The big 2014 Tulsa football preview: Can another great D prop up another bad O?

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Tulsa's offense began to crack in 2012 and completely fell apart in 2013; it was the primary source of a collapse to 3-9, and despite what should be an outstanding defense, it could hold the Hurricane back their first year in the AAC.

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1. Whoops

It's happened every few years. Since 2003, when Steve Kragthorpe took over the Tulsa football program, the Golden Hurricane have had random sketchy seasons. An 8-5 campaign in 2003 was followed by 4-8 in 2004. Four increasingly impressive seasons (culminating with 11-3 in 2008) under Kragthorpe and Todd Graham followed by a 5-7 dud in 2009. A 29-11 record from 2010-12 followed by a 3-9 stinker in 2013.

In theory, this sort of thing happens, especially with programs in parity-heavy leagues. Tulsa recruited about as well as most of its Conference USA brethren, and when you've got the same level of talent, your record can slip or rise from year to year based on experience, injuries, luck, whatever. Occasional bad seasons happen to most.

But wow, did things fall apart for Tulsa in 2013. Even if it's just temporary, the magnitude of the tumble is worrisome. The offense fell from 59th in Off. F/+ in 2012 to 110th. The defense fell from 27th in Def. F/+ to 53rd. Even the special teams fell apart, from 75th to 113th. Tulsa couldn't pass and couldn't generate any big plays on the ground. The aggressive Hurricane defense suffered a lot more breakdowns than it had in previous years. Field position was mostly disastrous.

Injuries and personnel issues certainly played a role. Quarterback Cody Green was barely full strength, the receiver hierarchy shifted a few times, and the starting offensive line changed five times. Only two primary defensive linemen and two linebackers played in all 12 games. Plus, starting safety Demarco Nelson missed the season because of academics. Tulsa really never had its intended top 22 on the field in 2013.

Still ... F/+ rankings go back to 2005, and this was easily the worst Tulsa team in that span. The Hurricane had only once ranked worse than 56th, and they ranked 94th. How long will it take them to bounce back? Will they bounce back?

2. Outlier vs. new normal

And now Tulsa joins a better conference. Granted, it's not a 15-story leap by any means -- the AAC is basically a slightly super-charged version of the pre-2013 Conference USA -- but it's better than Conference USA. Tulsa is taking this step up a year after putting its worst team in quite a while on the field. This isn't optimal.

Is there any chance the Golden Hurricane can right the ship despite the competition upgrade? Possibly, though it does take quite a few ifs.

  • If sophomore Dane Evans takes a nice step forward...
  • If running back James Flanders provides a nice boost in explosiveness...
  • If a couple from a large batch of young receivers become semi-reliable...
  • If the defense can tighten up on passing downs...
  • If a dreadful punting game can become less of an outright liability...

...then Tulsa could at least climb back into the 70s or 60s, maybe higher. But give me five ifs, and I can make just about anybody pretty good.

For the first time in quite a while, Bill Blankenship and the Tulsa football program face the burden of proof. How will the Hurricane respond?

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 4-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 94
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
29-Aug at Bowling Green 47 7-34 L 17.8 - 20.5 L
7-Sep Colorado State 66 30-27 W 23.8 - 11.3 W
14-Sep at Oklahoma 20 20-51 L 25.6 - 40.4 L
26-Sep Iowa State 78 21-38 L 23.3 - 31.7 L
5-Oct Rice 69 27-30 L 24.4 - 26.3 L -3.0
12-Oct at UTEP 119 34-20 W 24.9 - 29.5 L -3.4
26-Oct at Tulane 70 7-14 L 22.7 - 25.7 L -6.5
2-Nov UTSA 67 15-34 L 23.0 - 29.0 L -4.8
9-Nov at East Carolina 40 24-58 L 30.6 - 30.6 W -3.1
14-Nov Marshall 52 34-45 L 25.6 - 25.4 W -2.7
23-Nov at Louisiana Tech 112 24-14 W 25.9 - 20.5 W -0.7
30-Nov North Texas 51 10-42 L 15.6 - 38.0 L -4.5
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -12.2% 110 +1.9% 53 -3.2% 113
Points Per Game 21.1 103 33.9 102
Adj. Points Per Game 23.6 101 27.4 63

3. Basically the same team all year

No matter who was or wasn't playing in a given week, Tulsa was basically the same team. There were particular duds, especially the season-ender against North Texas, but from month to month, the averages stayed basically the same.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Opponent 26.0, Tulsa 22.6 (minus-3.8)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 4 games): Opponent 27.6, Tulsa 23.8 (minus-3.8)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): Opponent 28.6, Tulsa 24.4 (minus-4.2)

Again, this isn't particularly encouraging. It's not as if things fell apart when this or that player went down. Tulsa just wasn't very good in 2013.

