Preview 2008 -
2008 CFN Tulsa Preview
2008 Tulsa Offense Preview
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2007 CFN Tulsa Preview
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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.
Sacks: Moton Hopkins, 3
Interceptions: Roy Roberts, 3
of the defense:
Senior DE Moton Hopkins
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior NG
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Mike Bryan
Best pro prospect: Hopkins
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hopkins 2) Senior S Roy
Roberts 3) Bryan
Strength of the defense: The safeties
Weakness of the defense: Pass rush, creating turnovers,
preventing big plays
Projected Starters: Tulsa’s three-man front will
feature a pair of all-league contenders in DE Moton Hopkins
and NG Terrel Nemons. Hopkins was a revelation as a
junior, emerging into a top run stopper and an occasional pass
rusher. Selected to the All-Conference USA Second Team, the
6-3, 270-pounder had 71 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and three
sacks, numbers indicative of his lateral quickness and instincts
for the position.
Nemons, on the other hand, has been an enigma for the
Hurricane. While the senior has the experience and the 6-4,
330-pound frame to be a prototypical space-eater in run defense,
it hasn’t translated into production on the field. After making
just 15 tackles and taking a backseat to the smaller Brandon
Jones, Nemons has one more season to put it all together and
pique the interest of NFL scouts.
At 6-3 and 220 pounds, sophomore Odrick Ray is the type
of explosive athlete the staff feels it can transform into a
disruptive edge rusher. As a freshman, he earned valuable
experience as a reserve, making 11 tackles in 13 appearances.
Projected Top Reserves: Behind Nemons on the
inside is 6-4, 284-pound junior Wilson Garrison, who
played very well as a backup in his first year out of
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. A surprise starter in three games,
he collected 16 tackles and a couple of sacks, he plays with
good burst and will keep Nemons from getting complacent.
Coming out of spring, the top reserve ends were redshirt
freshman Rashad Robinson and sophomore Tyler
Scarbrough. An end in an outside linebacker’s body, the
6-1, 230-pound Robinson accelerates quickly, but his size will
prohibit him from being a major factor in run defense.
Scarbrough is a much bigger option at 6-3 and 268 pounds, and
has the experience of playing in 14 games on defense and special
teams last season.
Watch Out For ... junior college transfer
Un’tavius Scott. At 6-3 and 255 pounds, he’s a mature,
aggressive pass rusher capable of providing competition to Ray
and support opposite Hopkins.
Strength: Hopkins. The senior has gotten better
with each passing season, and is now prepared to become the new
defensive catalyst on a unit that’s looking for a leader.
Weakness: Pass rush. The Hurricane continues
having problems generating pressure with the front three.
Linemen accounted for just eight sacks in 2007, a trend that’ll
continue unless Hopkins gets more help from the opposite end.
Outlook: Although Hopkins may be headed back to
the all-conference team, he won’t solve the Hurricane’s
defensive woes by himself. Unless players like Nemons and a
couple of the young ends elevate their play, Tulsa will again be
vulnerable in run defense and minimal help to the back seven.
Projected Starters: No unit was hit harder by
graduation than linebacker, which loses last year’s top three
tacklers and a pair of First Team All-Conference USA
performers. A lot is expected of junior Mike Bryan,
who’ll be supplanting Nelson Coleman in the middle. No stranger
to the field, he’s lettered in each of the last two seasons,
making 25 tackles and contributing on special teams a year ago.
At 6-3 and 216 pounds, he’s tough in run defense and has
terrific instincts for the position, building blocks for what
could be an all-league debut.
Flanking Bryan will be sophomore Tanner Antle at weakside
and junior George Clinkscale at strongside. Antle is a
terrific all-around athlete and competitor, needing to add more
girth to his 6-4, 210-pound frame. He played in 14 games as a
freshman, mostly on passing downs, making 38 tackles and laying
the foundation for what should be a breakthrough season as a
Clinkscale started seven games at defensive end, but was
ineffective and often overmatched, prompting a switch to the
second level. After chipping in a modest 21 tackles, 3.5
tackles for loss, and a sack, the 6-0, 241-pounder should be in
a better position to contribute as a linebacker.
Projected Top Reserves: A couple of newcomers are
going to play integral roles on the second team. Junior college
transfer Kaipo Sarkissian is battling Clinkscale for
playing time at strongside. At 6-1 and 230 pounds, he has good
range and was recruited to play right away at the Hurricane’s
biggest need area.
Redshirt freshman Curnelius Arnick was one of the big
surprises of the summer, demanding playing time at weakside when
the season begins. A 6-1, 213-pounder, he plays with a lot of
intensity and can cover a huge chunk of the field, which makes
him an asset in pass coverage and an option on blitzes.
Watch Out For…Bryan to rack up 100 tackles and
become one of the defensive leaders in his first season as a
starter. He’s been a well-kept secret the past two seasons, but
that’ll change in a hurry this fall.
