clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The big 2015 Tulsa football guide: Trying to be like Baylor makes sense

New, comments

The 128-team countdown previews a team that's about to be in a whole lot of shootouts.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. The end comes quickly

In theory, Bill Blankenship was a lovely fit at Tulsa. He was a former TU quarterback and one of the most successful high school coaches in Oklahoma history. He spent four years as a Golden Hurricane assistant under Todd Graham before Graham left town for various locations.

His relationship with the university was strained by a former coach's treatment of his quarterback son Josh, but his hire was greeted by a series of "he's home again, and everything is as it should be" stories from the local press.

It started well, too. Tulsa went 19-8 in his first two years, winning the 2012 Conference USA title. The Golden Hurricane reeled in lovely F/+ rankings (29th in 2011, 43rd in 2012). But the offense fell apart in 2013, and the defense followed suit in 2014. After a solid win over Colorado State in 2013, TU would win only four more games in two years, all against teams that finished 4-8 or worse.

TU won 19 games in his first two years, then lost 19 in his next two, and Blankenship was fired.

Football is a zero-sum game, and while a majority of coaching hires make sense on paper, they aren't all going to work out. Blankenship recruited well, and goodness knows there's plenty of talent in Oklahoma that doesn't get scooped up by Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. But if you aren't improving, then you are losing ground.

In theory, Philip Montgomery looks like a lovely fit at Tulsa. Montgomery spent 12 seasons as an Art Briles assistant, first as Houston quarterbacks coach, then as Baylor offensive co-coordinator, then as sole coordinator. He's familiar with the area he will be recruiting -- as a former Oklahoman, I'm legally allowed to say Oklahoma and Texas are basically the same state -- and he's put in the hours as a successful assistant. Now he gets to find out if he can succeed in the big office.

Like Chad Morris at SMU, Montgomery has brought literal energy in the style of offense he wants to run. A style that is pleasing to the eye will probably buy him some leeway with the fan base.

2. AAC, redefined

The AAC is a leftovers conference that combines snippets of Conference USA and the former Big East. Geographically, it might not make sense, and not many of these schools have historical ties. But a conference like this can bring a fun mix of styles, especially with Navy joining.

An important part of that formula could be the three Oklahoma/Texas teams -- SMU, Houston, Tulsa -- playing the type of high-octane football we've come to expect from that region. Last year, that was an issue: Tulsa ranked 95th in Off. S&P+, Houston ranked 98th, and SMU ranked 123rd. Tulsa scored 24 or fewer points six times but graded out the best of the three.

In a single offseason, all three took steps toward rectifying this. Tulsa hired a Briles disciple, SMU hired long-regarded Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, and Houston brought in Urban Meyer's quarterback whisperer, Tom Herman.

We don't know that all three will turn out to be successful head coaches -- in this zero-sum universe, odds are good that at least one fails quickly -- but from a style standpoint, quality is secondary to identity. SMU, Tulsa, and Houston now have strong identities.

You've got offense-friendly teams in offense-friendly locales, you've got schools with recent histories of stout defense (UCF, Memphis, UConn, Tulane, Temple, and if you stretch "recent history" out a few years, USF), you've got Tommy Tuberville at Cincinnati, you've got the Navy flexbone, you've got East Carolina's spread-'em-out attack ... you've got a fun league!

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 2-10 | Adj. Record: 0-12 | Final F/+ Rk: 117
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
28-Aug Tulane 93 38-31 W 45% -3.0 60%
6-Sep Oklahoma 19 7-52 L 4% -40.1 0%
13-Sep at Florida Atlantic 100 21-50 L 2% -46.8 0%
27-Sep Texas State 95 34-37 L 40% -6.1 19%
4-Oct at Colorado State 49 17-42 L 5% -38.8 0%
11-Oct at Temple 67 24-35 L 33% -10.3 9%
18-Oct South Florida 123 30-38 L 13% -26.8 5%
31-Oct at Memphis 41 20-40 L 22% -18.1 0%
8-Nov SMU 127 38-28 W 35% -8.8 83%
14-Nov at Central Florida 60 7-31 L 17% -22.1 0%
22-Nov at Houston 73 28-38 L 39% -6.3 16%
28-Nov East Carolina 61 32-49 L 22% -18.2 1%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 24.0 95 39.5 122
Points Per Game 24.7 94 39.3 122

