I will always be thankful to the selection committee, Bubba Cunningham and President Upham for allowing me the opportunity to lead the TU football program these past four years. There was never a day during that time that I felt entitled or a sense that we had “arrived”. Angie and I were very cognizant of the high expectations that were part and parcel with this position of leadership. Ironically, we held ourselves to an even higher standard. It was our personal commitment to live out a life lesson that I had been taught by my father: He always believed that we had an obligation in this life to "leave a place better than we found it".
We began with a vision of what we believed would build our program over the long haul. We resisted the quick fix mentality. We developed early on a plan to recruit UNCOMMON young men, (outstanding athletes with strong academic backgrounds and high character, young men with ability to communicate effectively and with a personal bent toward leadership. Young men whom we believed will become the next generation of leaders in their communities and families.) We referred to this as the Tulsa Profile. We consistently rejected football players that did not fit the profile to be successful at TU and in Tulsa.
We "bit the bullet" and redshirted nearly every interior Lineman on Offense and Defense in those four classes. The result is, (for the first time in recent history) we will have quality depth in the interior lines on both sides of the ball. It is fairly undisputed in the coaching world that 20, 21 or 22 year old MEN will usually defeat the 18 and 19 year old youngsters. In today's college environment, many coaches don't choose to build for the long term by utilizing the redshirt program. A common cynical response is "there's no reason to save those players for the next coach". I am very thankful for the veteran coordinators on our staff, Brent Guy, Scott Downing and Denver Johnson. They were all former Head Coaches and were consistent in their encouragement to "build TU for the future". I am willing to let the public make their own evaluation regarding our decision to invest in the future as they observe the offense and defensive linemen over the next two or three years. I'm confident we left this area of our program better than we found it.
As a very proud TU alum, I was eager to respond to the charge given me to raise our APR (the NCAA's measurement of Academic Progress towards a degree and Graduation Rates). I am very proud to say that this past year’s report showed the HIGHEST APR in the history of our football program. Still we were nowhere near satisfied and I believe there is still much work to be done. I was encouraged with the recent addition of Dr. Christina Carter who was hired to lead our academic support program. She has already made HUGE STRIDES in her first four months on the job and I am confident that we leave this area of our program better than we found it.
I am incredibly grateful to my older brother, Rex, our Director of Player Development (Chaplain). Rex gave himself to our players and their parents, our staff and their families and many others affiliated and unaffiliated with TU nearly every day for four years. He was at most every practice and many of the workouts in winter and summer. He voluntarily invested into the lives of all of us in a deep and rich way while never receiving a dime from the university. He was a counselor, teacher, advisor, listener and cheerleader. I am eternally confident that he leaves within our players and coaches a spiritual foundation that we will call on for the rest of our lives. In this area we leave the TU football program better than we found it.
We look back on the 2012 season with great pride. We were part of something very special. The 2012 team was the most successful in school history. Never before had a Tulsa team won 11 games, the Conference Championship and a Major Bowl Win. That Liberty Bowl team was blessed with lots of juniors and seniors that played all season at a very high level. We will leave it to historians to rank the teams and seasons of Tulsa Football. I choose to believe that we were a small part of elevating our program to do something that had never been done and thus left it better than we found it.
We knew we had our hands full rebuilding. There was a significant and documented void in the next two senior classes. There were only 7 seniors in 2013 that were originally recruited on scholarship and only 6 in the 2014 senior class. We didn’t make excuses or pass blame. We just continued to build. We did not expect to go 3-9 and 2-10. We certainly hoped and believed that our young players would develop faster. Our defense struggled after three very good years. Injuries and youth took its toll. The turnaround this season did not happen and for that I fully accept responsibility.
There were bright spots. Our sophomore QB had the fifth most productive passing season in the proud history of TU football. Our sophomore receiver had the third most catches in a season, only behind the senior seasons of Howard Twilley and Chris Penn. The offense finished in the top third of our conference in nearly every category and returns every offensive player except for graduating senior tackle, Davis Walton. I believe the future is bright. Over the next two years you will get used to hearing the names of this young team. I expect that Keevan Lucas, Dane Evans, Bishop Louie, D'Angelo Brewer, Justin Hobbs, Chris Wallace, Blake Belcher, Jesse Brubaker, Patera Wilson, Jeremy Smith, Will Barrow, Kerwin Thomas and several others will become household names in Tulsa and will validate the talent that our staff recruited in the freshman and sophomore classes as well as the very talented commitments for this year’s recruiting class.
We fully understand the business side of college football. It is not, by nature, very patient. Boosters and fans expect us to deliver W's and they want them now. Fortunately, I've been very blessed in my career to have experienced significantly more winning seasons than losing seasons. That fact did not make it any easier to endure these past two seasons. Our fans and supporters expect and deserve better. I hurt most for our players and staff that worked incredibly hard but did not get to reap the benefits of our efforts. I strongly believe that the next coach and staff at Tulsa will be able to build on the less visible aspects of our program that we leave behind. .
Please let me say an individual and personal THANK YOU to the dear friends and colleagues who chose to join arms with us on this crazy, invigorating, exhausting, fulfilling, thrilling, gut-wrenching, roller coaster ride called college football: MANY OF THESE WONDERFUL FAMILIES ARE CURRENTLY WITHOUT EMPLOYMENT. PLEASE PRAY FOR THEM AS THEY SEEK OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTINUE INVESTING INTO YOUNG MEN’S LIVES AND FUTURE.
Offensive Coaches: Denver Johnson, Scott Downing, Holman Wiggins, Greg Peterson, Dan Bitson, Josh Blankenship, John Johnson
Defensive Coaches: Brent Guy, Van Malone, Jess Loepp, Archie McDaniel, Adam Blankenship, Calvin Thibodeaux, Darnell Walker
GA’s and Interns: Blake Smith, Press Taylor, David Johnson, Corey Heinz, Stafford Davis, Grant Lester, Cody Morrison, Brent Potter, Antonio Graham, Zach Bigelow, Brady Walz, Luke Olson, Nick Graham, Jason Semore, Paul Cherry, Howard Scarborough
Operations: Blair Philbrick, Kyle Grooms, Ravi Savitala, Adam Satterwhite, Video: DJ Welte, Matt Downing
Recruiting & HS Relations: Clint Rountree, Tom Ososkie
Strength & Conditioning: Adam Davis and staff, Ryder Weischedel, Rohrk Cutchlow and staff
Equipment: Russ Hoffman
Medical: Dr. Mauerman, Dr. Boone, Dave Polanski, Chris Nerio
Office Assistants: Tammi Sinclair, Megan Hoffman, Alyssa Weischedel
Assistant to the Head Coach (My personal boss): Micki Heatly
Our "Coaches Corner" section will feature weekly blog posts from Coach Blankenship and his coaching staff. Keep up with Tulsa Football as the coaches provide you with a look from an insider's perspective. Go Tulsa!