Preview 2009 - Offense
2009 CFN Tulsa Preview
2009 Tulsa Offense Preview
2009 Tulsa Depth Chart
2008 Tulsa Preview
2007 Tulsa Preview
2006 Tulsa Preview
What you need to know: Gus Malzahn, the architect of the wildly successful hurry-up, no
huddle system, may be at Auburn, but don’t expect many changes
in philosophy. Under Herb Hand, the Hurricane still plans to
spread the field, operate out of the shotgun, and mix in the run
with the pass. After leading the nation in total offense the
last two seasons, why mess with success? All eyes will be fixed
on a fascinating quarterback race involving last year’s backup
Jacob Bower, Texas transfer G.J. Kinne, and incoming freshman
Shavodrick Beaver. The winner gets an instant opportunity for
monster numbers and national notoriety. While Tulsa is in good
shape at the skill positions, the line is a work-in-progress,
needing to replace three starters and build some depth in a
Passing: Jacob Bower
11-15, 138 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamad Williams
86 carries, 523 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Damaris Johnson
53 catches, 743 yds, 10 TD
Star of the
offense: Sophomore WR Damaris Johnson
Player that has to step
up and become a star: Junior QB Jacob Bower, sophomore G.J.
Kinne, or true freshman Shavodrick Beaver
Unsung star on the rise:
Sophomore LT Tyler Holmes
Best pro prospect:
Junior RB Charles Clay
Top three all-star
candidates: 1) Johnson
2) Clay 3) Senior
WR Slick Shelley
Strength of the offense: Passing attack, the ground game,
depth and explosiveness at the skill positions
Weakness of the offense:
Inexperience at quarterback, holes on the offensive line
For the first time in years, Tulsa will be handing its offense
over to an inexperienced quarterback. Who that hurler will be
remains very much in the air. There’s a tight, three-man race at
the position, which produced no front-runner at the end of
spring. The veteran of the trio is 6-3, 242-pound junior
Jacob Bower, who
earned some mop-up duty as the backup in 2008. A former hot-shot
JUCO recruit out of Bakersfield (Calif.) College, by way of BYU,
he has a strong arm, a gunslinger’s mindset, and the maturity
that comes with being married and much older than the
competition. He needs to improve at the finer points of the
position and develop a little more touch on his throws.
Projected Top Reserves:
After transferring from Texas and sitting out last season, 6-2,
215-pound sophomore G.J.
Kinne is ready to compete for the job. A two-time offensive
player of the year in the state of Texas, he plays with the
control of a coach’s son and throws a nice ball on the move.
While not an imposing figure, he has enough arm strength to make
all of the throws in this offense.
The future at the
position belongs to 6-3, 190-pound true freshman
who already took part in his first practices and turned heads in
the spring game. A rangy athlete, who can kill a defense with
his athletic ability and long stride, he de-committed from
Michigan and Rich Rodriguez in order to play for Tulsa.
Out For… an all-out war this summer to win the job.
Everyone wants to start, naturally, but this is one of the
unique quarterback opportunities in America. If you get the
start in Tulsa, you get a chance for eye-popping numbers and an
uncommon amount of national recognition. That carrot will
elevate the intensity of this race in August.
Pedigree. BYU had Bower. Texas signed Kinne. Michigan, among
others, was going to build its offense around Beaver. You see a
trend here? These are talented quarterbacks, who just haven’t
had the chance yet to flourish at this level.
experience. Bower went 11-of-15 for 138 yards, one touchdown,
and one interception in 2008, making him the veteran of the
group. There’s no replacement for live action, which these three
are clearly short of heading into the season.
the system, stupid. Did you notice NFL GMs tripping over
themselves to sign Paul Smith or David Johnson the last two
years? No, yet they combined for about a thousand touchdowns in
a hurry-up, no-huddle attack that’s a star-maker.
Pound-for-pound, the replacements might be more gifted than
Smith and Johnson, but they’ll have to execute in the fall
before earning passing grades.
Now that all-time leading rusher Tarrion Adams has run out of
eligibility, 5-9, 212-pound junior
Jamad Williams has a
clear path to earning a bigger role in the offense. He’s
excelled as a reserve the last two seasons, finishing second on
the team a year ago with 523 yards and three touchdowns on only
86 carries. While not very tall, he’s plenty tough and, as a
former defensive back, won’t shy away from contact. Shockingly,
only Navy and Air Force ran the ball more than Tulsa in 2008, so
Williams must be mentally and physically prepared for at least
15 carries a game.