More encouraging: Tulsa was very, very young on defense. As has been the case under Blankenship, the defense wasn't too bad in 2013, and it should become a strength again this fall. But ... the Hurricane still have to play offense, too.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.00 119 IsoPPP+ 85.3 124
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 37.2% 111 Succ. Rt. + 93.9 84
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 34.1 121 Def. FP+ 93.4 121
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.3 115 Redzone S&P+ 89.0 100
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 29.8 ACTUAL 34 +4.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 101 99 85 91
RUSHING 70 81 64 63
PASSING 101 105 105 97
Standard Downs 96 78 121
Passing Downs 103 95 106
Q1 Rk 71 1st Down Rk 92
Q2 Rk 102 2nd Down Rk 97
Q3 Rk 101 3rd Down Rk 106
Q4 Rk 97

4. Wanted: big plays

Cody Green was injured and just plain ineffective throughout the season. In the end, he basically split the year's snaps with then-freshman Dane Evans. Tulsa's offense is very much an efficiency-first approach -- and there's certainly very good reason to focus on efficiency -- and among other things, the Hurricane's quick-passing approach keeps sacks and negative plays down. In 438 pass attempts, Tulsa quarterbacks were only sacked 10 times. But efficiency offenses obviously work best when the skill position talent is able to randomly break a big gainer, and Tulsa managed only 12 30-yard gains all year; only Miami (Ohio) had fewer.

Without big plays, Tulsa was forced to dink and dunk for eight to 10 error-free plays at a time ... and there were far too many errors. Evans was interception-prone (a five percent interception rate is far too high, especially considering the length of the passes), and only running back Trey Watts (38 percent Opportunity Rate, 65 percent catch rate) was anything close to reliable.

Watts is gone, and the starting quarterback job appears to be Evans' to lose. Tulsa needs to do him more favors, either from an efficiency standpoint or via more frequent big plays, and it's not immediately obvious how that's going to happen.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Cody Green 117 211 1339 7 8 55.5% 5 2.3% 6.1
Dane Evans 6'2, 200 So. 3 stars (5.5) 84 195 898 4 10 43.1% 4 2.0% 4.2
Joseph Calcagni 6'1, 202 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 9 22 60 1 1 40.9% 1 4.3% 2.2
Ryan Rubley 6'3, 205 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Jabe Burgess 6'2, 210 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Trey Watts RB 268 1329 11 5.0 4.7 38.4%
Ja'Terian Douglas RB 113 379 2 3.4 3.2 28.3%
Cody Green QB 31 93 1 3.0 3.6 29.0%
Dane Evans QB 6'2, 200 So. 3 stars (5.5) 20 105 1 5.3 4.6 40.0%
Zack Langer RB 5'11, 204 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 18 58 0 3.2 3.6 22.2%
Keevan Lucas WR 5'10, 195 So. 2 stars (5.4) 12 73 0 6.1 5.2 50.0%
Colby Scott FB 6'2, 242 Jr. NR
James Flanders RB 5'10, 190 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Tavarreon Dickerson RB 5'9, 185 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Ramadi Warren RB 5'9, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jordan James WR 83 39 471 47.0% 21.0% 48.4% 5.7 -90 4.7 44.1
Trey Watts RB 71 46 416 64.8% 18.0% 47.4% 5.9 -139 6.6 39.0
Keevan Lucas FL 5'10, 195 So. 2 stars (5.4) 56 32 442 57.1% 14.2% 44.4% 7.9 30 8.0 41.4
Thomas Roberson SE 53 27 363 50.9% 13.4% 43.8% 6.8 -7 6.5 34.0
Derek Patterson SE 6'0, 184 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 24 12 144 50.0% 6.1% 55.6% 6.0 -22 4.9 13.5
Keyarris Garrett WR 6'4, 207 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 20 7 68 35.0% 5.1% 38.9% 3.4 -53 3.3 6.4
Conner Floyd FL 6'0, 202 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 19 9 91 47.4% 4.8% 33.3% 4.8 -38 3.1 8.5
Joshua Atkinson SE 6'2, 195 So. 3 stars (5.5) 19 9 76 47.4% 4.8% 36.4% 4.0 -53 4.6 7.1
Ja'Terian Douglas RB 18 11 96 61.1% 4.6% 30.8% 5.3 -41 6.1 9.0
Tyler Wilson TE 6'6, 248 So. 3 stars (5.5) 17 9 79 52.9% 4.3% 100.0% 4.6 -42 2.6 7.4
Cody Wilson FB 6 3 8 50.0% 1.5% 100.0% 1.3 -34 0.6 0.7
Zach Epps WR 6'4, 210 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 2 1 6 50.0% 0.5% N/A 3.0 -8 0.0 0.6
Kolton Shindelar TE 6'6, 252 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Garrett McGrady TE 6'7, 235 So. NR
Nigel Carter WR 6'3, 198 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Justin Hobbs WR 6'4, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Bishop Louie WR 5'10, 170 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Brodrick Umblance WR 6'1, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Payton Prince TE 6'4, 237 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

