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2013 Pre-Season Preview: Tulsa Golden Hurricane

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

Schedule Glimpse:

2013 Schedule Link

Out of Conference Games: 8/29 at Bowling Green, 9/7 vs Colorado St, 9/14 at Oklahoma, 9/26 vs Iowa St

Toughest Conference Home Games: 10/5 vs Rice, 11/14 vs Marshall

Toughest Conference Road Games: 11/9 at ECU, 11/23 at Louisiana Tech


Statistical Snapshot:

2012 Statistics Link

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)

Inside Scoop with Bill Haisten of Tulsa World:
CFBZ: Heading into the 2013 season in the revamped Conference USA, Tulsa finds itself as the favorite. What teams do you see as the biggest obstacles that face the Golden Hurricane if they want to repeat as CUSA Champs?

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.

When Bill Blankenship took over in 2011 some weren't sure what to make of the decision because he had never been head coach before at the college level. The Hurricane have had back to back 7-1 conference records including a C-USA Championship last season and seem to be on solid ground heading into 2013.
The offense ranked among the best in C-USA last season and Cody Green returns at QB to lead the Hurricane. They also return their top two RBs, both of who finished with over 900 yards on the ground, so their ground game should continue to be among the best in the conference. The receiving corps returns four of their top five. If there is a weakness on the offense it could be the OL. Tulsa will lose three starters (two 2012 first team conference players and one second teamer). They return one player, Stetson Burnett, with over 30 career starts and then three players who have combined for 18 starts. 
Tulsa had one of the best defenses in the league last season but lose a bunch of starters heading into this year. They lose their top four players along the defensive line, their leading tackler at LB and three of the top four in their secondary. This team has talent on defense but we should see at least a slight setback from last years aggressive defense that led the conference in sacks and tackles for loss. 
Tulsa has a tough out of conference schedule playing at Bowling Green, at Oklahoma and facing Iowa State at home. The conference schedule starts off with Rice (a team Tulsa beat by four last year) but then eases up for a few games before they face the best two teams from the East (at ECU and vs Marshall). They finish at Louisiana Tech and home versus North Texas. As far as C-USA schedules go it's one of the more challenging because they do pick up the best two teams in the opposite division. 
Prediction: 9-3


Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, writer for Crystal Ball Run and founder of College Football Zealots