3. Never off the ground

For a lot of bad teams, there are moments in which everything comes together. UConn played at a 78th-percentile level in upsetting UCF. SMU hit the 55th percentile in upsetting UConn, and USF hit the 54th percentile in upsetting Tulsa. Hell, even teams like Georgia State (77th percentile in a competitive loss to Clemson) and EMU (81st percentile in a strange, easy win over Buffalo).

Tulsa ranked higher overall because the Golden Hurricane didn't spend as much time in the single-digit percentiles, but the peaks weren't peaks. They hit 45 percent against Tulane (seven-point win), 40 percent against Texas State (three-point loss), and 39 percent against Houston (10-point loss), and that was the highest they reached. And their percentile chart above just looks like a stabilizing heart beat -- single digits and 40s early, then a lot of teens, 20s, and 30s. No positive or negative trends, just a lot of below average football.

Typically a bad team will either start poorly and improve or bottom out. Tulsa just reached stasis. (This might have been a Blankenship staple -- one of the headers in last year's Tulsa preview was "Basically the same team all year.")

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.80 96 IsoPPP+ 98.3 73
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.0% 95 Succ. Rt. + 93.3 95
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 31.1 89 Def. FP+ 99.0 77
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.6 112 Redzone S&P+ 92.0 90
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.1 ACTUAL 23 +0.9
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 59 81 97 73
RUSHING 90 100 86 111
PASSING 37 56 95 42
Standard Downs 80 89 75
Passing Downs 79 95 69
Q1 Rk 116 1st Down Rk 67
Q2 Rk 47 2nd Down Rk 79
Q3 Rk 73 3rd Down Rk 49
Q4 Rk 73

4. Briles lite

Let's compare and contrast Tulsa's personality stats above with those of Baylor in 2014:

  • Standard Downs %Run: Tulsa 61.5%, Baylor 54.2%
  • Passing Downs %Run: Baylor 34.5%, Tulsa 24.7%
  • Adj. Pace: Baylor 99.5%, Tulsa 57.6%
  • %Solo Tackles (a measure of how you're spreading defenses out): Baylor 83.1%, Tulsa 70.0%

Baylor played in the ultimate QB-friendly system, throwing the ball on run-friendly standard downs, running the ball on passing downs, throwing while ahead, running while (rarely) behind, playing at a crazy tempo (which, if you're getting first downs, keeps the defense nice and winded) and spreading defenses out as much as almost anybody in the country.

Everything about Baylor's system was designed to create opportunities and optimize the situation on the scoreboard.

But part of having a QB-friendly system is having skill-position weapons. You want guys who can either plunge forward for four to five yards at a time to avoid passing downs or rip off the big plays that prevent you from having to avoid mistakes on 10- to 12-play scoring drives. Tulsa had the former and almost none of the latter.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Dane Evans 6'1, 215 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8404 256 462 3102 23 17 55.4% 24 4.9% 6.1
Joseph Calcagni 6'1, 207 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7788 7 17 74 0 1 41.2% 1 5.6% 4.0
Ryan Rubley 6'3, 205 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8048
Jabe Burgess 6'2, 210 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8343
Chad President 6'3, 206 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8881
Will Hefley 6'5, 205 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7920

