2012 Record: 11-3 (7-1 in C-USA)
Head Coach: Bill Blankenship (19-8 at Tulsa, 14-2 in C-USA)
Last Bowl Game: 2012 Liberty Bowl: beat Iowa State 31-17
Stadium: H.A. Chapman Stadium in Tulsa, OK (capacity = 35,542)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 12th out of 55 mid-major teams
Stat to Fear: converted on 38.66% of third downs (9th in C-USA)
Stat to Cheer: had 51 sacks in 2012 (1st in C-USA), only allowed 8 sacks in 2012 (1st in C-USA), held opponents to 65.91% success rate in red zone (1st in C-USA)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 40th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 7, Defense: 3, Special Teams: 2
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Shawn Jackson (87 tackles), DB Marco Nelson (80 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Cody Green (2592 yds pass, 17 TD, 11 INT), RB Trey Watts (1108 yds rush, 5.96 ypc), RB Ja'Terian Douglas (936 yds rush, 7 TD, 6.83 ypc), WR Keyarris Garrett (67 rec, 9 TD), WR Jordan James (41 rec)
Bill Haisten: QB Shane Carden passed for 3,116 yards last season and returns for East Carolina, an 8-5 team last season. The Pirates host Tulsa on Nov. 9. Southern Miss was winless last season, but new coach Todd Monken is a brilliant offensive coach. Don’t be surprised if the Golden Eagles are significantly better in 2013. New C-USA member Louisiana Tech was 9-3 last season, but no longer has QB Colby Cameron (a 4,147-yard passer last season). The Hurricane lost eight defensive starters, including all four starting linemen and both corners.Tulsa seems to be fine with new personnel at the cornerback positions, so the biggest question mark in the program is how a rebuilt defensive line will perform. Each of last season’s tackles started in 27 consecutive games, while one end (Cory Dorris) made 51 career starts and another (Jared St. John) had 11.5 sacks as a senior.
CFBZ: Tulsa must replace a lot of senior leadership from the 2012 defense (seven of the top nine leading tacklers were seniors). Which youngsters will be asked to step up and fill some of these voids on D?
Bill Haisten: Tulsa appears to be solid at the defensive end positions. Brentom Todd has a chance to be a dynamic pass-rush guy. The most uncertainty centers on the tackle positions. Senior Jack Jewell hasn’t gotten much meaningful playing time, but he was excellent during the spring. Sophomore Derrick Luetjen was used in the rotation last season. Because of a lack of depth, it is critically important that Jewell and Luetjen stay healthy. Outside linebacker Mitchell Osborne was a backup last season, but he played very well in the Liberty Bowl and should be an impact guy this season. Tulsa coaches love the potential of cornerbacks Dwight Dobbins, Darnell Walker Jr. and Darrell Williams. At strong safety, sophomore Michael Mudoh succeeds Dexter McCoil, who graduated as the program’s career leader in interceptions with 18.
CFBZ: When Tulsa has the football, who should the defense be most concerned with?
Bill Haisten: As a starting quarterback, Tulsa senior Cody Green has a career record of 14-3 (4-0 at Nebraska and 10-3 with the Hurricane). During the second half of the 2012 season, he became an effective figure in TU’s ground game. Last season, tailbacks Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas had a combined total of more than 2,000 rushing yards. As a sophomore in 2012, 6-foot-4 Keyarris Garrett totaled 67 receptions. He may be the best big-play wide receiver in Conference USA.
CFBZ: What will make the 2013 season a success?
Bill Haisten: Tulsa football standards have been lifted to unprecedented levels. In 2012, the Hurricane reached the 11-win mark for only the second time in program history. TU recorded at least 10 victories in four of the last six seasons. Before 2003, Tulsa made only 11 bowl appearances. During the last 10 seasons, there were eight bowl appearances. Even with a rebuilt defense, a bowl appearance in 2013 seems a certainty.Tulsa should be the Conference USA favorite with a reasonable goal of recording at least 10 wins.
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews: