Bill Blankenship was officially announced as Tulsa head coach Friday afternoon, taking over for the departed Todd Graham. Blankenship spent the past four seasons as an assistant under Graham and played quarterback at Tulsa. This is his first job as a head coach.
Tulsa also interviewed Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee and former offensive coordinator Chad Morris for the position, and reports also surfaced that Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter was also a candidate. Athletic director Bubba Cunningham said Blankenship emerged as the choice because of his vision for the football team, his vision of the university, and his deep knowledge and understanding of Tulsa.
Blankenship certainly has the energy, enthusiasm and passion for the school, given his playing career there. He grew up in Oklahoma, and is set to make this a seamless transition, thanks to his relationship with the players and university supporters. His promotion also means Tulsa can work on keeping its recruiting class intact. Graham has tried poaching Tulsa recruits and taking them to Pittsburgh, getting the speedy wide receiver Jakeem Grant from Mesquite, Texas, to drop Tulsa from his list.
A big recruiting weekend is upcoming for Tulsa to keep its class intact. Here are a few other thoughts from Blankenship during his introductory news conference:
On the opportunity to coach at his alma mater: "It's overwhelming. I think to be the head coach at a Division I program anywhere is a tremendous blessing but to get to go back to your alma mater and go to a place I feel I know inside out is a tremendous blessing."
The offensive and defensive philosophies will be similar. "Our players are familiar with the system. We're not out to change the system they're comfortable with. Within that people misunderstand that means we're going to run the same plays in the same way. It was impressive and awesome to get to work with Gus Malzahn. Chad Morris is a wonderful coach and great human being. I love him and what he did with our offense but it's a real mistake to think Chad ran Gus' offense. The offense this year was unique to us. It's probably a little self-serving, but I try to remind people starting in 1992 at Union High School, we were running the no-huddle hurry-up offense that didn't catch on. ... Anybody that has watched what we've done offensively over the years understands it's going to be exciting, fast-paced, up tempo. The ball's going to be in the air. That's the only way I've ever done it."
On his coaching staff: Blankenship said he has reached out to coaches already and has also retained outside linebackers coach Jess Loepp, H-back and tight ends coach Archie McDaniel and secondary coach and recruiting coordinator Van Malone.
On the challenge of the first three weeks of the season: "I would rather approach those games with this returning squad than any squad I've ever coached. We have the guys ready to take a team that finished 24 in the country to make strides to go further."
On the recruiting class: "A lot of those were guys I was recruiting anyway. In most cases those guys were committed to this program. They weren't committed to a particular coach."
On how badly he wanted the job: "I told the selection committee it felt like game day to me. I was fired up and ready to roll. I was determined that if I got an opportunity to get in the batters box, I wasn't going to let the pitch go by. I was going to swing for the fence. We know it wasn't up to me but I thought I had done well enough to be considered."