Wimberly to play both ways for Tulsa

Thursday, August 29th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Darrell Wimberly started every game last year at receiver for Tulsa, but this season he'll get most of his plays on defense.

Wimberly, the team's fourth-leading receiver last year, won the cornerback job this summer, showing third-year coach Keith Burns a tenacity that his porous defense has lacked.

But Wimberly will still use his nifty moves on offense, probably getting a dozen or so plays at receiver Friday night when Tulsa meets No. 1 Oklahoma at Skelly Stadium.

``Darrell has a toughness, an attitude, a swagger that we really need on defense, a confidence factor that when he lines up over there, he believes he's going to cover the guy,'' Burns said.

``Or if a ball is thrown and caught in his area, he's big enough physically and has a nastiness about him that he not only wants to tackle the guy, he wants to drive him to the turf.''

Wimberly, a 6-foot 196-pound junior who caught 23 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns last year, played receiver and cornerback in high school. He had focused on offense at Tulsa until this spring, when he got a few snaps at corner.

He didn't move to the position full time until this summer's camp, when he told Burns his goal was to make first-string cornerback.

``He's looking forward to the challenge that he'll have Friday night, Burns said. ``It's going to be a new one for him. I don't think that he'll step right up and light it off, but I don't think he'll back down either.''

Burns says Wimberly has added to an improved and deeper Golden Hurricane secondary, which was last in the Western Athletic Conference in pass efficiency defense last year while being prone to surrendering the deep ball.

``We have a lot more guys that are closer to the top now,'' Burns said. ``We used to have just two or three guys then there'd be a huge dropoff, either because of mobility or lack of experience.''

What made Wimberly's switch possible was an influx of talent at wideout, despite the loss of last year's leading receiver Donald Shoals.

Romby Bryant, a junior college transfer, and Jerome Janet, who transferred from Kansas State, add athleticism to a receiving corps already manned by Montiese Culton, Brandon Birks and Jermaine Landrum.

``We're deeper than we've ever been at wide receiver,'' Burns said. ``Now for the first time, we have the opportunity to have ... some guys that can strike you and make plays for you and do it as a group.''

Wimberly will join that receiving corps for about eight to 15 plays at receiver Friday night, depending on how often his personnel group is used, Burns said.

``If that package works, that 15 goes up,'' the coach said. ``He'll get all he wants at corner. We'll see how he does.''