2007 Tulsa Preview - Defense

Posted Jun 19, 2007

Preview 2007 Tulsa Golden Hurricane Defense

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Tulsa Preview | 2007 Tulsa Offense Preview
2007 Tulsa Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Tulsa Preview 

What you need to know: Head coach Todd Graham brings the 3-3-5 and a very aggressive style back to Tulsa, where he led the defense from 2003-2005.  The fact that he coached and recruited many of this year’s players should make for a smoother-than-expected transition.  Graham will showcase a swarming unit that brings turnovers back to Tulsa.  In his final season as the defensive coordinator, the Hurricane had 36 takeaways.  Without him last year? 14.  The strength is at linebacker, which features three senior starters and Nelson Coleman, one of the nation’s best middle linebackers you’ve never seen play.  With so much over pursuing going on in 2007, a retooled secondary could give up as many big plays this year as it has in the last two combined.   

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Nelson Coleman, 98
Sacks: Chris Chamberlain, 2
Interceptions: Chris Chamberlain, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Nelson Coleman
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DE Moton Hopkins
Unsung star on the rise: Junior NG Terrel Nemons
Best pro prospect: Coleman
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Coleman 2) Senior LB Chris Chamberlain 3) Nemons
Strength of the defense: The linebackers
Weakness of the defense: Pass rush, creating turnovers

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Anchoring the Hurricane defensive line for the second straight year will be behemoth junior nose guard Terrel Nemons.  At 6-4 and 345 pounds, he’s a prototypical two-gap run stuffer that consistently occupies multiple blockers.  If Nemons can develop a few moves to go along with his raw power, he could be headed to the NFL in 2009. 

Someone on the outside needs to step up and replace the six sacks that Robert Latu contributed to the offense in 2006.   The most logical candidate is junior Moton Hopkins, who had 40 tackles a year ago and started the entire season.  More of a run defender at 6-3, 275 than a true pass rusher, he must produce much more than the half-sack and two quarterback pressures that he did in 2006. 

Unlike Hopkins, junior Jeph McAlester is a genuine speed rusher in the body of an outside linebacker.  Although he played sparingly in his year out of junior college, coaches are hopeful he can parlay all of his athletic ability into sacks and hurries this season.

Projected Top Reserves: Behind Nemons at the nose is senior Brandon Jones, a seasoned veteran of 37 games, eight starts and three letters.  He’s a smaller, quicker version of Nemons, and an absolute luxury to have on the second team. 

Out of sophomore Cedric Godfrey and redshirt freshmen Jon Bell and Tyler Scarbrough, one of the young ends needs to step up and become a viable member of the rotation.  The edge for now goes to Bell, who’s coming off a solid first spring at Tulsa and is one of the strongest players on the defense.          

Watch Out For… it to be really tough running on Tulsa again in 2007.  Nemons’ presence and ability to eat space allow the linebackers and safeties to come up and support in run defense with far less traffic.
Strength: Nose guard.  Not only does Nemons have all-league ingredients, but his backup, Jones, could start for half the teams in Conference USA.
Weakness: Pass rush.  Who on the line is going to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks? Hopkins moves like a tackle and the underclassmen on the opposite end are completely unproven.
Outlook: While the run defense will be fine, Tulsa’s inability to get to the quarterback is going to be a year-long problem, especially since the secondary is without three of last year’s starters.
Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters: With all due respect to the offensive backfield, this will be the strongest unit of the program for the 2007 season.  In Nelson Coleman, Chris Chamberlain and Alain Karatepeyan, Tulsa boasts three seniors with eight letters and a ton of tackles between them.  The headliner is Coleman, an ideal middle linebacker that closes fast, tackles well and has keen natural instincts for the position.  A safe bet to be back on the all-Conference USA first team, he’s been a starter since his freshman season, and begins his final year with 274 career tackles. 

Don’t be fooled by Chamberlain’s position.  He plays at weakside, but can bring the payload.  A fourth-year starter with outstanding speed, he’s equally effective on the blitz as he is at dropping back in pass coverage.  Chamberlain was named third team all-Conference USA by league coaches. 

Karatepeyan may be the newcomer to the first unit, but he’s no stranger to getting reps in key games.  The biggest of the linebackers at 250 pounds, he’s played in 25 games over the last two years and had 39 tackles and five tackles for loss as a part-time starter in 2006.                 

Projected Top Reserves: If there’s an injury to a starter, the defense is really going to feel it.  The reserves are young, untested and a year away from being ready for bigger roles.  Sophomore Mike Bryan is learning behind Coleman in the hopes of manning the middle in 2008 and 2009.  He played in all 13 games last year, picking up 17 tackles and some valuable experience along the way.  When this group rebuilds next fall, he’ll be one of the cornerstones. 

On the outside, the staff really likes the athleticism and upside of redshirt freshmen Tanner Antle and Donald Gobert, but recognizes both are still very raw and in need of more time with the strength coach.       

