However, non-starters who return have experience more than realized.
“We’re probably the biggest question mark on the offense right now,” said Jake Alexander, one two returning guards for TU. “But we’re returning eight guys. We only lost three of those lineman.”
Starters lost to graduation were center Trent Dupy, along with tackles Jared Grigg and Brian DuShane.
Alexander and Stetson Burnett are the guards who started in 2012. Gabe Moyer is also back with starting experience, along with Garrett Stafford, who had to take over in the final regular season game at SMU when DeShane got injured. That allowed Stafford to start in the Conference USA Championship and Liberty Bowl games.
“Stafford had stepped up and played well in both of those games,” Johnson said.
“We lost some really good ones,” Tulsa offensive line coach Denver Johnson said. “What I’m really hopeful for is that we may have more guys this year that can and will actually play in games than we had last year. I’m really encouraged by that.”
With the their experience, Alexander, Burnett and Moyer have had to step up into leadership roles.
“We’ve done that,” Burnett said. “All three of us have had to take reins and bring the younger guys up. All of them smart. They understand our playbook inside and out. They’re quick, physical and give a lot of effort,” Burnett said.
Moyer will be the starting center in Thursday’s regular season opener at Bowling Green. Alexander and Burnett are penciled to start respectively at left and right guard. Stafford will be at left tackle and Davis Watson will be at right tackle.
With most of the line being well-seasoned, it should give skill players Cody Green, Trey Watts and Keyarris Garrett room to flourish in the Golden Hurricane offense in 2013. TU also has most of its backfield and receiving unit back.
“Last year, we had a bigger question mark,” Alexander said. “We only had two guys returning, Stetson was coming off an injury and we turned out to have a great year as an offensive line. Us three veterans are smart enough and we have some guys coming off a red shirt year that had real good summer workouts and I think we’ll be fine there.”