5. New blood, like it or not

The collapse of the Tulsa offense actually began in 2012; Green wasn't an efficient enough passer for an efficiency attack, and the Golden Hurricane's rushing options were either all-efficiency Alex Singleton or all-or-nothing Watts or Ja'Terian Douglas.

Considering Tulsa had to replace three good offensive linemen and Singleton, it was certainly conceivable that the Hurricane would regress on offense again. And they did. But the way it happened was strange. If anything, the line improved. But Green was less effective and less healthy, and Evans was far too mistake prone. Watts and Douglas both did far less with the open-field opportunities they got, and after a disappointing few games, potential leading receiver Keyarris Garrett was lost with injury.

After disappointing final seasons, Watts and Douglas are both gone. So are two of last three's top wideouts. (Well, "top." They were targeted the most, but they certainly didn't do much with the targets.) For better or worse, Tulsa is going to have to lean on a new cast of skill position characters, even if Garrett is back to his 2012 form -- he caught 67 of 121 passes for 845 yards that year (not great, not terrible).

New blood probably isn't a bad thing, and there are certainly quite a few former three-star recruits in the mix for playing time. James Flanders finished the spring as the No. 1 running back. Keevan Lucas was actually the best wideout on the team (on a per-target basis) as a freshman. And Garrett aside, there are three former three-star recruits jockeying for position in the receiving corps. There are options, and almost none of them have proven anything.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 99.2 2.81 2.93 34.6% 74.4% 20.3% 330.6 0.6% 2.8%
Rank 78 80 97 109 28 76 1 1 8
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Stetson Burnett RT 42 1st All-CUSA
Jake Alexander LG 23
Gabe Moyer RG 16
Garrett Stafford LT 6'5, 301 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13
Dylan Foxworth C 6'1, 281 So. 3 stars (5.5) 8
Davis Walton RT 6'5, 285 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 8
Garrett Gladd RG 6'4, 302 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Chris Wallace LG 6'5, 310 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Billy Lafortune RG 6'0, 283 Jr. NR 0
James Floyd LG 6'3, 301 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Blake Belcher LT 6'5, 300 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Rob Boyd RG 6'3, 319 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Zac Uhles C 6'3, 265 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Blake Mejia OG 6'2, 290 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Evan Plagg RT 6'4, 267 RSFr. NR
Tyler Bowling OL 6'6, 295 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

6. Three big losses up front

For the second straight year, offensive line coach (and offensive coordinator) Denver Johnson has to do some rebuilding up front. He had to replace three all-conference starters in 2013, and he's got three more spots to fill atop the depth chart this time around.

Again, this worked out pretty well last season; Stetson Burnett came up big at right tackle, and the line succeeded in both pass blocking (not hard, given the quick passing) and short-yardage rushing situations.

