After leading the country in total offense for two consecutive years, Tulsa dropped back to No. 35 nationally in the 2009 season with 410 yards per game. While that is certainly still a very respectable number, it led to a 5-7 season and speculation that the prior success was mainly due to departed co-offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn, now coaching at Auburn.
The loss of Malzahn likely played a small role, but a much bigger issue was an offensive line unit that faltered as the season wore on due to inexperience and injuries. Adding in a first-year starter at quarterback didn't help, and inconsistencies plagued the Golden Hurricane the entire year.
"We've gotten bigger up front," said Tulsa head coach Todd Graham. "We only graduated one offensive lineman, and we bring in three (this spring). That was a big focus for us."
Heading in to spring drills of 2010, the outlook on offense is much brighter. Junior quarterback G.J. Kinne has a year under his belt, and a healthy offensive line is much more battle-tested and will add in some talented new faces. Pairing that improvement with the deep talent at the skill positions should give new co-offensive coordinator Chad Morris a tempered excitement.
Morris is a disciple of Gus Malzahn's hurry-up, no huddle offense, and he will help lead a group that lost only three players to graduation -- WR Slick Shelley, TE Jake Collums and OG Curt Puckett.
Tulsa returns four starters on the offensive line, anchored by junior left tackle Tyler Holmes (6-4, 306). Talented young players, such as sophomore guard Brian DeShane (6-3, 290), are ready to step up into more prominent roles, while Oklahoma transfer Kody Cooke (6-5, 310) expects to find a spot on the depth chart this spring.
Playmakers abound at the skill positions. Kinne was not only Tulsa's leading passer with 2,732 yards and 22 touchdowns, but also their leading rusher, adding 393 yards and five scores on the ground.
Multi-faceted fullback Charles Clay will suit up for his senior season. In three seasons, he has caught 146 passes and ran the ball 145 times, amassing 2,703 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Senior running back Jamad Williams, who ran for 389 yards in 2009, will be the leader at the position in the spring but will be joined by talented newcomers Derrick Hall and Ja'Terian Douglas in the fall. Hall transfers from Navarro JC and was a national Top 100 prospect out of Beaumont, Texas in 2008.
Last but not least is the talented receiving corps. Led by dynamic junior Damaris Johnson, five of Tulsa's top six receivers return from last season. That core group combined for 137 catches, 1,832 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009. It becomes even deeper this spring with the addition of Oklahoma transfer Jameel Owens.
"We're pretty loaded on offense," said Tulsa head coach Todd Graham. "Offense will be the strength of our team. All we did is add some big-time talent to an already veteran offense."