G.J. Kinne leads revamped Tulsa offense

If you thought Tulsa blitzed through teams on offense last season, wait until you see what the Golden Hurricane have in store for 2011.

They want to go even faster, employing more no huddle while also allowing veteran starting quarterback G.J. Kinne to make his own audibles at the line of scrimmage. Those are just a few changes fans might notice now that Tulsa is under new leadership in coach Bill Blankenship and offensive coordinator Greg Peterson.

Blankenship, a former quarterback himself, felt it was time to give Kinne more freedom, especially since the quarterback will be going into his third year as a starter.

"I don’t think you can put a measure on experience and the fact that he has that," Blankenship said. "Now we need to capitalize on it. That’s what I’m trying to do -- get him into a position where he sees the defense he can react and get us in the best situation. He’s got weapons out there, we can teach him in such a way that he’ll play at an even higher level."

While some of the offensive philosophy has changed now that Kinne is playing for his fourth offensive coordinator in college, much of it remains the same. Kinne is just excited to be able to have the opportunity to do more for his team.

"I feel like it's a tremendous honor for Coach Blankenship to trust me his first year out the gate as a head coach," Kinne said in a phone interview. "I am going to work hard enough to make those audibles. It's something in years past, I felt I could do but haven't been given the reins. I'm very happy about this opportunity."

Among other changes you will see: Kinne will line up under center more than he has in the past; Tulsa is going to try to run between the tackles more, especially with all five starting linemen returning; and the hope is to have more play-action, in addition to the spread it has predominantly played in the past. It will be interesting to see how Kinne makes the transition in several of these areas. He estimated he lined up under center about 10 percent of the time last season. The last time he was under center more often was middle school.

He spent the spring working on the exchange with center. Getting a solid running game going between the tackles also will take some pressure of him. Kinne led the team in rushing last season with his designed runs. He still will run the ball. But Blankenship wants to establish a ground game with his running backs. Trey Watts, JaTerian Douglas and Alex Singleton are going to be counted on to shoulder more of the load, but everything begins with Kinne -- the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year.

To that end, Kinne has to develop chemistry with some new faces. Ultra-talented Damaris Johnson returns as his go-to receiver, and Thomas Roberson is back as well. But Kinne loses two reliable receivers in Trae Johnson and Jameel Owens, leaving opportunities for other players to step up. Jordan James and Bryan Burnham had good springs. Incoming freshman Keyarris Garrett could also contribute. Garrett played high school outside Kinne's hometown, so the quarterback is excited about the possibilities.

"We just have a lot of leadership right now, a lot of confidence going into this summer," Kinne said. "Everyone knows how good we can be. From here on out it's going to be about how hard we work."