Tuesday, May 21, 2013
OU coach Boulware's plans in motion
By Brandon Chatmon
Returning the tight end position to a strength of the offense and cementing Oklahoma’s special teams among the nation’s best are two goals high atop the priority list of Jay Boulware. The Sooners’ new tight ends and special teams coach has hit the ground running after joining the program on March 1.
The Sooners have relatively low numbers at tight end with senior Brannon Green, redshirt freshman Sam Grant and redshirt freshman Taylor McNamara as the lone scholarship tight ends on the roster. Adding tight ends will be key for the Sooners in the Class of 2014.
Houston tight end Mavin Saunders hasn't played much football but his potential has college coaches salivating.
Yet they might not have on the look of a prototypical tight end. As OU strives to be more versatile offensively, the tight end position ranks as arguably the most physically challenging position on the field. The more versatile the prospect, the better.
“There’s hybrid people out there,” Boulware said earlier this spring. “Just because you don’t see an inline tight end, doesn’t mean there’s not a tight end on the field. He might be in the backfield, he might be spread out, that’s what the game is going to.”
Recent tight end offer DeAndre Goolsby (Derby, Kan./Derby) fits the mold of a versatile tight end. In the past few seasons fullback Trey Millard has shown the value of having a hybrid player who can line up as a fullback, tight end or even slot receiver. Goolsby, who boasts offers from OU, Florida, Ohio State, Oregon and others, has similar traits. The Kansas native has an offer list littered with “spread” teams, a sign of his versatility.
Goolsby isn’t the only tight end offer who reveals the traits Boulware values in his tight ends. Two offers sent out after Boulware arrived in Norman were received by very different prospects. Tight end offer Mavin Saunders (Houston/Kinkaid) is a example of a very raw prospect who didn’t play football until his junior year but displays receiver-like athleticism at 6-foot-5, 233 pounds. Meanwhile Tulsa (Okla.) Union tight end Carson Meier, OU's most recent offer, has the physical mindset to block with authority and provide a big target in the passing game. At 6-6, 220 pounds, Meier is much further along in his football skills than Saunders, with room to grow bigger and add strength.
Two very different prospects, yet both players display similar attributes when the ball is in the air with good ball skills, athleticism and body control.
On the special teams side, Boulware noticed an immediate area of improvement when he joined the Sooners. OU put 37.8 percent of its kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks in 2012. UCLA led the nation with a 76.4 percentage and Oklahoma State led the Big 12 with a 68.2 percentage.
Shortly after his arrival Boulware was candid in his desire to improve the Sooners' ability to bury kickoffs in the endzone, saying “We should have that here, and we’re going to get that here.”
Not surprisingly the Sooners have offered kicker Aaron Medley (Lewisburg, Tenn./Marshall County), a combo prospect who can kickoff, kick field goals and punt. Undoubtedly Boulware hopes Medley can develop into a game-changing weapon on special teams, particularly kickoffs.
“The swings of a game can be dictated by your kickoff and kickoff return units,” he said.
It’s been roughly three months since Boulware joined the program, yet he’s already showing what he values most on the recruiting trail. He’s willing to offer kicking prospects early if they show the ability to bring unique talents to OU’s special teams and he’s looking for athletic, big targets at tight end who have the ball skills and body control to be dangerous targets in the middle of the field while bringing the versatility to stay on the field in running situations.