#88 Tulsa Football 2014 Preview

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Overall Rank: #88
#8 American

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Tulsa was coming off of an 11-3 season, which included a Liberty Bowl victory over Iowa State. So the expectations were quite high for the Golden Hurricane heading into 2013, but with a mere three wins, they failed to come anywhere close to reaching those expectations. And now Tulsa is off to the slightly more difficult American Athletic Conference. There really is not a game on the schedule that is obviously winnable. It will take a major turnaround to reach a bowl game.

2013 Record: (3-9, 2-6)
2013 Bowl: None
Coach: Bill Blankenship (22-17 at Tulsa, 22-17 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Denver Johnson
Defensive Coordinator: Brent Guy

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Keevan Lucas, WR, 73 yards
Passing: Dane Evans, QB, 898 yards
Receiving: Keevan Lucas, WR, 442 yards
Tackles: Michael Mudoh, DB, 133
Sacks: Derrick Alexander, DE, 6.5
Interceptions: Darnell Walker, DB, 4

Other Key Returnees: WR Keevan Lucas, WR Thomas Roberson, TE Tyler Wilson, LB Mitchell Osborne, DT Derrick Luetjen, DB Demarco Nelson, K Carl Salazar

Key Losses: RB Trey Watts, LB Shawn Jackson, OL Stetson Burnett, QB Cody Green

The return of eight starters on defense should help Tulsa improve across the board. Suddenly there is a lot of experience despite the fact that this is still a pretty young unit. The key up front will be the development of Derrick Alexander. The junior led the squad with 6.5 sacks last year and is expected to be one of the best pass rushers in the AAC. With Jesse Brubaker, Derrick Luetjen and Chris Hummingbird joining him on the line, Tulsa should improve on their 95th nationally ranked rush defense and remain one of the better pass rushing teams in the country. But losing Shawn Jackson hurts the entire defense. The linebacker recorded 5.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles-for-loss and 124 total tackles as a senior. He even accounted for eight turnovers, recovering three fumbles and picking off five passes. Players like Mitchell Osborn and Trent Martin will not replace Jackson’s production, but they have some experience. The secondary was not all bad last season, ranking 65th in the nation. With everybody back, led by safety Michael Mudoh, with an impressive team leading 133 tackles, the unit should be much better.

Tulsa hopes some tweaking to the offense will get the Golden Hurricane offense back on track. The plan is to attempt to be more physical and that will put the pressure on running backs Zack Langer and James Flanders. Trey Watts and his 1,329 yards and 11 touchdowns was one of the few bright spots for Tulsa in 2013 and replacing him will not be that simple. At wide receiver, there is some more potential with Deevan Lucas and Thomas Roberson ready to take on a bigger load. Of course, the passing game will depend on consistency under center. Dane Evans started five games as a freshman, but has yet to take control of the starting job heading towards the fall. Considering he completed just 43.1 percent of his passes last year and threw four touchdowns against ten interceptions, the starting job was certainly not handed to him. His main competition is coming from true freshman Jabe Burgess. A solid line, which allowed a grand total of ten sacks in 2013, and the talent at receiver should help either quarterback.

The Bottom Line:
There are some major questions on both sides of the ball, but things could not go much worse than last year. Even without Jackson, the Tulsa defense now has some experience and that will go a long way. The offense will be more about the scheme and how well it all fits. Everybody wants to be tougher. There is a huge difference between saying it and effectively doing it on Saturday afternoons week in and week out.

Projected Bowl: None

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 164.8 (69th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 191.4 (99, 9)
Total Offense: 356.2 (100, 9)
Scoring Offense: 21.1 (102, 10)
Rushing Defense: 198.9 (95, 8)
Pass Defense: 230.7 (65, 11)
Total Defense: 429.6 (93, 9)
Scoring Defense: 33.9 (101, 9)
Turnover Margin: -0.8 (112, 12)
Sacks:  2.58 (27, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 0.83 (6, 1)


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