Tulsa Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Posted Aug 6, 2006

Tulsa Golden Hurricane Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Triplets you’d love to have – The Tulsa defense has nine returning starters to rely upon from last year, but none more important than the trio of linebackers that man the middle of the Tulsa defense.  Nick Bunting, Nelson Coleman and Chris Chamberlain were instrumental in the improvement of this defense as the 2005 season progressed.  Facing Laurence Maroney, Adrian Peterson and DeAngelo Williams in three of the first four games of the year isn’t the best way to pad a defense’s stats, but it helped mold this unit into the potentially dominating group that it should be in 2006.  Bunting has been starting since his freshman season and racked up 85 tackles and third team All-CUSA honors in 2005.  For as experienced as Bunting is, he was fourth on the team in tackles.  Coleman was first with 117 and is a menace from his middle linebacker position.  He can run and will loves to put a helmet on the guy with the ball, similar to both Bunting and Chamberlain.  Each great linebacking unit has the one X factor, the one guy who a DC can unleash on an offense in a multitude of ways.  That’s Chamberlain’s role for this 3-3-5 defense.  He can run like a DB, and the Tulsa defensive staff uses that speed to blitz and rush the passer, in addition to using him in various run blitz schemes.  With only three down linemen in front of them, this trio has to be quick to the ball to avoid getting hit in the face by uncovered linemen.  They seem to have that down pretty well.  With nearly 300 tackles to their credit in 2005, if this unit doesn’t dominate the All-CUSA first and second team linebacker position, it’s a major mistake.  Individually, each backer could stand on his own as a star, but they play so well together that the defense thrives off of what they do.  Similar to how Ohio State did last year with Hawk, Carpenter and Schlegel at linebacker.  Similar to how Iowa did last year with Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway.  Bunting, Chamberlain and Coleman may not carry as much panache as those bally-hooed groups, but the ball carriers in this conference sure know who they are.

2nd and Seven – Quiet Assassin – The name might be run of the mill – Paul Smith.  But, the game is not.  For as hyped as the other quarterbacks are in this conference, it’s Smith who has been the most consistent and most productive.  How about twenty touchdowns with only six interceptions?  How about 2,800+ yards passing with a 62% completion percentage?  Not too shabby.  Shoot, that’s flat out good.  But, of that 2,800+ yardage, H back/TE/fullback/stud Garrett Mills accounted for 1,235 of that total and he’s gone to the NFL.  Without Mills catching 10 to 12 passes a game, another receiving weapon must emerge for Smith, but the junior should be able to spread out the receptions among his perimeter receivers, as well as his running backs.  He doesn’t wow you with a howitzer for a right arm, but he knows where to throw the ball and how to manage a game as well as anyone in this conference.  He might be overshadowed by guys like Kevin Kolb and Jordan Palmer, but Smith won’t be behind them for long, especially if the Golden Hurricane win another CUSA championship.

3rd and Three – Rock hard – For as good as the linebackers are at Tulsa, the secondary might actually be even better.  Here’s a group that returns each starter from last year but one.  And, the one is replaced by a guy who had 121 tackles in 2003 – Kedrick Alexander.  Free safety Bobby Blackshire is perhaps the best safety in this conference.  When you rack up 99 tackles, 2 interceptions and 7 PBU, you can lay claim to such an honor.  Blackshire was second on the team in tackles last season, but he isn’t alone.  Nick Graham was a second team All-CUSA cornerback after picking off six passes and Julian McGowan on the other side racked up four interceptions.  Spur Anthony Germany was equally as good against the run (10.5 tackles for a loss) and the pass (8 PBUs).  Then, add Alexander back into the mix and this back five is as good as any in CUSA.

4th and One – Breaking into the club? – Each year in college football, at least one non-BCS team gets on a roll and garners the attention worthy of the ‘story of the year’.  Utah did it in 2004.  TCU had that type of year last year.  Boise State has received its share of publicity since the days of Dirk Koetter.  Has that time come for Tulsa?  Wait, c’mon, are you kidding?  Well, why not?  Who thought Utah was going 11 – 0 in 2004?  Not many of us.  Tulsa returns 16 starters, has a fair schedule and has tremendous confidence after winning CUSA in its first year in the conference.  Going 13-0 is a whale of a task, but knock off BYU in Provo and Navy in Annapolis, and it’s not such a radical thought.  The CUSA West is pretty tough, but then again, crazier things have happened.  They might not be the best BCS option if you’ve got a few benjamins in your pocket and you’re heading for Vegas, but they might be a sleeper ‘value’ pick, behind Boise State, TCU and Utah.  Steve Kragthorpe has made this program an annual threat for a CUSA title, and maybe bigger things await the Golden Hurricane in 2006.

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