|Updated: 8/20 5:35 pm
||Published: 8/20 5:33 pm
Tulsa, Oklahoma –– The Tulsa football team practiced for two hours on the grass at Harwell Field Tuesday morning as the Golden Hurricane continues preparations for the season opener at Bowling Green next Thursday.
“I thought it was a good practice. We had much better execution on both sides of the ball today. I think they’re starting to feel the energy that we’re getting closer, single digits. I keep talking about it in terms of days to game day, and I think it’s starting to hit them,” said Blankenship.
“It was our second day of exclusively working on Bowling Green, but it’s essentially the same things we’ve been doing for three weeks,” added Blankenship. “Now, all the scout team focus is on Bowling Green, and we’re trying to do a good job. They run so well on defense and have all their guys back that it’s tough to get the best look. But our guys worked pretty well today.”
Tulsa will be back on the practice field Wednesday morning.
It’s no secret that the defensive line for the Golden Hurricane will be an entirely new set of four starters in 2013. There’s no substitute for experience and although young, Tulsa coaches are pleased with the progress made throughout preseason camp.
“We haven’t played a game yet, but I think we’re a little farther along than I thought we would be at defensive tackle. Our young guys are a little betterthan I thought they’d be and they’ve responded well. I’ve been pleased with their development,” said Blankenship. “I think Lionell (Phillips), Jesse (Brubaker) and Jerry (Uwaezuoke) have really brought their game to another level for them, but they’re going to have to do that every week.”
“I’m really happy with the effort these guys are coming in with day in and day out. We’re young, but I feel that we’re talented. I believe we’re going to continue to grow as the season progresses,” said Defensive Tackles Coach Calvin Thibodeaux.
On the interior, only sophomore Derrick Luetjen has game experience as the third-year tackle played in 13 games last year and tallied 14 tackles. There are four other tackles that will see playing timethis year, including two true freshmen and two red-shirt freshmen.
The true freshmen –– Brubaker and Phillips –– will have to grow up fast for the Hurricane. Brubaker was a three-year tight end, while spending his senior season at defensive tackle at Wylie (Texas) High School. Phillips was a four-year starting tackle at Naaman Forest (Texas) High School and was credited with 230 career tackles and 19 sacks.
Although missing some practice time with a preseason injury, Uwaezuoke is expected to see valuable playing time as a second-year player. A surprise has been the play of red-shirt freshman walk-on Hayden Carman, who has moved himself into a position to see some playing time for the Hurricane.
“Derrick (Luetjen) has done a good job of being the standard that we have up front. Hayden Carman has really shown up some, and I think he’ll be a guy that can help us some with depth,” said Blankenship.
“The group has changed, but the standard hasn’t. We want to play great defense, compete and win championships. That hasn’t changed. We have to be physical and tough up front,” said Thibodeaux.
On the outside, although both starters have graduated, Tulsa returns three lettermen that have seen considerable playing time.
“We’ve really loved our competition at defensive end,” said Blankenship. “Derrick Alexander is a guy coming off of an injury in the spring and didn’t get his reps, so he had to play from behind trying to earn a spot. He has really solidified himself as one of the starters.”
“If it was today, it would be Chris Hummingbird and Derrick with Brentom (Todd) being the first guy in. I don’t think that competition is over with, but that’s where it stands now,” said Blankenship. “It’s more on what Chris and Derrick have done, and not what Brentom hasn’t done. He’s still playing, but the other two are just producing more right now. That’s a good problem for us to have.”
“Our defensive ends are showcasing a lot of speed, more speed than we’ve had in our three seasons now. They’re moving very fast and their the most athletic group that I’ve seen,” said Defensive Ends Coach Adam Blankenship.
“We have to make plays. We lost a lot of guys who made a lot of plays last year, and that’s the expectation. We need guys who can make plays, who can come in during crunchtime situations and produce,” added the younger Blankenship.”
Alexander was a freshman all-conference pick as a red-shirt last year, while Hummingbird saw most of his playing time on special teams. Alexander had 19 tackles, including 5.5 stops for -26 yards and three sacks for -20 yards. Todd, a junior, showed up convincingly in his second season as he also collected 19tackles and had eight stops for -29 yards, while playing in all 14 games last year.
The fourth spot has seen a battle between red-shirt freshman Cory Rahmings and junior walk-on transfer Colt Buehner.
“A little bit of a surprise guy is Colt. He’s shown us enough to say that he deserves to be in that position. So right now, he and Rahmings are fighting for that fourth spot,” added the head coach.