Bill Blankenship's second season as the head coach of the Golden Hurricane got underway at 7:30 a.m. Thursday. The 105 players that reported for workouts can already see a difference in Tulsa's leading man.
"We are a little more focused this year," said senior defensive lineman Cory Dorris. "That's something you definitely want to see, especially from a veteran point of view."
Dorris credited Blankenship for promoting an attitude in offseason practices where the players police themselves. After going 8-5 last season, losing its starting quarterback and leading tackler, the team desperately needs leadership heading into the 2012 season.
"The greatest programs I've ever been a part of are when players lead players," Blankenship said after the team's first two hour workout of the fall. "I think we've got a great group of leaders."
Among the returning stars that will take on that role are senior safety Dexter McCoil and new quarterback Cody Green, who sat out last season after transferring from Nebraska. Green was named the starting quarterback after spring practice.
The Golden Hurricane returns six starters on offense and seven starters on defense. The defense is expected to be a strong unit in its second season under Defensive Coordinator Brent Guys 4-3 system.
"We've got a lot of veterans coming back," said Dorris. "We've got a lot of young bucks, too."
Blankenship was "very impressed" with the opening workout of the fall and praised the team's conditioning. The first day of his second season already felt different.
"I'm a lot more comfortable. I'm seeing more of what's going on," he said. "Like the quarterback does with the defense, maybe I'm more aware of what's going on all over the field and not just in my little area.
"I'm excited about this season. This is a fun deal."
His players are also eager to get to the games. Tulsa opens the season on the road against Iowa State on September 1.
"It's my last, first day," said Dorris. "We are all together and we are friends. It's great to see. I mean, it's my last year and I wouldn't want to end it any other way than playing with my friends."
The team will host its annual Media Day on Friday.