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Zack Langer RB 6'0, 215 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7773 196 801 4 4.1 3.1 32.7% 0 0
James Flanders RB 5'10, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8125 102 456 1 4.5 2.3 40.2% 2 2
Dane Evans QB 6'1, 215 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8404 53 208 3 3.9 2.4 43.4% 1 1
D'Angelo Brewer RB 5'9, 185 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7852 39 128 1 3.3 1.7 35.9% 2 1
Tavarreon Dickerson RB 5'9, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7833 34 132 0 3.9 3.9 32.4% 1 0
Bishop Louie WR 5'10, 170 So. 2 stars (5.4) NR 7 100 1 14.3 9.3 85.7% 0 0
Keevan Lucas WR 5'10, 198 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8004 7 66 0 9.4 6.9 71.4% 1 0
Mandel Dixon HB 6'2, 238 Sr. NR NR 7 17 1 2.4 3.2 14.3% 0 0
Joseph Calcagni QB 6'1, 207 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7788 5 18 0 3.6 2.1 40.0% 0 0
Ramadi Warren RB 5'9, 175 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8151
Javon Thomas RB 6'2, 215 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7959






Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Keevan Lucas FL 5'10, 198 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8004 154 101 1219 65.6% 33.7% 58.4% 7.9 3 7.9 133.5
Keyarris Garrett WR 6'4, 221 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8472 93 47 698 50.5% 20.4% 54.8% 7.5 101 7.4 76.4
Joshua Atkinson SE 6'2, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8113 61 35 416 57.4% 13.3% 49.2% 6.8 -17 6.5 45.5
Conner Floyd FL 6'0, 202 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7959 32 18 139 56.3% 7.0% 43.8% 4.3 -84 4.9 15.2
Bishop Louie SE 5'10, 170 So. 2 stars (5.4) NR 29 23 274 79.3% 6.3% 44.8% 9.4 6 9.1 30.0
Derek Patterson SE
19 9 203 47.4% 4.2% 63.2% 10.7 87 10.2 22.2
Nigel Carter WR 6'3, 198 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7883 15 3 24 20.0% 3.3% 53.3% 1.6 -28 1.7 2.6
Mandel Dixon HB 6'2, 238 Sr. NR NR 11 6 62 54.5% 2.4% 63.6% 5.6 -13 5.4 6.8
D'Angelo Brewer RB 5'9, 185 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7852 9 4 64 44.4% 2.0% 55.6% 7.1 12 7.2 7.0
James Flanders RB 5'10, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8125 8 5 42 62.5% 1.8% 25.0% 5.3 -19 6.7 4.6
Tavarreon Dickerson RB 5'9, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7833 7 6 23 85.7% 1.5% 28.6% 3.3 -46 0.1 2.5
Zack Langer RB 6'0, 215 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7773 6 3 9 50.0% 1.3% 66.7% 1.5 -29 1.3 1.0
Zach Epps WR
5 2 3 40.0% 1.1% 60.0% 0.6 -24 0.6 0.3
Brodrick Umblance FL 6'1, 180 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 4 0 0 0.0% 0.9% 25.0% 0.0 -6 0.0 0.0
Tyler Wilson TE 6'6, 248 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8047
Kolton Shindelar TE 6'6, 252 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7883
Justin Hobbs WR 6'4, 200 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593
Payton Prince TE 6'4, 237 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7935
Jarion Anderson WR 6'9, 167 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793

5. Big plays come from where?

Tulsa boasts four quarterbacks who are former three-stars. And in incoming freshman Chad President, the Golden Hurricane now have a Rivals four-star. Granted, last year's starter (Dane Evans) was far from amazing -- 55 percent completion rate, 17 interceptions, 3.9 yards per non-sack carry -- but there does appear to be raw talent, if other weapons can maybe rip off a big play every now and then.

Tulsa's run game boasted an almost unfathomable lack of big plays. The Golden Hurricane managed only seven rushes of 20-plus yards (120th in FBS), two of 30-plus (119th), and none of 30-plus. There was some efficiency, but Tulsa backs didn't create opportunities and took advantage of almost none of the ones they got.

Zack Langer did rip off a 64-yard touchdown run in April's spring game, and Montgomery's Baylor offense was designed to stretch defenses out as far as possible and minimize defensive help when players get to the second level. So maybe there's some potential here for Montgomery and offensive co-coordinators Sterlin Gilbert and Matt Mattox to coax out.

