TU assistant Adam Blankenship proves he's no 'daddy's boy' hire
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Friday, December 28, 2012
12/28/12 at 4:43 AM
Related stories: John Klein: Blankenship’s focus steadies TU football.
TU football notebook: Meaningful afternoon.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - When a college football coach gives to his 25-year-old son a significant staff position, it would be natural to suspect nepotism.
And if it turns out that the 25-year-old really isn't qualified for such a responsibility, then nepotism allegations are justified. The younger coach might be branded as having been a "daddy's boy" hire.
"If you can't coach," Adam Blankenship says, "you get found out real quick."
Through two seasons of such a father-and-son arrangement at the University of Tulsa, Bill and Adam Blankenship can let results speak for themselves.
"I knew what I was getting," Bill Blankenship said. "I think it's good that other people recognize it. Having coached my own sons, I understand the cynical approach that people have toward coaches' kids.
"To me, you cannot ever work hard enough as a coach's kid. You'll always have to go above and beyond, and think it's the same if you're hired to work for your father."
When hired by his dad in January 2011, Adam - then 25 - had not coached at a level higher than Union High School. This season, as TU's defensive ends coach, Adam routinely is identified by players and other staff members as a significant reason for Tulsa's program-record total of 48 sacks.
"All I knew about (Adam Blankenship) before he came here was that he was coach Bill Blankenship's son," Golden Hurricane senior end Cory Dorris said. "And I respect and trust coach Blankenship. I thought that if he hired (Adam), there had to be a good reason."
Before the 2012 season, end Jared St. John had a career total of 1.5 sacks. This season, he has 11.5 - a half-sack shy of the single-season program record. With a sack in Monday's Liberty Bowl clash with Iowa State, St. John would become TU's single-season leader in sacks.
Why such a spike in performance by St. John? He credits Adam Blankenship's teaching of pass-rush technique.
"Even before we got on the field (for spring football in 2011), it was very apparent that Adam knows football and knows the fundamentals of teaching defensive-line play," defensive coordinator Brent Guy said. "Adam brings a tremendous energy to the practice field every day. He and (tackles coach) Calvin Thibodeaux have been great for us. There's a huge difference in our front-four play, if you look at film from last year and see how we've played this year."
After working on the Union staff in 2009 and 2010 - and helping the Redskins capture a pair of state championships - Adam joined Bill Blankenship's TU staff.
Typically, a coach of Adam's age can't realistically strive for a major-college job above that of a graduate assistant.
"Usually, that's the route you have to take," Adam said. "The TU opportunity was unique. Regardless of who my boss was going to be, it was an opportunity I wasn't going to turn down."
As the head coach at Union, Bill Blankenship coached all three of his sons - Josh, Caleb and Adam. Josh now is the head man at Muskogee High School. After starting his college playing career at Nebraska, Adam transferred to Illinois State and became a three-year starter at defensive end. His head coach at Illinois State was Denver Johnson, now TU's offensive line coach.
"In high school, we had a bunch of coaches' kids on our team - and a lot of them were starters," Adam said. "There's a lot of scrutiny. You want to prove that you're deserving of being out there."
"I want to do my job well - not so much to make a statement to any complainers, but to prove it to myself."
Adam says he has two distinctly different relationships with Bill Blankenship.
"When we're at work, he's the head coach. He's the boss. He's coach Blankenship," Adam said. "When we're at dinner, he's Dad."
The TU staff: Veterans blended with youth
Five of the 10 members of the University of Tulsa's football coaching staff are in their 50s. Two - Dan Bitson and Darnell Walker Jr. - are in their 40s. The veteran coaches are complemented by younger defensive assistants like Jess Loepp, Calvin Thibodeaux and Adam Blankenship.
"I'm the experienced guy in the room, but everyone has a voice and has an opinion," said TU defensive coordinator Brent Guy, 52. "Our camaraderie is as good as any I've ever experienced. These guys don't stay in their offices. They hang out together and really like each other. Kids notice when there is a good camaraderie among the coaches, and that trickles down to teamwork."
The ages of TU's football coaches:
Head coach Bill Blankenship: 56
Special-teams coordinator Scott Downing: 56
Offensive line coach Denver Johnson: 54
Offensive coordinator Greg Peterson: 52
Defensive coordinator Brent Guy: 52
Running backs coach Dan Bitson: 44
Cornerbacks coach Darnell Walker Sr.: 42
Safeties coach Jess Loepp: 35
Defensive tackles coach Calvin Thibodeaux: 29
Defensive end Adam Blankenship: 27
Tulsa (10-3) vs. Iowa State (6-6)
2:30 p.m. Monday
Radio: KRMG am740, fm102.3
Original Print Headline: He's no 'daddy's boy' hire
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
St. Jude patient Jackson Mock, 7, poses for photos with TU football players during a tour at the St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., on Thursday. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World