
solid quarterbacks and a supporting cast that includes four
starting linemen and last year’s top four rushers and top six
Strength: Quality passers. From the looks of their
spring performances, Tulsa has three quarterbacks capable of
running the offense and distributing the ball to the team’s
playmakers. All have a good grasp of the system, which was
evident in March and April.
Weakness: Game experience. There’s no replacement
for live experience, which this trio has little of at this
level. Only Johnson has thrown a pass for the Hurricane, going
41-of-63 in three seasons of mop-up duty.
Outlook: It’s the system, stupid. No disrespect
to Smith, but he didn’t account for 60 touchdowns and more than
5,000 yards on talent alone. With so many contributors back and
some of the first-year kinks solved, the new starter is
positioned to put up gaudy numbers and vie for all-league
Projected Starters: For a team that leans so
heavily on the pass, the Hurricane is packed with unexpected
depth and talent at running back. When pressed into a starting
role last year, senior Tarrion Adams delivered in a big
way, rushing for 1,225 yards and eight touchdowns on 219 carries
and catching 30 passes for 301 yards and three more scores. A
powerful, north-south back at 6-1 and 210 pounds, he also has
terrific hands, an added bonus in this system.
Although sophomore Charles Clay is listed as the starting
fullback, he’s really more of an H-back that’ll do more of his
damage as a receiver than as a runner. In an improbable
Freshman All-American season, the 6-3, 222-pounder caught 69
passes for 1,024 yards and eight touchdowns, adding 57 carries
for 304 yards and a touchdown. A versatile and explosive
all-around athlete, he’s a mismatch for opposing linebackers
with the ball in his hands.
Projected Top Reserves: Before rupturing his
Achilles tendon last August, senior Courtney Tennial was
slated to be one of the centerpieces of the offense. Healthy
again and much stronger, he participated in spring practice
after receiving a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA.
Rarely brought down on first contact, he rushed for 845 yards
and 14 touchdowns in 2006, using a compact 5-10 and 235-pound
frame to pin-ball off would-be tacklers.
Sophomore Jamad Williams was a pleasant surprise in his
debut on offense, gaining 458 yards and scoring twice on 106
carries. The 5-9, 193-yard former defensive back has good hands
and a little more flash than the other Hurricane backs.
Watch Out For…an expanded role for Clay. He’s a
unique weapon that’ll be even more effective with a season of
experience in the rear view mirror. With so much attention
going to the Tulsa receivers, Clay is virtually unstoppable in
the flat and on underneath routes.
Strength: Depth. The silver lining to Tennial’s
injury is that it allowed Adams to become the feature back for
an entire season. Now the Hurricane boasts two runners with
starting experience to go along with one of the most unique
fullbacks in America.
Weakness: Big play potential. There’s nothing
fancy or electrifying about Tennial or Adams, a pair of
blue-collar runners that rarely slip through the cracks for long
gains. Williams has a little wiggle, but unless the offense is
doing something unique, such as an inside handoff to a receiver,
three to five yards is going to be the norm.
Outlook: Good luck finding a deeper group of
running backs in Conference USA. While they’ll take a backseat
to the passing game, when it’s time to pick up a first down or
catch a swing pass, Adams, Clay, and Tennial have proven that
they’re capable of coming through.
Projected Starters: A massive unknown just one
year ago, the receivers are suddenly one of Tulsa’s biggest
strength. As a group, they stepped up decisively, giving the
Hurricane the pass-catchers it needed to make the hurry-up,
no-huddle attack hum. Sophomore Trae Johnson led the
team with 70 catches for 1,088 yards and 13 touchdowns, earning
Freshman All-American honors. At 5-11 and 170 pounds, he has
reliable hands, gets great elevation, and runs tight routes.
Joining Johnson at split end is 6-1, 185-pound senior Brennan
Marion, the ultimate deep ball threat and one of last year’s
biggest surprises at any school. Lightly recruited out of high
school and DeAnza (Calif.) College, he immediately earned his
Tulsa scholarship, catching 39 passes for 1,244 yards and 11
touchdowns. Marion’s average of 31.9 yards per catch set an
NCAA record and opened things up for the rest of the receivers
whenever he ran a deep pattern.
At flanker, 5-9, 170-pound sophomore A.J. Whitmore is a
dangerous open-field runner, who caught just four passes, but
rushed for 268 yards and three scores on only 26 carries. The
leading rusher in the spring game, the coaches will continue to
line him up at quarterback in the team’s Wildcat package.
