Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Tulsa Golden Hurricanes
Tulsa Golden Hurricanes
Tulsa surprised several people nationally by wining 10 games last year, and it appears that Phillip Montgomery has the Golden Hurricane on the right track, but the major question for Tulsa in 2017 is how do they replace their losses, specifically Dane Evans at QB, James Flanders at RB, and and Keevan Lucas and Josh Atkinson at WR? They are losing a ton of production for the offensive side of the football, and the challenge will be finding the pieces to move forward. Let's take a look at what to expect in 2017.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Everything is going to start at the foundation level, and that is the line. Four starters return here in Tackles Evan Plagg and Willie Wright, OG Tyler Bowling, and C Chandler Miller. Zach Uhles, who lists as a Center, will likely shift over to start at RG, which is the lone open spot. He has some starting experience, so the line should be the strength of this unit in 2017.
James Flanders is gone after leading the team with 1629 yards and 18 rushing scores, but D'Angelo Brewer does return after rushing for 1435 yards and seven scores. Look for another massive season from him in this offense, especially with the ability too run behind this line, which may be one of the best in the AAC.
TE Chris Minter caught three TD passes last season, despite catching just six passes. Look for him to get an expanded role in the passing game, especially in red zone situations.
Redford Jones should be returning as a senior at PK after hitting 21/26 FG attempts in 2016.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Replacing a QB like Dane Evans, one of the all-time leaders in passing yards at Tulsa, is never going to be an easy situation. Heading into fall camp, Chad President and Luke Skipper appear locked down in battle, and this fight may carry into opening week. President attempted just two passes last season, and Skipper is a RS Freshman.
Finding more rushing punch to back up Brewer is also a high priority. Ramadi Warren and Rowdy Simon are in a fight to win the backup job at RB behind Brewer, and Simon is the only one who played last season, carrying the ball just 18 times. Corey Taylor and Javon Thomas are locked in to win the UB job that Flanders held last fall. Taylor has the lead as we head into the Summer.
Finding replacements at WR are going to be a massive undertaking after Tulsa lost 2238 yards of total receiving fro their top two guys. Justin Hobbs returns to start after catching 50 passes last season, and that is a great place to start. RS Freshman Jordan Brown backs him up. Keenen Johnson is ahead at one open starting spot (IR), while Broderick Umblance is in a battle with Josh Stewart for the other open WR job as we head into Summer and Fall camp.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Tulsa is all set as we head into 2017 at the DE position. Tulsa has a solid combo coming back in Jesse Brubaker and Jeremy Smith. They combined for 22 TFLs last fall and 92 tackles as a combo, giving Tulsa one of the best sets of bookends in the league.
The secondary is in very good shape as well, with three of four starters returning. Jordan Mitchell and McKinley Whitfield both return at Safety. Mitchell has 16 starts under his belt, and finished last fall with nine PBUs and 61 tackles. Whitfield finished with 59 tackles and four PBUs, and also blocked a pair of kicks on special teams.
Kerwin Thomas is the leader in that secondary with 28 total career starts. He finished with 58 tackles and another nine PBUs last fall, and will be the guy that teams will try to avoid in man to man match ups in 2017.
Craig Suits returns at LB as well after finishing with 79 tackles and nine TFLs last fall, and will be the heart of the middle of the defense.
What To Be Conerned About: Defense
Tulsa needs to replace both tackles, meaning that the middle of the defense could end up being vulnerable. Kolton Shindelar, a senior, and Shemarr Robinson, a sophomore, hold the lead after spring wrapped up to start, but the battles are raging behind them for the backup roles, so depth is muddle at this time.
With Suits lining up at the WLB position, the other two positions at LB are in flux heading into Fall camp. Sophomore Diamon Cannon has the early lead at SLB, while Cooper Edmiston, a sophomore, has the early lead in the middle. That could give Tulsa a very young and vulnerable middle of their front seven.
There is only one open hole in the secondary that needs patching, and that is at CB, where yet another sophomore, Reggie Robinson III, is in the lead for the starting role.
There is also an open job at Punter after the departure of Dalton Parks, who averaged 41.75 yards per punt last season. Thomas Bennett, another sophomore, will be leading the way as we head into the Fall.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 at Oklahoma State, 9/9 UL-Lafayette, 9/16 at Toledo, 9/23 New Mexico, 9/30 Navy, 10/7 at Tulane, 10/14 Houston, 10/21 at U Conn, 10/27 at SMU, 11/3 Memphis, 11/16 at USF, 11/25 Temple
It's going to be a very hard pressed idea to think that Tulsa can win ten games again in 2017. There are far to many questions that need answering, and far too much production to replace. The defense will be younger than it was a year ago, and that unit managed to allow almost 30 points per game. I see Tulsa as a bowl team, but to say that with all of their questions, and all of their youth, that they can win the AAC West, well, that would not be responsible to say. Tulsa is still on track to be a regular thorn in this division, but this year, they may be taking a step or two back.