In 6-3, 230-pound junior
Charles Clay, the
Hurricane essentially gets four players in one. While listed as
a fullback in the past, he could be used as a feature runner
this fall. He’s also one of the team’s best receivers, a hybrid
between a tight end and an H-back. He caught 38 passes for 464
yards and nine touchdowns, while running 25 times for 145 yards
and two scores. He can do it all for Tulsa, which is why the
staff is committed to getting him the ball at least 20 times a
Top Reserves: Sophomore
made the most of his limited opportunities last season, turning
45 carries into 355 yards and two touchdowns. That’s an average
of just below eight yards a carry, which is sure to earn him
more looks in 2009. The fastest of the running backs, he also
has the 5-10, 205-pound frame needed to break tackles.
Behind Clay at the bigger back position is 6-2, 206-pound
redshirt freshman Willie
Carter. He displayed big-play potential in April, and
already has the size and strength to contribute at this level.
With three experienced runners ahead of him, he’ll have the
luxury of being brought along slowly in this debut season.
Watch Out For…
a much bigger role for Clay. His production actually dropped
last year from his breakout freshman season, but a repeat is
highly unlikely. He’s such a unique weapon, and with the
departures of Adams and Courtney Tennial, there’ll be an opening
for more carries than the last two years combined.
Versatility. By design, Tulsa has molded its running backs into
multi-dimensional players, who can pick up huge chunks of real
estate on the ground or split out and emulate a receiver.
They’re all playmakers, as evidenced by their gaudy yards per
Weakness: A sure-thing feature back. Adams had 270
touches a year ago for 1,761 yards and 15 touchdowns. You don’t
replace that kind of production with the snap of a finger.
Williams, Clay, and Opeseyitan have been nice parts up to this
point, but there are no guarantees that any one of them is
durable or talented enough to shoulder the load.
without Adams, Tulsa looks as if it’ll be fine at running back,
an underrated position in this wide-open offense. With Clay
providing the power and the pass-catching, and Williams and
Opeseyitan the flash, there won’t be a noticeable drop-off in
the overall production from the backfield.
It’s taken a couple of years, but Tulsa has stockpiled talent at
wide receiver, turning it into a position of strength. Most of
last year’s top pass-catchers are back, headed by 5-8, 170-pound
sophomore flanker Damaris
Johnson, a rookie revelation who led the team in receptions.
An explosive playmaker, he was No. 5 nationally in all-purpose
yards, catching 53 passes for 743 yards and 10 touchdowns and
rushing for 327 yards and a score. The Hurricane’s version of
DeSean Jackson, he’s capable of hitting a home run from anywhere
on the field.
Split out wide will be 6-4, 200-pound
senior Slick Shelley, who excelled in his first year removed from the
Tennessee program. He finished third on the team with 39 catches
for 627 yards and eight touchdowns. One of the biggest receivers
in Tulsa, he uses his body well when the ball is in the air, has
nice hands, and is quick enough to get behind the secondary.
Rounding out the starting trio will be 5-11, 180-pound
junior Trae Johnson.
A year after earning Freshman All-America recognition, he
suffered through a sophomore slump, catching just 20 balls for
475 yards and three touchdowns. It was a far cry from the 70
receptions and 13 touchdowns he had in 2007, but he still has
the quickness, soft hands, and separation speed to make a
rebound. The Hurricane, in fact, is counting on it.
Tulsa employs a tight end, it has a good one in 6-4, 242-pound
senior Jake Collums.
If nothing else, he’s been incredibly efficient throughout his
career, turning eight of his dozen catches into touchdowns. A
veteran in the H-back mold and a good blocker, Hurricane
quarterbacks would be foolish not to look his way near the end
Projected Top Reserves:
Running behind Johnson at flanker is 5-9, 172-pound junior
A.J. Whitmore, a letterwinner in each of the last two seasons. While
not as big of a threat in the passing game, catching 27 passes
for 261 yards and two scores, he’s very dangerous on inside
handoffs and end-arounds. He’s averaged almost 10 yards a carry
in his career, rushing 51 times for 346 yards and six touchdowns
a year ago.