If the run game can provide a distraction, the passing game might be able to get somewhere. Almost all of last year's wideouts return, and if the efficiency is high enough, some explosiveness could shine through: Keevan Lucas had a 66 percent catch rate in 2014 and averaged 13.8 yards per catch in 2013, Keyarris Garrett averaged 14.9 yards per catch last year, and others like Derek Patterson (22.6 yards per catch) and Bishop Louie (14.3 yards per carry, 14.0 yards per punt return) showed potential in small sample sizes.

It wouldn't surprise me to see the offense take a step forward with the amount of experience involved, but there's still a big question mark when it comes to the run. Competence with the run could mean success with the pass.

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 102.6 2.93 3.27 37.0% 65.1% 15.7% 124.9 2.6% 6.8%
Rank 63 65 64 89 85 20 33 17 51
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Garrett Stafford LT 6'5, 314 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 25
Dylan Foxworth C 6'1, 281 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7733 18
Davis Walton RG
15
Chris Wallace LG 6'5, 311 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7626 12
Blake Belcher RT 6'5, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8063 11
Garrett Gladd RG 6'4, 303 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8635 6
Billy Lafortune C 6'0, 283 Sr. NR NR 1
Zac Uhles C 6'3, 265 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8044 1
Evan Plagg LT 6'3, 275 So. NR NR 0
Rob Boyd LG 6'3, 319 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8655 0
James Floyd OG 6'2, 301 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7593 0
Tyler Bowling OT 6'6, 295 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8095
Isaac Johnson OT 6'7, 275 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8141
Mildren Montgomery OT 6'5, 285 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8045
Alex Pagonis OL 6'5, 320 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7300
Blake Browning OL 6'0, 290 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793

6. The line will be a strength

Tulsa's offensive line deserved better. The Hurricane front kept defenders out of the backfield (20th in Stuff Rate, 33rd in Adj. Sack Rate) and produced line stats better than those of the offense as a whole. There were struggles in short-yardage, and there weren't enough second-level opportunities, but this was a decent line.

And it returns 74 career starts and all but one member of last year's two-deep. That's exciting. The line has experience, size, and a track record. Montgomery can work with that.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.12 128 IsoPPP+ 68.4 128
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 45.0% 103 Succ. Rt. + 87.5 114
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 28.6 103 Off. FP+ 99.0 78
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.1 122 Redzone S&P+ 92.2 96
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 16.6 ACTUAL 15.0 -1.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 117 127 116 128
RUSHING 110 122 112 126
PASSING 116 128 112 128
Standard Downs 127 112 128
Passing Downs 122 115 125
Q1 Rk 123 1st Down Rk 121
Q2 Rk 117 2nd Down Rk 128
Q3 Rk 112 3rd Down Rk 34
Q4 Rk 114

7. A swift, complete collapse

For each of Blankenship's first three years, Tulsa had one of the nation's more underrated defenses. The Golden Hurricane ranked 30th in Def. S&P+ in 2011 and 51st in both 2012 and 2013. They returned their top six linemen, five of their top seven linebackers, and every defensive back in 2014. I expected big things.

To point out the obvious, it didn't happen. Tulsa was invasive -- 22nd in Stuff Rate, 41st in Adj. Sack Rate -- but that was the only strength, and it was mitigated by what happened when the ball got past the line of scrimmage. Tulsa allowed 45 gains of 30-plus yards in 2014. Forty-five! This was tied for the worst in the country with Fresno State, but Fresno State needed 14 games to get to 45; Tulsa needed just 12.

Part of the collapse came from injuries: seven linebackers averaged at least 0.9 tackles per game, but only two played in all 12 games. Cornerback was a revolving door, with only one of the top five playing in 12 games and the other four missing a combined 11. Freshmen like linebacker Craig Suits and corner Kerwin Thomas ended up playing much larger roles than expected.

Still, this was a massive, almost overnight collapse.

