Bill Blankenship was used to coming off the bench as an athlete when younger, so Friday night didn't faze him at all.

Blankenship stepped in for his boss - University of Tulsa head football coach Todd Graham - as guest speaker at the Oklahoma Eight Man Football Coaches Association all-star game awards banquet.

Graham had been in Memphis for Conference USA meetings, but wasn't able to get back in time. So he asked Blankenship to fill in.

“I feel pretty good about coming on as the sixth man in basketball or coming on as the backup quarterback,” said the 22-year veteran of Oklahoma high school football and now the special teams coordinator at TU.

“I got used to that over the years,” Blankenship said. “I was originally going to just be the driver, which I would have preferred to do, but I am pleased to be here.”

The Golden Hurricane went 10-4 and won the GMAC Bowl in Graham's first season after replacing Steve Kragthorpe.

Bur Blankenship, who returned to his alma mater in January 2007, knows that the Golden Hurricane will have to step things up a notch to repeat that success.

“We've got to go to another level,” Blankenship said. “We cant be like we were last year and win 10 ballgames. It won't happen. Everybody on our schedule has been studying us all year. It's not the new offense that nobody has seen. Now, everybody has got it and is studying it.

“Defensively, we had some things we didn't do very well,” he said. “Special teams was not very good last year, either.”

So Blankenship, who won three 6A state titles at Union, was shifted from receiver coach in'07 to special teams coordinator.

“I am thrilled - I really think we can make a difference and improve that area,” he said. “It should result in some wins for us.”

Graham wants to revamp things and go back to the basics with the special teams.

“A lot of it is just fundamentals,” Blankenship said. “We're going to do some cutting edge things. Coach Graham is a real believer in kinda getting out of the box and doing things a little differently. The way we practice and organize is a little different than how other schools are doing it. We'll see how that translates.

“I think that part of the thing on special teams is finding players and motivating them to want to do this. Its something they can do something special. That falls on me. I will draw on 23 coaching high school kids.”

Finding a replacement for Paul Smith at quarterback is the No. 1 priority facing the Golden Hurricane.

“We had good success on offense last year and we've got most of those guys back,” Blankenship said. “We've gotta find a quarterback, but we feel good about the guys we're working with. Dave Johnson is a fifth year senior knows the offense inside and out. He just doesn't have the experience. We've got a couple young guys behind him. They are very talented.

“We won't ask our quarterback to go win games for us like we had Paul had to,” Blankenship said. “He had an inexperienced group around him. Now we have an experience offense, so now we need a guy who is kinda like a point guard - somebody who will distribute the ball and take care of it. If we do, we should be pretty good.”

Freshmen report Aug. 3 with returning players checking in on Aug. 3, Blankenship said.