The rare physical receiver of this diminutive
group, 6-4, 203-pound senior
Jesse Meyer is No. 2
behind Shelley on the outside. While a lack of consistency
limited him to just nine catches for 160 yards last fall, he
does bring size, veteran leadership, and a keen knowledge of the
offense to the B team.
Watch Out For…
incoming freshman Ricky
Johnson. A rookie has led the Hurricane in receiving the
last two seasons, so there’s clearly no glass ceiling for the
younger players. A de-commit from Arkansas just before signing
day, he has the 4.4 speed and 6-2, 190-pound frame to make an
Strength: Explosiveness. Collectively, this group can
really fly, with or without the ball in its hands. More than
just your garden-variety field-stretchers, the Hurricane
receivers do a terrific job of taking short passes and turning
them into long gains.
Consistency. While this is a very nice collection of
pass-catchers, it still has plenty of room for growth in those
hard-to-quantify areas, like drops, route-running, and downfield
blocking. It may be splitting hairs, but don’t tell that to
receivers coaches Mike Norvell and Clarence James.
Through recruiting and player development, Tulsa has been
building to this point, where talent meets depth at wide
receiver. In Johnson, Shelley, and Johnson, the Hurricane has
genuine game-breakers, who’ll help ease the transition of the
new starting quarterback.
While everyone is naturally fixated on the quarterback derby,
the offseason machinations taking place up front will be just as
important to the success of the program. The Hurricane must
replace three starters, including first team all-leaguer Justin
Morsey. If there’s bedrock to be found, it’s on the left side,
where 6-3, 306-pound sophomore
Tyler Holmes and 6-4,
309-pound senior Curt
Puckett are back at tackle and guard, respectively. Holmes
was a standout in his first season, using a strong upper body
and quick feet to adequately protect the passer’s backside. He
figures to continue getting better with more reps.
Puckett’s a grinder, entering his third season as a starter on
the inside. Although he’s not a next-level type blocker, he
endures with good size and a bucket full of intangibles that
includes determination, work ethic, and a detailed knowledge of
Clint Anderson is
expected to take over at center for Jody Whaley, who has decided
to move on to a new chapter of his life. Undersized at 6-2 and
272 pounds, he plays much stronger than his size, and is quick
out of the box. He earned a letter in 2008, even earning some
late starts at guard after Morsey was injured.
side of the line tentatively has 6-2, 270-pound junior
Nick Gates at guard
and 6-5, 274-pound
Brandon Thomas at tackle. Gates likes to mix it up in the
trenches, flashing a noticeable mean streak on Saturdays. He’s
played some over the last two seasons, but this is a promotion
that’s going to test his skills and endurance as a lineman.
The staff is cautiously optimistic about the future of
Thomas, a former high school tight end, who has gradually added
weight since leaving Nordonia (OH) High School. He still has
room to grow, but has the feet and the athleticism to be an
outstanding pass protector at some point in the future.
Projected Top Reserves:
Redshirt freshman Jared
Grigg earned high marks and the backup job at left tackle
this spring. Like Thomas, he needs to add some bulk to his 6-4,
265-pound frame, but has the agility and quickness to grow into
a very productive player in the next year or two.
Anderson has any problems, or moves outside to guard, 6-2,
274-pound junior Jon Bell
will be there to fill the void. A converted defensive
lineman, who lettered there in 2007, he’s still learning the
nuances of playing on this side of the ball.
Watch Out For…
junior T Wilson Holloway.
A cancer survivor and last year’s recipient of the Courage
Award, he continues to try and battle his way back to the team.
A promising tackle before being diagnosed with Hodgkin's
lymphoma, he actually played the first half of 2008 before
enduring a recurrence of the disease.
left side. A weakness just one year ago, the left side is
suddenly the strength of the unit. With Holmes and Puckett back
for another season as starters, the Hurricane will run the
majority of plays behind those two known commodities.
Depth. The starting five has a ton of questions marks. There are
even fewer answers on the second team. As it stands right now,
the Hurricane has only four healthy offensive linemen who’ve
earned letters on this side of the ball.
Outlook: If the
offense experiences setbacks this season, the finger will
probably be pointed squarely at this cast of question marks.
Although the program has done a commendable job of plastering
units together in the past, it has a sizable challenge ahead.
Interior talent and depth will be at a premium in 2009.