Tulsa head coach Bill Blakenship to rely on improving defense and new quarterback in his second season leading Golden Hurricane.
By: Athlon Sports | 5/14/12, 12:46 PM EDT
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C-USA West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Bill Blankenship, 8-5 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Greg Peterson | DEF. COORDINATOR: Brent Guy
Cody Green hopes to carry on a Tulsa tradition that has seen three previous quarterbacks break school records. Green follows a lineage that includes Paul Smith, David Johnson and G.J. Kinne, a trio that has guided Tulsa to 44 victories over the past five years. Green is a junior transfer from Nebraska who appeared in 17 games with four starts for the Huskers. Second-year coach Bill Blankenship was impressed with Green during spring drills, and the 6'4", 247-pounder earned the starting job over redshirt sophomore Kalen Henderson.
The team’s running game will be key to any success in 2012. Ja’Terian Douglas rushed for 883 yards and Trey Watts added 881 yards out of the tailback spot last year. Willie Carter, an H-back, may be the most explosive playmaker. He led the team with 868 receiving yards and caught seven touchdown passes.
Starters Bryan Burnham (54 catches, 850 yards) and Jordan James (31 catches, 391 yards) return at wide receiver. Look for sophomore Keyarris Garrett to be used more in the downfield attack, as well as Nebraska graduate transfer Khiry Cooper.
The offensive line has experience but lost three starters to graduation. Center Trent Dupy is a four-year starter, while tackle Brian DeShane and guard Stetson Burnett will try to provide leadership up front.
Tulsa allowed an average of 30.3 points per game in 2010, but in last year’s 8–5 season, the defense held nine opponents to 28 points or less. Tulsa returns seven defensive starters and three of the top four tacklers.
“We have a very dominating first unit on defense. Our challenge defensively is building depth and finding enough guys that we can rotate in and out,” Blankenship says.
Safety Dexter McCoil anchors the defense. McCoil has 13 career interceptions (which has tied the school’s all-time mark) and is coming off a six-interception season. He’s joined in a veteran secondary that includes cornerbacks John Flanders and Lowell Rose, as well as safety Marco Nelson.
The Hurricane lost one of the nation’s top tacklers in middle linebacker Curnelius Arnick but return playmaker Shawn Jackson at weak-side linebacker. DeAundre Brown, who led the team in tackles in 2009, returns for his senior season.
The defensive line is a strength, with ends Cory Dorris and Jared St. John joining veteran tackles Daeshon Bufford and Derrick Jackson. The program adapted from a traditional three-man front to a 4-3 scheme in 2011.
Tulsa will place a lot of responsibility on an incoming freshman next season. Daniel Schwarz has been projected to be the starting placekicker since Signing Day. Sophomore Cole Way, who lost his punting job to Kevin Fitzpatrick midway through last season, will reclaim the spot. Watts, who returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown at UTEP, is a dangerous return man.
Tulsa finished with eight wins in Blankenship’s first season, and expectations will remain high for a program that has advanced to bowl games in seven of the past nine seasons.
Success will depend on Green’s ability to manage the offense behind a line that is seasoned but a bit unproven. The running backs will provide Green the ability to get comfortable, but the wide receivers must make an impact. Defensively, the Golden Hurricane should be even better than last year, when they were a pleasant surprise.