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Tulsa football notebook

TU football notebook: Unsung Lachlan Wilson proving to be a weapon as a punter

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University of Tulsa punter Lachlan Wilson ranked third in the AAC and 21st in the nation last season in punting average, at 45.7 yards per punt.

Davis Brin, and an impressive group of receivers, has TU's passing attack humming. Plus, breaking down this week's opponent, Ole Miss, and where does Keylon Stokes' nickname, that dates back to high school, come from?

Wilson a weapon as punter

A number of players contributed to the University of Tulsa’s 54-17 victory over Jacksonville State last week, but the performance of punter Lachlan Wilson should not be overlooked.

The junior from Melbourne, Australia, who had never played American football until he stepped onto TU’s campus in 2019, enjoyed an outstanding day, averaging 44.5 yards on four punts, earning the Ray Guy National Punter of the Week award.

But it wasn’t just that he kicked the ball far, it was that he was able to pinpoint where it fell, as the Golden Hurricane downed his first three punts on the 3-, the 4- and the 1-yard-lines. Several plays after the first punt, which traveled 50 yards and made Jacksonville State start at its own 3-yard-line, Tulsa’s defense forced the Gamecocks to punt from their own end zone, and when the subsequent snap sailed over the punter’s head, it gave Tulsa a two-point safety — and the next offensive possession, which ended in a field goal.

And Wilson’s final punt, which was fielded at the Jacksonville State 16-yard-line, ended up fumbled and recovered by Tulsa deep snapper Caleb Matthews on the Gamecocks’ 2-yard-line late in the fourth quarter.

His teammates and coaches appreciate Wilson’s contributions.

“To have four punts, three inside the 5-yard-line and one that was our ball by the end of it, that’s huge for the defense,” said Golden Hurricane senior safety Bryson Powers, who leads the squad with 27 tackles through three games. “We talk about it in the defensive meeting rooms, the percentages of a team scoring whenever the ball’s inside the 5-yard-line are drastically different compared to whenever they’re at the 20. To get them in almost one-dimensional space down there, pinned up to where they have to get out of that hole, that just breeds new confidence in the defense whenever the ball is sitting at the 3- or 4-yard-line.”

On the season, Wilson is averaging 48.5 yards on eight punts (tied for sixth in the nation), six of which have ended up inside the 20-yard-line and four of which went over 50 yards.

He did have a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown in the season opener against Wyoming, but that was more of a coverage issue than anything Wilson did. Strong blocking on punts is something that coach Philip Montgomery has emphasized in practice this week, with Tulsa (2-1) getting ready to face No. 16 Ole Miss (3-0), which has blocked punts in each of its last two games, returning one for a touchdown.

“He is a weapon, he’s a guy that can flip the field, he’s a guy that can really do some significant things with the football and be accurate about where he wants to place it,” Montgomery said. “We got to do a good job of protection; I think they’ve blocked a punt every week so far this year, so we know we’ve got to be keen on that part of it. But to have a guy like Lachlan, that has some experience underneath his belt, to be as talented as he is, obviously, is a weapon for us.”

How Stokes became ‘Sleep’

Several players, along with Montgomery, have off-handedly referred to wide receiver Keylon Stokes in interviews as “Sleep” on multiple occasions this season.

While the tale has been told before, Stokes recounted the origin story of the nickname during Tuesday’s press conference.

“I was going into my sophomore year in high school and I was trying out for the 7-on-7 team and not too many guys knew of me,” Stokes said of his time at Manvel High School in Texas. “I knew my friends in my class, but the older guys, not too many knew of me. I went out there in tryouts and I was doing 1-on-1s against seniors, and I was just doing them in, I was catching the ball, making them look silly out there, and then my 7-on-7 coach, Coach Mike, was just like, ‘We sleeping on you,’ and it just stuck. ‘You know what, your new name is Sleepy, we’re just going to call you that.’ And then ever since then, he’s been calling me ‘Sleep’ and then it just stuck all the way from high school until now.”

Stokes has added a new wrinkle to the nickname this year. Several times after big catches, he has clasped his hands together like a pillow and mimicked sleeping.

Stokes, who is tied for second in the nation with 28 receptions this season and ranks third with 457 receiving yards, along with three touchdowns, had resisted suggestions to do it but finally decided to go for it.

“That actually started this year,” Stokes said. “A lot of people have been telling me to do that celebration, but, I’m a cocky guy but inside, I’m not going to just show it like that. But I was just like, ‘You know what? Let’s just do it, might as well.’”

No updat

e on injuries

During the Jacksonville State game, on the same series late in the third quarter, two Hurricane players were helped off the field due to injuries.

First it was starting center Will Farniok, who seemed to hurt his right knee, barely putting any weight on it as he was helped off the field. He was replaced by former Union player Gabe Cantu.

Moments later, running back Tahj Gary was injured as he was finishing up a 12-yard rush. He was holding his left leg and ended up being carted off the field.

On Tuesday, Montgomery had no updates to offer on the status of either player.

“Not at this particular time,” he said. “We’ll see how they go this week in practice.”

The possibility that either might actually practice can be taken as a positive sign, because it looked like both could potentially be more serious, long-term ailments.

There was also no update on the status of running backs Anthony Watkins or Deneric Prince, neither of whom have played this season.

— John Tranchina, Tulsa World

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