8. One more go-round for Bill Young

The last time we saw Bill Younng, his Oklahoma State defense was sliding just enough for him to get the boot for a younger guy. The 68-year-old has served as defensive coordinator at Tulsa, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, Kansas, Miami, and OSU, but Mike Gundy replaced Young with aggressive Glenn Spencer after OSU fell from 21st to 43rd in Def. S&P+ in 2012.

After a year as a quality control assistant for Dave Christensen at Wyoming, Young became head coach at Yukon (OK) High School for a year*, and now he's back.

* Fun fact: my wife graduated from Yukon. Go Millers!

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 86.7 3.10 3.53 41.8% 55.0% 22.7% 109.6 4.8% 7.9%
Rank 117 87 83 99 9 22 41 60 55
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Chris Hummingbird DE
12 36.0 5.6% 8.5 4.0 0 1 0 0
Derrick Alexander DE 6'2, 270 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7780 12 33.0 5.2% 12.0 7.5 0 1 2 0
Derrick Luetjen DT 6'3, 285 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7764 12 29.0 4.5% 7.5 2.5 0 0 0 0
Jesse Brubaker (2013) DT 6'3, 280 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8093 11 15.0 2.1% 3.0 1.0 0 3 0 0
Jerry Uwaezuoke DT 6'3, 295 Jr. NR NR 12 12.0 1.9% 4.0 0.5 0 0 0 0
Jeremy Smith DE 6'5, 230 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7652 12 8.0 1.3% 3.0 3.0 0 0 1 0
Brentom Todd DE
6 7.0 1.1% 3.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Petera Wilson DE 6'2, 220 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8607 12 5.5 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Hayden Carman DT 6'4, 288 Jr. NR NR 9 5.5 0.9% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Lionell Phillips DT 6'2, 285 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7906 9 4.0 0.6% 1.0 0.5 0 0 0 0
Earl Rollins DT 6'3, 275 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7711 10 3.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Frankie Davis DE 6'2, 240 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8004
Jake Hanks DE 6'2, 235 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7752
Willie Wright DT 6'3, 280 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8144
Michael Anderson DE 6'3, 235 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7900








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Craig Suits CANE 6'0, 220 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7300 12 62.0 9.7% 6.5 1.0 1 4 2 0
Jake Sizelove WILL
11 54.0 8.5% 6.0 0.0 1 0 0 0
Trent Martin MIKE 6'2, 235 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8089 9 46.5 7.3% 8.0 1.0 0 4 0 0
Mitchell Osborne CANE
12 21.5 3.4% 1.5 1.0 0 2 0 0
Donnell Hawkins MIKE
7 19.5 3.1% 1.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
C.J. Gooden WILL 6'1, 220 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8133 8 8.5 1.3% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Zik Asiegbu WILL 6'0, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7667 8 7.5 1.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Luke Snider CANE NR 12 6.0 0.9% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Matt Hickman LB 6'0, 220 Jr. NR NR 12 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Conner Sherwood MIKE 6'3, 232 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8053
Rob Riederer LB 6'0, 217 So. 3 stars (5.5) NR
Tim Quickel LB 6'2, 215 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593
Khari Harding (Auburn) LB 6'2, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8595 3 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0

9. Plenty of play-makers in the front 7

Young's best defenses combined disruption up front with big-play prevention in the back. Tulsa was woeful at the latter, so much so that you have to figure Young might dial back the aggression until he can get a handle on the big plays.

While a few DBs ended up getting decent experience, three of the top four are gone, which could stunt growth. Senior safety Michael Mudoh is back, but the rest combined for 0.5 tackles for loss, one pick, and seven breakups. There are a few former three-star defensive backs in the mix, but almost none has proven much, and any of a foursome of freshmen could see playing time.

To the extent that Young feels comfortable getting aggressive, he could find fun pieces. Of the nine linemen and linebackers who recorded at least three tackles for loss, six return, including pass rushers Derrick Alexander and Jeremy Smith (combined: 41.0 tackles, 10.5 of which were sacks) and three run stuffers (tackle Derrick Luetjen and linebackers Craig Suits and Trent Martin) who combined for 17.5 non-sack tackles for loss. Tackle Jesse Brubaker returns to the fold after missing 2014.

