TULSA, Okla. –– On national letter-of-intent signing day, The University of Tulsa inked 22 newcomers to go along with four signees from the December signing period for a total class of 26 student-athletes, it was announced today by Head Football Coach Todd Graham.
The Hurricane signed a total of five junior college players and received one transfer, while 20 high school seniors have signed national letters-of-intent. The players already enrolled include junior college transfers Milton Howell (S) and Darrell Zellers (DT), Oklahoma transfer Jameel Owens (WR) and true freshman Donnell Hawkins (LB).
Tulsa’s emphasis with this year’s recruiting class was on the defensive side of the ball, signing a total of 18 defensive players. Five defensive linemen, six safeties, five linebackers and two cornerbacks fill out the defensive class for the Hurricane.
“A common thread among this signing class is that for the most part they all come from highly successful programs,” said Graham.
“We had seven key players graduate from our defense, so our big focus of this class was solidifying our front and we feel strongly about the three JC players that we’ve brought in and the addition of Tulsa Union’s Alec Henry,” said Graham. “We also wanted to solidify depth a linebacker and we felt we did that, but the biggest area of concern was our defensive backfield. We’re excited about the speed and athleticism that we added in the secondary. We have added a lot of talent on defense, and perhaps it’s the most talented class that we’ve signed.”
Junior College transfers Durrell Finch and Tyrunn Walker at defensive end are two guys that can be impact defensive players for the Hurricane. “Tyrunn is a very dominant player, while Durrell has great explosiveness off the ball as a pass rush specialist,” said Graham. Freshman Relus Chance is another solid athlete who has good pass rushing ability. In addition, tackles Darrell Zeller, a transfer from Hutchinson JC, and Union High School’s Alec Henry are big, imposing physical players.
Tulsa’s five linebackers are –– Zik Asiegbu, Quentin George, Donnell Hawkins, Mitchell Osborne and Eldon Thompson –– all from the prep level, and the common theme among these five signees was speed and athleticism.
Two players expected to have an early impact in their careers are local safeties, DeWitt Jennings of Bixby High School and Marco Nelson of Glenpool High School. Both possess good speed, quickness, athleticism and physicalness. Another impact player at safety can be JC transfer Milton Howell, who played quarterback at Navarro Junior College the last two years, but will have the spring to make the transition to the safety position.
Three more safeties will join the Hurricane in the fall in the likes of Brion James from Louisiana and Union High School signees Luke Snider and James Roberson, who both made the switch to safety in their senior seasons, while helping the Redskins win the school’s second straight Class 6A state title.
At cornerback, Tres Houston brings great size, leadership and tremendous athletic ability, while Brenton Bogar of Muskogee (Okla.) High School has tremendous speed, and “is probably one of the fastest players we’ve ever signed,” added Graham.
“The brunt of our effort was to increase our speed and ability to defend the spread offense with guys who can cover in the back-end and guys that are explosive off the edge blitzing, and then keep building the foundation up front on the line. We feel really good that we were able to accomplish that goal.
“From top to bottom, the last two recruiting classes we feel really good about. In the first two classes we had some great players each year, guys like Charles Clay and Damaris Jackson. But from top to bottom, we feel like the last two years have been really solid, which will allow us to get better in special teams and have more depth as a football team,” added Graham.
Tulsa signed seven players for the offensive side of the ball with this class, but brought in three players that gray-shirted last year after signing in February –– linemen Stetson Burnett and Brian Mincher and tight end Greg Brown –– as well as one transfer, lineman Kody Cooke, who had to sit out after transferring to Tulsa prior to the 2009 season.
With this class, Tulsa added two tailbacks, one quarterback, two receivers, one lineman, and one tight end.
“Offensively, our focal point was the offensive line, but we only used one scholarship for that spot since we added Stetson Burnett and Brian Mincher, both gray-shirts from 2009, and Oklahoma transfer Kody Cooke, and now Jake Alexander with this class. We think each of those guys will be very impactful to what we’re doing on offense,” said Graham.
“The running back position is a stellar class with JC transfer Derrick Hall and prep senior Ja’Terian Douglas. Both of those guys are big-time running backs with big statistics. We feel good about solidifying our running back position with two guys that we were able to beat some big-time conferences on.”
Hall was highly recruited out of high school as one of the state of Texas’ top recruits originally signed with Texas A&M. He rushed for over 2,200 yards and 29 TDs in his two years at Navarro Junior College. Douglas was regarded as the 41st-best running back in the nation as a prep senior when he rushed for 1,868 yards and 25 touchdowns at Arlington Lamar (Texas) High School.
Tulsa Union High School receiver Thomas Roberson had an impressive prep career and was Tulsa’s No. 1 high school receiving recruit. He caught 62 passes for 827 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior.
“At wide receiver, getting a transfer of Jameel Owens and our number one high school receiver Thomas Roberson’s caliber is really big for us. We have all of our receivers back except Slick Shelley, so Jameel and Thomas are big, big additions. Jameel has to get a waiver still, but we’re very hopeful for that. At the quarterback position, Kalen Henderson is a guy that we think has outstanding promise and tremendous accuracy as a quarterback.”
Another transfer from OU, Owens is seeking a waiver to play immediately for the Hurricane, but nonetheless brings tremendous ability to the Hurricane roster. Prep tight end Deonte Morris joins placekicker Cole Way as the fourth and fifth players to sign with the Hurricane in this recruiting class from Tulsa’s Union High School.