The Hurricane caught the attention of a lot of college fans last year with their route of Ball State in the GMAC Bowl (45-13). Coach Todd Graham led his team to an 11-3 record, losing by only a field goal to East Carolina in the Conference Championship game and a convincing bowl victory.
The offense was a top the conference in scoring with 47.2 points per game, and rushing offense with 268 yards a game. Unfortunately, great success leads to new opportunities and offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, left for Auburn. Also, the Hurricane will have to find a replacement for quarterback David Johnson. The trio of hopefuls include Jacob Bower, Shavodrick Beaver and G.J. Kinne.
Whoever earns the starting spot will have a very talented and experience receiving core. Slick Shelley, Damaris Johnson and Trae Johnson all return. Shelley was tied for second on the team with eight receiving touchdowns, while Damaris led the team with nine.
Jamad Williams will be carrying the load in the backfield. He finished last season with three scores and 523 yards rushing. These numbers should increase significantly with Williams earning the starting spot. In addition, Charles Clay, who plays fullback, is a dangerous weapon receiving and rushing. He scored twice on the ground and nine times through the air last season, combining for over 500 total yards.
The defense needs to make some improvements. They need to get a solid pass rush up front and continue their success last season where they accumulated 38 sacks, which led the conference. Odrick Ray, Cory Dorris and Un’Tavious will be the men applying the pressure up front. At the linebacker position, Mike Bryan had a breakout junior season with 119 tackles last year.
If the line is able to apply pressure in the backfield, then the James Lockett and the rest of the secondary can focus more on the passing game then putting pressure up front.
The Hurricane have a reasonably favorable schedule and whoever gets the nod at the QB position should fit right in and be able to perform and distribute the ball to the multiple weapons on the offense. The defense needs to create more turnovers and play more consistent. This could be the final season that Tulsa has a shot at winning the conference championship game before head coach Todd Graham his stolen away by a big-time program.