Tulsa's Carter does it all, including big plays
Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship really couldn't blame Willie Carter for being impatient.
Carter was ready for his chance to get on the field and show what he could do. He was just stuck behind a talented player with the skills that wound up landing him on an NFL roster.
So, Carter bided his time and just as soon as his number was called, he blossomed into a threat for the Golden Hurricane. In his first season in a starting role, Carter led the team with 61 catches and 868 yards receiving, helping to make up for the dismissal of top receiver Damaris Johnson just before the opener.
The big, beefy H-back has returned for his senior year and could have an even larger role this time around.
''He's a playmaker,'' Blankenship said Tuesday. ''It's just funny as you watch him, he's kind of the jack of all trades, master of none. He's not the best route-runner. He's not the best blocker. And yet he leads our team in receiving, is the best blocker in the backfield. He just does all that even though any one skill is not the thing he's mastered.''
Carter, who hails from Crockett in East Texas, follows in a line of talented players who have made the leap to the NFL from his position. Garrett Mills set an NCAA record for receiving yards by a tight end in 2005 before heading into the NFL, and Charles Clay scored the second-most touchdowns in school history before becoming a backup tight end with the Miami Dolphins.
Before Carter could get his chance, he had to wait and learn behind Clay. He emerged last season and was one of five captains chosen for 2012 - along with starting quarterback Cody Green, safety Dexter McCoil, center Trent Dupy and defensive tackle Derrick Jackson.
Although he's considered an H-back in Tulsa's current offensive scheme, Carter fills a similar do-it-all role to Mills and Clay before him.
''Some people look at my role as far as me doing everything. I look at it as I do whatever I can do to help my team win,'' Carter said. ''That's my role. That's going to always be my role. If that requires me scoring touchdowns to help my team win, I'll do that. But if I have to block also in order for us to score a touchdown, I would rather do that.''
It wasn't always that way for Carter. Before Blankenship was promoted to head coach before to last season, he had a young Carter in his position group as the wide receivers coach.
''As a player, he's just amazing to have developed into the player he (is). When he was fresh out of Crockett, he was not real big on sticking his nose in there and blocking people and doing those kind of things,'' Blankenship said. ''He learned how to do that and he has become a tremendous weapon for us.''
Green calls him ''the mismatch person from hell.''
''Nobody wants to see him. He's bigger, faster and stronger than linebackers. He's bigger, faster and stronger than safeties,'' said Green, a transfer from Nebraska. ''Nobody wants to see him.''
As has become custom at Tulsa in recent years, the season opener will come on the road against an opponent from a BCS conference. This year starts Saturday with a trip to Iowa State, one of the schools that recruited Carter out of high school.
''They're going to move him around, they're going to line him up in different locations. But you better know where he's at when they do that,'' Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said. ''He's a very dangerous player, a high quality player and he's a big component of our game plan against them.''
Carter entered the offseason with a chip on his shoulder after he pulled his hamstring two days before the Armed Forces Bowl and had to sit out a loss to BYU. He added about 15 pounds to his frame and now weighs between 240 and 245 pounds. Yet Blankenship believes he has done it while maintaining the speed that makes the high-school track athlete such a versatile threat.
The goal is to make Carter that much more difficult to defend.
''He always provides that mismatch in the game and he provides that stable player that you can put anywhere anytime - that team player that you always want on your team in order for your team to be successful,'' McCoil said.
Carter does it all without saying much. While Green is the team's vocal leader, Carter is known as the one who sets an example, although he's not afraid to pipe up when the situation calls for it.
''That's just my personality. Most people tell me that I'm a quiet person,'' Carter said. ''I'm quiet but I'm going to make sure I get my work done at the same time.''
AP Sports Writer Luke Meredith contributed to this report from Ames, Iowa.