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August 3, 2011

Coach's Corner: Offensive Line

As a follow up to our Summer Snapshot of the offensive line group, we dive into the mind of Tulsa head football coach Bill Blankenship for his thoughts on his offensive linemen, as well as a quick depth-chart heading into fall camp.

Tulsa returns five players that started at least nine games last season, but the real anchor of the line is on the left side with senior Tyler Holmes at tackle and Clint Anderson at guard.

"The part that we have that is really good is you know that Holmes and Anderson, those guys have played side-by-side and been really good, very consistent," said Blankenship. "Tyler got drafted number seven overall in the Canadian league draft, which is pretty amazing. It tells you what people think of him. I think he's got a really good future."

The right side of the offensive line developed some consistency throughout the course of the 2010 season. Stetson Burnett started nine games at guard, but split the starting role with Eric Sproal over the last six games. Brian DeShane took over at tackle in game five and stuck there for the remainder of the season, but injury kept him out of spring practice, which gave Texas Tech transfer Joe King an opportunity to shine.

"The (right) side has been kind of jumbled," said Blankenship earlier this summer. "We've had guys out of position at times due to injuries. Brian DeShane ended up starting most of the year at right tackle. He missed all of spring with shoulder surgery. He'll be healthy, but the question will be, is he really a guard or is he a tackle. He probably is more naturally a guard, but he wound up playing tackle for us, and that's what he played in high school, but he's a little undersized to be a college tackle.

"Add to that, we had Joe King here for the first time. He had a good spring, but certainly did not take over the spot by any means. He has a little rust he's got to get off of him. He has to have a big summer and fall if he is going to work on that tackle spot."

In the spring, Burnett seemed to regain his spot atop the depth chart at right guard after impressing new offensive line coach Denver Johnson.

"Stetson Burnett had played a lot last fall at right guard, missed a couple of games and then missed the bowl game," Blankenship explained. "He had a good spring and was really one of Coach Johnson's pleasant surprises just because he had kind of gotten in the dog house with the previous guys.

"Coach Johnson didn't have a lot of expectations, and Burnett had a really good spring. Coming out of spring, he's the starter, but he's going to have to work to maintain it, because these other guys are going to be competing for a spot."

Trent Dupy has started at center for the past two years and will head into fall camp in the No. 1 position. However, competition is expected to be fierce in the middle of the offensive line.

"Trent Dupy is pretty much a two-year starter at center, but competitively, that thing is really lighting up," Blankenship described. "Both Trent and DeShane, we would have given anything to have been able to redshirt those guys (as freshman), but because of the injures that happened that year, two years ago, they both wound up playing as true freshman. You had to do it, but they needed to develop physically more.

"Trent has the gift of experience, but he's just not very big, so he's going to constantly have to fight off people trying to take his job. I think that's a healthy thing on the offensive line to have competition."

The two players pushing Dupy are Jake Alexander and Eric Sproal. Alexander missed most of spring practice recovering from knee surgery but has worked extremely hard in the offseason. Sproal has game experience and is a seasoned upperclassman.

"Jake Alexander had a really good spring," said Coach Blankenship. "We were holding him back because of coming off of his surgery, but the part that he showed us was really good, so I think that he'll fight for that center spot.

"Sproal is another guy that will be a senior that has experience playing at guard and center. He gives us a bigger guy at the center spot, but probably not quite as mobile as Trent. Sometimes when we are playing against a bigger nose guard and it is physically difficult for Trent, then Eric has been able to give us some beef in there."

Alexander and Sproal will also be working out at guard in fall camp, along with true freshman Garrett Stafford and sophomore Gabe Moyer.

"Gabe Moyer is kind of a serviceable back-up right now, and when I say that, it's not a knock on him," Blankenship added. "We've got five seniors on the offensive line, so a year from now, there is going to be a bunch of guys move right up into the mix."

Three upperclassmen that have paid their dues will be fighting for spots on the depth chart at tackle.

"Kody Cooke, David Lazenby and Jared Grigg -- they are all kind of fighting to get into the rotation," Blankenship said. "Grigg probably came out of spring ahead of the other two. Lazenby had moments that looked like he could be a guy that plays."

Notre Dame transfer Matt Romine, who has one year of eligibility remaining, will also be in the mix at tackle.

"Romine is going to play somewhere," Blankenship described. "He's been a tackle that has played and started part time for four years. That will be another dynamic.

"People seem to be really worried, but I'm like, how do you get worried about that. This is going to be good -- creating competition and moving people around. In a perfect world, it wouldn't be all bad if we got to redshirt a guy or two."

Summer Depth Chart

LT1 - Tyler Holmes, Sr., 6-4, 301
LT2 - Jared Grigg, Jr., 6-4, 290
LT3 - Kody Cooke, Sr, 6-5, 275
LT4 - Matt Romine, Sr., 6-5, 295

LG1 - Clint Anderson, Sr., 6-2, 285
LG2 - Gabe Moyer, So., 6-2, 307
LG3 - Garrett Stafford, Fr., 6-5, 301

C1 - Trent Dupy, Jr., 6-2, 285
C2 - Eric Sproal, Sr., 6-4, 317
C3 - Jake Alexander, Fr., 6-2, 290

RG1 - Stetson Burnett, So., 6-4, 305
RG2 - Jake Alexander, Fr., 6-2, 290
RG3 - Eric Sproal, Sr., 6-4, 317

RT1 - Brian DeShane, Jr., 6-3, 313
RT2 - Joe King, So., 6-6, 309
RT3 - David Lazenby, Sr, 6-5, 303
RT4 - Garrett Gladd, Fr., 6-3, 303

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