Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

January 23, 2014

Johnson named Tulsa's OC on revamped coaching staff

TULSA — Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship didn't have to look far to shake up his staff.

Assistant head coach Denver Johnson will serve as the Golden Hurricane's offensive coordinator next season, in addition to his responsibilities as offensive line coach. Offensive coordinator and receivers coach Greg Peterson left the program last week.

The announcement on Wednesday followed the hiring earlier in the week of Josh Blankenship, the coach's son, as quarterbacks coach. That led to restructuring: Dan Bitson will move from running backs coach to receivers, Scott Downing will coach tight ends/H backs and graduate assistant David Johnson - a former Tulsa quarterback - will assist with the running backs.

"I felt the need to have a full-time quarterback coach," said the head coach. "Those quarterbacks deserve a full-time coach."

Bill Blankenship said the team's 3-9 finish in 2013 led to "an agonizing self-evaluation" of the team.

"Denver didn't volunteer for this spot, he didn't even ask for this, but his 12 years of head coach experience and how he manages the staff, his philosophy is right in sync with mine," he said.

Johnson said he was excited about the move.

"We have a big challenge in front of us," he said. "We are a very young football team, going into the 2014 season with two seniors on the offensive side. We have a lot of work to do but I am excited. We weren't a very good executing offense. Bottom line is we have to do a better job coaching, holding guys accountable and structuring our offense."

Bill Blankenship said he considered giving up calling the plays but will continue in that role.

"That's an area I've done as a head coach for 25 years, that hasn't changed," he said. "We've had one year that it didn't work very well. Hopefully we will get right back on track. If it works out that it is better for Denver or Josh or Scott to call plays we will go down that path."

Last season, Tulsa ranked 100th in total offense (356 yards per game), 102nd in scoring (21.8 ppg), 99th in passing offense (191.4 ypg) and 69 in rushing offense (164.8 ypg).

"Play selection was not the problem," Johnson said. "Play execution was the problem. Bill didn't forget how to call plays. We didn't execute. It was widespread. Play selection, in my mind, is overrated. We're very diligent about taking the plays designed to fail out of the playbook."

The younger Blankenship spent the past three seasons as head coach at Muskogee High School, where he compiled an 8-21 record. He also coached for seven years at Tulsa's Union High School, again working under his father. Josh Blankenship played quarterback at Tulsa from 1999-2001 before transferring to Eastern Washington.

Asked if the hiring of his son would put additional pressure to perform next season, Bill Blankenship said: "Anybody in college football understands we're a results business. Ultimately that's the way I'll be judged. Whether you get to stay in your job or not is based on results. I'm going to put a person in that position that I am most comfortable with to get those results. It's not lost on us.

"Pressure is not a bad thing. It's a very good thing. Stress is a bad thing. No matter who I hired as quarterback coach I'm still going to be judged on the results."

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