Rounding out the receiving corps is junior Jesse Meyer, a
6-4, 201-pounder that had 39 catches for 585 yards and two
touchdowns. The Hurricane’s version of a physical possession
receiver, he’ll get more looks as his number of dropped passes
Tulsa uses the tight end infrequently, but when it does, junior
Jake Collums will get the call. A 6-4, 242-pound
receiver with a couple of letters on the resume, he started five
games, catching three passes for 20 yards and a pair of scores.
Projected Top Reserves: Tulsa’s most experienced
receiver off the bench is junior flanker Dion Tolliver,
another junior college transfer that quickly adapted to the
nuances of Malzahn’s offense. A slippery receiver at 5-11 and
170 pounds, he debuted with 34 receptions for 392 yards and a
touchdown, while occasionally being used on handoffs.
Watch Out For…The transfers. The Hurricane is
excited about former SEC players Slick Shelley and
Andrew Norman, who both took part in their first spring. At
6-4 and 195 pounds, Shelley was buried on the Tennessee depth
chart, but now has a chance to become the receiver that was
rated among the nation’s best in 2005. Norman is a 6-1,
195-pounder that’ll be reunited with Malzahn, who had him at
Arkansas and Springdale (Ark.) High School.
Strength: Yards after the catch. Collectively,
this group can really motor with or without the ball in its
hands. Johnson and Marion are bona fide field-stretchers that
make a difference by simply running pass patterns.
Weakness: Consistency. While this ensemble has no
peers in Conference USA, it still lacks consistency, needing to
limit the number of dropped balls and tighten up its route
running. It’s nit-picking about a group that has few weak
Outlook: As dynamic as the Hurricane receivers
were in 2007, they’ll be even better in 2008 if the new
quarterback isn’t a washout. Don’t forget that other than
Meyer, every one of the team’s top wide receivers was a newcomer
Projected Starters: One year after having to build
the line from scratch, Tulsa returns four starters, including a
couple with all-league potential. The right side is set with
seniors Rodrick Thomas and Justin Morsey at tackle
and guard, respectively. Thomas is a 6-5, 355-pound mountain of
a man that punishes opposing linemen with his size and upper
body strength. An honorable mention All-Conference USA
selection, he’d benefit by shaping up to play another season in
an offense that doesn’t take many pauses.
Morsey is the veteran, a third-year starter and one of the
leaders of the unit. While not imposing at 6-2 and 282 pounds,
he uses leverage, quickness, and a no-quit attitude to hold his
own against larger opponents.
Manning the middle for a second straight year will be junior
Jody Whaley. At 6-4 and 302 pounds, he’s more physical than
the average center and sports the versatility to play multiple
positions. Whaley excels in both run blocking and pass
protection, early signs of a possible NFL career.
At left guard is 6-4, 297-pound junior Curt Puckett, a
returning starter that saw first significant action a year ago.
A pedestrian overall blocker, he succeeds through sheer
determination, work ethic, and knowledge of his assignments.
The great unknown inside is who out of a group of unproven
redshirt freshmen will replace Walter Boyd at left tackle.
The favorite coming out of spring is 6-3, 299-pound Canadian
Tyler Holmes, one of the school’s better recruits from
2007. He’s noticeably strong up top, but will need to grow up
in a hurry in order to avoid being the weakest link in the
Hurricane front wall.
Projected Top Reserves: The most experienced
reserve is junior Travis Wike, a former tight end that
earned his first letter a year ago. A good athlete at 6-4 and
292 pounds, he can play center in an emergency, but is more
likely to back up Thomas at right tackle.
Battling Holmes on the left side will be 6-5, 250-pound redshirt
freshman Brandon Thomas, an athletic former high school
tight end that the coaches believe could be special once he adds
A lot will be expected of 6-3, 285-pound Shawn Santos, a
guard in his first year out of Trinity Valley (Tex.) Community
College. Already slotted into the second team, he’ll be an
important part of the rotation in Tulsa.
Watch Out For… the development of the left
tackles. Holmes and Thomas have bright futures in Tulsa, but
this year, they’ll have to protect the quarterback’s backside, a
concern for the line and the passing game.
Strength: Physicality. The offense may be
finesse, but the offensive line consists of a bunch of plowers
that can move the opposition off the ball. The ground attack
averaged 173 yards a game last year, largely because of the play
up front of the Hurricane blockers.
Weakness: The left side. Puckett’s pedestrian and
the new tackle will be a freshman unless someone else switches
positions. In other words, the Hurricane will run plenty of
plays to the right of center this season.
Outlook: Just like the receivers, the line is a
group that’s come a long way since being a perceived liability a
year ago. And just like those pass-catchers, the pass blockers
are going to benefit tremendously by having spent a season in a
system that was completely foreign to them when the new staff