Spring superlatives: Tulsa

For the first time since Todd Graham returned as the head coach at Tulsa, he didn’t have a veteran quarterback to lean on and his team struggled partly because of it. The Golden Hurricane went 5-7, missing the postseason for the first time since 2004.

But the 2009 Tulsa squad was a young team that showed promise and should be better this spring, especially with some new coaches to help on both sides of the ball.

Here’s a look at the strongest and weakest positions for Tulsa heading into spring football:

Strongest position: Wide receiver

Key returners: Senior Trae Johnson (22 catches, 311 yards, eight touchdowns), junior Damaris Johnson (78 catches, 1,131 yards, three touchdowns), senior A.J. Whitmore (26 catches, 238 yards, one touchdown), sophomore Ricky Johnson (eight catches, 111 yards, two touchdowns), sophomore Justin Skillens (three catches, 41 yards)

Key departures: Slick Shelley (29 catches, 511 yards, four touchdowns)

The skinny: Although Tulsa didn’t have one of the nation’s top offenses like it has in the past, the receiving corps was still productive and could be even better with quarterback G.J. Kinne in his second season as starter and a more seasoned offensive line. Damaris Johnson will once again be the focal point of the offense, but look for some of the younger players to start making their mark. Tulsa also had a lot of success using H-back Charles Clay out of the backfield.

Weakest position: Offensive line

Key returners: Junior left tackle Tyler Holmes, junior left guard Clint Anderson, sophomore center Trent Dupy, junior right tackle Brandon Thomas, senior right tackle David Lazenby

Key departures: Right guard Curt Puckett

The skinny: Graham said the one place his team couldn’t afford to suffer any losses last season was on the offensive line, and through the better part of the season starters were coming up lame, forcing younger, inexperienced players into action. The result was Kinne running for his life most of the time as the Golden Hurricane allowed 46 sacks, which amounted to one of the worst sacks per game averages in the country. The good thing about last season is that the line got much-needed experience and should be a lot stronger this year, especially since coach Herb Hand can turn his focus back to them instead of spreading his attention to all of the offense.