(Plus, there's a chance, however small, that the NCAA shows a bit of compassion and allows Auburn transfer Khari Harding to play. Harding transferred to play closer to his ailing father, and after his transfer was complete, the NCAA changed its hardship waiver rule and deemed him ineligible. Somehow he was not grandfathered in on the old rule, which is frankly ridiculous. An appeal is in process.)

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Michael Mudoh BANDIT 5'10, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7000 12 84.0 13.2% 1.5 0 2 2 2 0
DeMarco Nelson FS
12 62.5 9.8% 4 0 1 2 0 1
Dwight Dobbins CB
9 21.0 3.3% 0 0 1 2 0 0
Austin McDaniel CB
10 20.0 3.1% 1.5 0 1 5 0 0
Kerwin Thomas CB 5'10, 160 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7906 10 14.0 2.2% 0 0 1 2 0 0
Matt Linscott BANDIT 6'1, 212 Jr. NR NR 12 11.5 1.8% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Will Barrow FS 5'9, 170 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8444 8 8.5 1.3% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Johnell Celistan CB 6'2, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7900 12 6.5 1.0% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Darrell Williams CB 5'10, 193 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7667 8 6.0 0.9% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Shawn Norman S 5'11, 194 Jr. NR NR 12 5.5 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Mitchell S 6'2, 180 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793 10 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bradley White FS 5'11, 180 Sr. NR NR 12 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
McKinley Whitfield S 6'4, 194 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8389
Reggie Robinson S 6'1, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8345
J.R. Reed DB 6'1, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7981
Keidrien Wadley DB 6'1, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7300








Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Dalton Parks 6'3, 202 Jr. 70 42.0 5 22 20 60.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Redford Jones 5'10, 172 So. 24 54.7 4 4 16.7%
Carl Salazar 15 52.8 1 1 6.7%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Carl Salazar 34-34 10-13 76.9% 2-5 40.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
D'Angelo Brewer KR 5'9, 185 So. 27 22.3 0
Bishop Louie KR 5'10, 170 So. 9 18.7 0
Conner Floyd PR 6'0, 202 Sr. 12 6.6 0
Bishop Louie PR 5'10, 170 So. 3 14.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 78
Field Goal Efficiency 101
Punt Return Efficiency 34
Kick Return Efficiency 96
Punt Efficiency 57
Kickoff Efficiency 74
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 10

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
5-Sep Florida Atlantic 100
12-Sep at New Mexico 94
19-Sep at Oklahoma 19
3-Oct Houston 73
10-Oct UL-Monroe 97
17-Oct at East Carolina 61
23-Oct Memphis 41
31-Oct at SMU 127
7-Nov Central Florida 60
14-Nov at Cincinnati 47
21-Nov Navy 44
28-Nov at Tulane 93
Five-Year F/+ Rk -1.9% (63)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 83 / 76
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -8 / -5.4
2014 TO Luck/Game -1.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 17 (10, 7)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 1.9 (0.1)

10. This could work

I can turn Tulsa into a viable team with just two ifs:

  1. If either a) the run game produces enough to open space for a deep receiving corps or b) quarterback Dane Evans takes to the new system enough that defenses are stretched out by the pass, opening rush opportunities up the middle.
  2. If the secondary can grow competent enough to allow Bill Young to attack with an exciting front seven.

I'm confident No. 1 will happen. The combination of experience, a strong line, coaching prowess, and depth of options should result in solid offensive improvement. No. 2 probably isn't likely, though. I like Young, but the secondary will likely tie his hands.

Tulsa could find itself in shootouts, and if Young can figure out what to do to restore the D, then the Golden Hurricanes could look more like their 2005-12 selves than the 5-19 impostors of the last two seasons. Assume four to six wins in 2015, then assume a run at something better in 2016.