Three players with starting experience do return (29 career starts), but we'll see if Johnson can craft another solid line with another level of depth skimmed off.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.13 57 IsoPPP+ 95.2 92
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 42.1% 57 Succ. Rt. + 101.3 50
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 28.7 97 Off. FP+ 101.5 44
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.5 90 Redzone S&P+ 101.5 52
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 24.6 ACTUAL 24.0 -0.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 95 61 50 75
RUSHING 97 67 55 79
PASSING 65 58 50 72
Standard Downs 60 53 71
Passing Downs 72 54 102
Q1 Rk 86 1st Down Rk 42
Q2 Rk 46 2nd Down Rk 67
Q3 Rk 72 3rd Down Rk 79
Q4 Rk 38

7. Break-don't-bend

For a few years now, Tulsa has had one of the more entertaining, aggressive defenses in the mid-major universe. The Hurricane are unafraid of allowing some big plays in the name of forcing turnovers and three-and-outs, and they're pretty good at it. Even in 2013, when the overall product regressed, the style was similar.

So why did the product regress? A couple of reasons. First, the defensive line had no choice but to regress. Tulsa ranked 37th in Adj. Line Yards and third in Adj. Sack Rate but lost all four starters and the most successfully aggressive linebacker (DeAundre Brown). There was no way to avoid regression, and sure enough, Tulsa fell to 76th in Adj. Line Yards and 32nd in Adj. Sack Rate. That's still pretty decent, but not great.

Accordingly, the rest of the defense regressed by a similar amount. With freshman cornerbacks and a less effective pass rush, the pass defense regressed from 28th in Passing S&P+ to 58th, which, again, is pretty decent (especially with the youth in the secondary) but not as good.

Whereas there was quite a bit of turnover in 2013, there's almost none this time around. That should mean the return of the Very Good Tulsa Defense.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 96.2 3.06 3.47 38.8% 71.2% 21.3% 116.6 7.4% 6.7%
Rank 76 79 80 59 89 36 32 11 65
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Derrick Luetjen DT 6'3, 285 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 12 34.5 4.8% 3.5 1.5 0 3 2 0
Derrick Alexander DE 6'2, 270 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 12 23.0 3.2% 9.5 6.5 0 3 2 0
Brentom Todd DE 6'3, 245 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 21.0 2.9% 2.0 1.5 0 1 0 0
Chris Hummingbird DE 6'2, 265 Sr. NR 11 20.0 2.8% 8.5 3.0 0 3 1 0
Jesse Brubaker DT 6'3, 285 So. 2 stars (5.4) 11 15.0 2.1% 3.0 1.0 0 3 0 0
Jerry Uwaezuoke DT 6'3, 295 So. NR 11 8.0 1.1% 3.0 1.5 0 0 0 0
Dalton Rodriguez DE 9 5.5 0.8% 3.0 2.0 0 2 0 0
Hayden Carman DT 6'4, 288 So. NR 12 4.0 0.6% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Cory Rahmings DE 6'2, 245 So. 3 stars (5.5) 6 3.5 0.5% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Frankie Davis DE 6'2, 240 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Lionell Phillips DT 6'2, 285 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Jake Hanks DE 6'2, 235 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Willie Wright DT 6'3, 280 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)






8. Get bigger

One of Tulsa's bigger issues in 2013 was that the front four just wasn't very big. With quite a few freshmen, redshirt freshmen, and sophomores in the rotation, there were quite a few players that just hadn't been in the weight training regimen quite long enough. Tulsa was quick enough to rank 36th in Stuff Rate (run stops behind the line), but the line got pushed around terribly in short-yardage situations.