Watch Out For… a huge rebound season from Chamberlain, who wasn’t really himself in 2006 after missing the first five games with a knee injury.  A frenetic playmaker, he’s a hand-in-glove fit for a defense that wants to attack and create turnovers.
Strength: The first unit.  Chamberlain is fast and disruptive.  Karatepeyan is big and physical.  Coleman is a combination of the two.  Together, they give Tulsa one of the most underrated set of starting linebackers in the country.
Weakness: The backups.  You’d expect a drop-off from the starters, but at Tulsa it’s precipitous.  The second unit is dominated by inexperienced underclassmen that aren’t quite ready to play significant minutes in 2007.
Outlook: Even without star Nick Bunting, Tulsa is home to Conference USA’s best linebackers, a nicely blended group that’ll help the Hurricane near the top of the league in total defense.
Rating: 7


Projected Starters: The loss of three quality starters to graduation makes defensing the pass a focal point for Tulsa heading into the 2007 season.  The secondary features five players, two corners and safeties to go along with a bandit, a safety/linebacker hybrid.  Playing the position this year will be Steve Craver, a 6-1, 212-pound senior that has the physical tools to have an outstanding final season.  He run very well, hits like a linebacker and is as healthy as he’s ever been in his Tulsa career. 

In Todd Graham’s defense, the safeties play a significant role in run and pass defense, giving senior Anthony Germany and junior Randy Duncan an opportunity to stand out this fall.  Germany begins his third season as a starter with all-conference aspirations.  An intimidating defender in the secondary, he needs to revert to his 2005 form when he led the Hurricane with 13.5 tackles for loss. 

Duncan has persevered through injuries and academic problems to reach the top of the depth chart at free safety.  He’s 6-2 with solid coverage skills, but will have a hard time filling the shoes of two-time all-conference player Bobby Blackshire.

Returning starter Roy Roberts is easily the program’s best cover man.  An underrated open filed tackler, he was fourth on the team last year with 36 solos and chipped in a half-down pass breakups. 

The other corner, however, is a glaring question mark.  For now, the answer will be sophomore Charles Davis, who played well enough in the spring to earn the promotion.  While his athletic ability is obvious, he’s also just 5-9 and 165 pounds, which will be a serious liability against bigger receivers.                      

Projected Top Reserves: At 6-2 and 220 pounds, junior Ty Page hits like a linebacker, yet moves like a corner.  One of the group’s best all-around athletes, he’ll back up Craver at bandit this year before succeeding him in 2008. 

Sophomore Josh Burris put heat on Duncan in the spring, and will continue to do so throughout the season.  He’s only 5-10 and 188 pounds, but has shown a tendency to play a lot bigger. 

In a shallow pool of talent, sophomore Kenny Sims is capable of quickly becoming the Hurricane’s most dependable cornerback off the sidelines.  He played in ten games as a true freshman, and after starting the  spring at safety, made a nice transition to corner.           

Watch Out For… a monster season from Craver.  This defense forces the safeties to make plenty of plays, a challenge that the senior is up to now that he’s finally at full strength.
Strength: Physical play.  All of the safeties, including the backups, are big hitters that will intimidate opposing receivers and press up to support the run defense.
Weakness: Depth at corner.  After Roberts, things get dicey in a hurry.  Davis played well in the spring, but that was against a very green group of Tulsa receivers.  If he can’t hack it, there aren’t many other viable options deeper on the depth chart.
Outlook: This is not a vintage Hurricane secondary, which has been so good over the past few seasons.  While they’ll shine on run downs, better quarterbacks will move the ball through the air, especially if the pass rush is slow to come around.
Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Junior kicker Jarod Tracy didn’t get many chances last season, but when he did, he rarely disappointed.  In his first season as the starter, he was 11-of-12 on field goal tries and 43-of-45 on extra points.  More important, Tracy displayed excellent leg strength, hitting all four attempts outside 40 yards, including one from 50.  While he still needs work on kickoffs, he’s been an unexpected find for the special teams. 

After splitting the punting with inconsistent Chris Kindred in 2006, junior Paul Jurado is hoping to have the job all to himself this fall.  Last year, he averaged just over 40 yards a punt, placing one-third of his 18 punts inside the opponents’ 20.          

The graduation of Idris Moss leaves the Hurricane looking for both a new kick and punt returner.  Likely filling both roles will be Charles Davis, an undersized and elusive sophomore, who was a hit covering kicks in 2006.

Projected Top Reserves: Jurado’s competition at punter will be coming from sophomore Alexander Bridge, who possesses a stronger leg, yet lacks the consistency and experience to win the job at this point in his career.  If Tracy suddenly digresses, Tulsa could turn to Robert Jaworski, a transfer from Georgia Military College.

Watch Out For… Tracy to get limited opportunities to shine again this year.  In this offense, fourth down is often just another opportunity to get a first down, so Tulsa could frequently be passing on a chance for three in 2007.
Strength: Kick coverage.  Only three teams in the country were better at covering kicks last year than Tulsa, which held opposing returners to less than 16 yards a return.  This is especially important in a year that kickoffs are being pushed back five yards to the 30.
Weakness: Punting.  Neither Jurado nor Bridge looking especially sharp in the spring, raising concerns that the punt team could be an adventure for a second consecutive season. 
Outlook: If Davis can breathe life into the return game, the special teams unit figures to be no worse than average in 2007.  Tracy’s a quality kicker who should start receiving some of the recognition he deserves in 2007.   
Rating: 5.5


Related Stories
2007 Tulsa Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 19, 2007
2007 Tulsa Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 19, 2007
2007 Tulsa Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 19, 2007

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