Strength: Athleticism. While not a particularly
physical or sizable group, the next wave of Tulsa linebackers
gives away little in the areas of athletic ability and desire.
Once they get some reps and understand where they belong on the
field, the tackles, sacks, and batted balls will follow.
Weakness: Experience. It might take half a season
before this group is truly comfortable being starters on a
defense that demands so much out of its linebackers. On the
entire roster, only Antle has started a game in his career.
Outlook: In two seasons, Tulsa has lost Coleman,
Chris Chamberlain, Alain Karatepeyan, and Nick Bunting, a
quartet of all-league players. The drop-off is inevitable and
likely steep. Still, the Hurricane feels good about its young
linebackers, and Bryan and Antle have the skills to eventually
develop into all-stars as well.
Projected Starters: Senior Roy Roberts is
the leader of a beleaguered secondary that returns three
starters. A former cornerback with underrated cover skills, he
moved to bandit in the spring. A 5-11, 205-pounder with good
tackling skills, he had 45 stops a year ago, three
interceptions, and a team-high 12 pass breakups.
Like Roberts, junior Charles Davis is a former cornerback
that’s moving to a safety spot. While he’s a terrific
all-around athlete, at 5-9 and 170 pounds, he’ll be challenged
to get more physical as a run defender. In his first season as
a starter, Davis delivered 73 tackles, three tackles for loss,
and eight pass breakups.
Playing spur will be newcomer Ade’ Manga, a transfer from
Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. Built like a linebacker
at 6-2 and 210 pounds, he’ll be counted on to be one of the
enforcers of the secondary.
Until the freshmen arrive, the cornerbacks are going to be
junior Kenny D. Sims and senior John Destin,
neither of whom has exhibited lockdown potential. A former
safety, the 5-11, 192-pound Sims has played a lot of football in
two seasons, starting seven games last year while making 49
tackles and picking off two passes.
A career backup, Destin is getting his best chance to date to be
a regular. A 6-0, 185-pound speedster that had 19 tackles in
2007, he needs to elevate his pass coverage skills.
Projected Top Reserves: Whether or not he starts,
senior Ty Page will see the field a lot this fall. A
three-time letterwinner and a 6-2, 220-pound thumper, he’s
currently behind Roberts on the depth chart at bandit. An
outstanding all-around athlete, he played in 13 games on defense
and special teams, making a dozen tackles.
Senior Nick Henderson is the most experienced of the
backup cornerbacks and a competition for Destin. A winner of
two letters, the 6-0, 177-pounder played in a dozen games last
season, predominantly on special teams.
Watch Out For… junior college transfer Kollin
Hancock. At 6-0 and 185 pounds, he proved capable at the
JUCO level of playing safety or cornerback. Either way, he’s a
ball hawk that’s going to play in a secondary that’s pining for
Strength: The safeties. With Roberts and Davis
making the switch from cornerback, the safeties add experience
to a position that was ravaged by graduation.
Weakness: Pass defense. The Hurricane allowed way
too many big plays through the air a year ago, and there aren’t
enough stoppers in the defensive backfield capable of altering
Outlook: Even when the defensive backfield was
littered with seasoned veterans last year, it still struggled to
slow down opposing quarterbacks, yielding 28 touchdown passes
and picking off just 11. Things could get even worse this
season, especially if the line doesn’t generate more pressure.
Projected Starters: Senior Jarod Tracy
returns for his third season as the Hurricane placekicker.
Underutilized in an offense that rarely attempts field goals, he
went 7-of-12 on three-pointers, taking a step backwards from his
sophomore year. He was inconsistent beyond 30 yards, and a lack
of leg strength became an issue. If Tracy continues having
problems, redshirt Matt Hulse will be next in line.
Sophomore P Michael Such, a Nebraska transfer, beat out
senior Paul Jurado a year ago, and has yet to relinquish
the starting job. In his first season, the 6-2, 205-pounder
averaged just 38.9 yards to finish near the bottom of Conference
USA. Jurado has enough experience to win this spot if Such
leaves an opening in the summer.
Senior Roy Roberts returns as one of the league’s top
kickoff returners after averaging almost 25 yards and taking one
back for a touchdown in the win over Tulane.
Watch Out For … Tracy to continue getting limited
opportunities to show off his leg on anything but extra points.
In this program, fourth down is just another chance to get a
first down, so Tulsa will regularly pass on a shot for three,
especially with its troubles in the kicking game.
Strength: Roberts. As if the Hurricane needed any
extra assistance, he often gave the offense great field
position, while showing a penchant for breaking long runs when
the wedge did its job up front.
Weakness: Coverage units. Tulsa dipped
considerably covering kicks, falling to 105th
nationally in punt return defense and allowing three kicks to be
taken back for touchdowns. The problems at punter played a big
part in the unit’s sudden freefall.
Outlook: The Hurricane better hope for plenty of
blowouts because the special teams unit could be an Achilles’
heel in close games. In particular, Such needs to make strides
in his second season to support a defense that can’t afford any