That might not be as much of a problem this time around. Upperclassmen like Derrick Luetjen and Brentom Todd are listed five pounds heavier than last year, but the tackles have taken off: Jesse Brubaker has gone from 275 to 285, Jerry Uwaezuoke has gone from 278 to 295, and Hayden Carman has gone from 274 to 288. We'll see how this impacts quickness and negative plays, but in theory, getting pushed around won't be as big an issue.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Shawn Jackson MIKE 12 99.0 13.8% 17.5 4.5 5 3 0 0
Mitchell Osborne CANE 6'2, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 61.5 8.6% 5.5 2.0 0 7 1 0
Donnell Hawkins MIKE 6'1, 220 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 7 38.5 5.4% 4.5 2.5 1 0 0 0
DeWitt Jennings WILL 10 25.0 3.5% 4.5 2.0 0 2 1 0
Trent Martin MIKE 6'2, 235 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 5 20.5 2.9% 4.5 1.5 0 1 0 0
Jake Sizelove MIKE 6'0, 217 Sr. NR 9 10.5 1.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Luke Snider CANE 5'10, 185 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 9.0 1.3% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Shawn Norman LB 5'11, 194 So. NR 12 2.5 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Zik Asiegbu WILL 6'0, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 9 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Conner Sherwood WILL 6'2, 218 So. 3 stars (5.5)
C.J. Gooden WILL 6'1, 220 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Craig Suits CANE 6'0, 220 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Devin Rolan LB 6'0, 250 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Petera Wilson LB 6'2, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Tim Quickel LB 6'2, 215 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Michael Mudoh BAN 5'10, 198 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 96.5 13.5% 1 0 1 5 0 0
Demarco Nelson
(2012)
FS 6'0, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 14 66.0 8.5% 4 0 2 3 1 1
Darnell Walker, Jr. CB 5'10, 180 So. 3 stars (5.6) 11 45.5 6.3% 1 0 4 8 0 0
Will Barrow CB 5'9, 170 So. 3 stars (5.6) 12 42.5 5.9% 0 0 2 5 2 2
Dwight Dobbins CB 5'9, 180 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 9 32.5 4.5% 0 0 1 5 0 0
Austin McDaniel CB 5'11, 192 Sr. NR 12 29.5 4.1% 1 0 1 7 0 1
Bradley White FS 5'11, 180 Jr. NR 12 21.0 2.9% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Johnell Celistan CB 6'2, 185 So. 3 stars (5.5) 11 11.5 1.6% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Matt Linscott S 6'1, 212 So. NR 11 5.0 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Darrell Williams CB 5'10, 193 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Joe Bean BAN 5'11, 195 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Kerwin Thomas CB 5'10, 160 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Jordan Dennis DB 6'2, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Jordan Mitchell DB 6'2, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)






9. Almost everybody

With Demarco Nelson returning to the fold, Tulsa basically has five returning starters in its four-man secondary. And in all, there are 34 returnees listed above and only three departures. That's ridiculous. Tulsa has four cornerbacks who combined for eight interceptions and 25 break-ups last year, and after featuring four freshmen in its top eight last year, Nelson's return means there are now three seniors on the tw-deep alongside the youngsters.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Dalton Parks 6'3, 202 So. 66 39.5 0 14 20 51.5%
Cole Way 6'8, 227 Sr. 6 37.5 0 3 0 50.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Cole Way 6'8, 227 Sr. 55 63.8 33 0 60.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Carl Salazar 5'8, 172 Sr. 25-26 16-19 84.2% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Ja'Terian Douglas KR 13 28.4 0
Trey Watts KR 9 20.7 0
Trey Watts PR 21 7.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 113
Field Goal Efficiency 56
Punt Return Efficiency 118
Kick Return Efficiency 43
Punt Efficiency 124
Kickoff Efficiency 82
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 72

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
28-Aug Tulane 90
6-Sep Oklahoma 9
13-Sep at Florida Atlantic 103
27-Sep Texas State 114
4-Oct at Colorado State 85
11-Oct at Temple 87
18-Oct South Florida 77
31-Oct at Memphis 95
8-Nov SMU 74
14-Nov at Central Florida 24
22-Nov at Houston 41
28-Nov East Carolina 72
Five-Year F/+ Rk -0.2% (55)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 76
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -10 / -5.2
TO Luck/Game -2.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (4, 10)

10. Stock up early

Bill Blankenship's ability to turn his program back around and once again threaten for bowl eligibility despite the conference upgrade will depend on how well the Golden Hurricane stock up on wins early in the year. Three of their four lowest-projected opponents come in the first four games, and a 3-1 start could set the table for a decent year.

Because of the defense alone, I do see pretty decent improvement in store for this Tulsa team. With reasonable injuries luck, this bigger, more experienced defense could quite easily end up back in the top 40 in Def. F/+. But Tulsa's fate rides on its offense; it struggled two years ago and completely fell apart in 2013, and it must rebound despite the loss of three offensive linemen, two running backs, and two of last year's top three receivers. There will be a lot of pressure on quarterback Dane Evans to not only play well but make plays, and he'll have to find those plays among a rather young supporting cast.

That's not a very good recipe for improvement, and it will probably hold the Golden Hurricane back in 2014.

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