2014 Tulsa Preview: What You Need To Know
Tulsa S Michael Mudoh
Tulsa S Michael Mudoh
Posted Jul 26, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Tulsa (Getty Images)

2014 Tulsa Preview

What You Need To Know

- 2014 Tulsa Preview 

What you need to know about the offense: The Golden Hurricane is in need of an offensive makeover after slogging through its worst season in ages. The attack collapsed in 2013, and now the backfield needs to be retooled around erratic QB Dane Evans and a combination of unproven backs James Flanders and Tavarreon Dickerson. Above all else, Tulsa has to run the ball effectively to achieve the desired level of balance and to take some heat off of Evans. The sophomore will be supported by the return to health of big-play WR Keyarris Garrett, and protected by a Garrett Stafford-led line that’s allowed only 18 sacks over the past two seasons. With only five starters back, and a rocky season in the rear view mirror, the Hurricane’s offensive direction hinges squarely on Evans’ ability to evolve in his second season of action. If his effort resembles last year’s, Tulsa is in for another long year.

What you need to know about the defense: Veteran coordinator Brent Guy can’t wait to turn loose a defense he believes should be among the best in the American this year. The Hurricane returns 10 starters, 11 when counting all-star FS Marco Nelson, who missed 2013 due to academics. Nelson plus Bandit Michael Mudoh gives Tulsa one of the most underrated—and physical—safety tandems in America. Also back after missing time is MLB Trent Martin, who has breakout potential now that he’s rehabbed a leg injury. The Hurricane boasts veteran depth and a handful of other up-and-comers that includes DT Derrick Luetjen and CB Will Barrow. Guy’s top priority this offseason will be to bolster a run defense that gave up 4.6 yards per carry in 2013 and no longer has 255-pound LB Shawn Jackson to clog up running lanes. Stepping up from the second level this spring, besides Martin, were budding redshirt freshmen Craig Suits and C.J. Gooden.

Players You Need To Know
1. FS Marco Nelson, Sr.
Last season was supposed to be Nelson’s launching point to an NFL career. Instead, he sat idly, hitting the books after being declared academically ineligible. The Hurricane is thrilled to have its star back for one final year. The one-time running back will bring a streak of 39 consecutive starts into his finale. In 2012, Nelson was named Second Team All-Conference USA for making 80 tackles, four stops for loss and a pair of picks. He’s a heady, seasoned 6-0, 195-pounder, with the speed and athleticism to impact both run and pass defense.

2. Bandit Michael Mudoh, Jr.
In an otherwise depressing year at Tulsa, Mudoh emerged from the weeds with a table-setting first year as a starter. He picked up a ton of the slack after Marco Nelson was put on ice, racking up a league-high 133 tackles and five pass breakups to earn Second Team All-Conference USA. The 5-10, 200-pound Mudoh plays with the physicality of a linebacker and maximum hyperactivity, fearlessness and athleticism. In other words, he’s exactly what the Golden Hurricane staff looks for at the Bandit position.

3. WR Keyarris Garrett, Jr.
When Garrett was sidelined in Week 2 to a severe leg injury, it was a devastating blow for the entire Tulsa offense. Losing the 6-4, 221-pound mismatch meant the Hurricane would be without an emerging star that’d caught 67 balls for 845 yards and nine touchdowns in his first season as a starter. From a backup to the All-Conference USA Second Team, Garrett laid the ground floor in 2012 for what might wind up being an NFL career. He’s a skilled all-around target, high-balling throws and displaying sticky hands.

4. DE Derrick Alexander, Jr.
Two seasons into his college career, Alexander has blossomed into the Golden Hurricane’s best pass rusher. In 2013, he started all but one game, and collected 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and a team-high 6.5 sacks. Despite being 6-2 and 270 pounds, he moves with cat quickness off the snap. Alexander is a well-coached, fundamentally-sound lineman, who’ll get increasingly disruptive over the final two seasons of his career.

5. LB Trent Martin, Jr.
Martin was on his way to a breakout season, when a leg injury cut his sophomore year short. He wound up playing in just five games, notching 29 tackles and 4.5 stops for loss. When Martin went down, the Hurricane lost a budding rock at middle linebacker. The 6-2, 242-pounder plays with the toughness and the instincts to be a 100-tackle guy from the second level. If he stays healthy through November, he has the right mix of talent to rank among the American’s best linebackers of 2014.

6. LT Garrett Stafford, Jr.
Stafford is one of three full-timers returning to the O-line, joining C Dylan Foxworth and RT Davis Walton. Stafford will be in charge of protecting the backside of the quarterbacks, a task he handled well a year ago. As a team, the Golden Hurricane allowed just 10 sacks last season to rank No. 5 in the country. The 6-5, 314-pound Stafford played a key role in the ranking, using his long arms and sound technique to seal off the edge of the line.

7. DT Derrick Luetjen, Jr.
Luetjen is back to anchor the interior of the Tulsa defensive line. He started all 12 games a year ago, making a linemen-high 49 tackles, four stops for loss, two sacks and a couple of forced fumbles. He’s a powerful 6-3, 285-pounder, with the nasty streak that the coaching staff covets in its defenders. Luetjen will be spearheading a front seven that’s looking to improve upon last season’s 4.6 yards per carry allowed.

8. CB Will Barrow, Soph.
The Hurricane staff couldn’t have been much happier with Barrow’s first season out of Dallas’ Skyline High School. A more natural man-to-man corner, he started eight games at free safety after Marco Nelson was declared academically ineligible. Barrow showcased his dynamic athleticism by making 54 tackles, two picks, two forced fumbles and two long fumble recoveries for touchdowns. He plays bigger than his 5-9, 170-pound frame, one of the main reasons Tulsa had to beat out Big 12 schools to land him.

9. WR Keevan Lucas, Soph.
After Keyarris Garrett was lost for the season in Week 2, Tulsa needed receivers to step up. Lucas didn’t disappoint in his debut out of Abilene (Tex.) High School. Despite running out of gas in November, he still finished third on the team with 32 receptions for 442 yards and a touchdown. The 5-10, 198-pound Lucas brings much-needed speed and acceleration to the flanker position for the Hurricane. With another offseason to hit the weights and learn the playbook, he’ll be even better positioned to contribute.

10. DE Chris Hummingbird, Sr.
After steadily improving each year, Hummingbird is ready to deliver his best season with the Hurricane. As a five-game starter in 2013, he wound up with 27 tackles, 8.5 stops for loss, three sacks and three pass breakups. Hummingbird carries a blue-collar attitude to the field, refusing to take plays off. At 6-2 and 265 pounds, he has the strength and size to defend the run, yet he remains quick enough to beat tackles en route to the backfield.

- 2014 Tulsa Preview