2009 CFN Tulsa Preview
Tulsa WR Damaris Johnson
Tulsa WR Damaris Johnson
Posted May 9, 2009

Tulsa has had one of the nation's best statistical offenses over the last few years, but offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is off to Auburn and there are several other big holes to fill. Is Damaris Johnson ready to lead the way to another big season? Check out the CFN Preview for Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Preview 2009

By Richard Cirminiello    

- 2009 CFN Tulsa Preview | 2009 Tulsa Offense Preview
- 2009 Tulsa Defense Preview
| 2009 Tulsa Depth Chart
- 2008 Tulsa Preview | 2007 Tulsa Preview | 2006 Tulsa Preview

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Head coach: Todd Graham
3rd year: 21-7
4th year overall: 28-13
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 16, Def. 20, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best Tulsa Players
1. WR Damaris Thomas, Soph.
2. S James Lockett, Sr.
3. LB Mike Bryan, Sr.
4. FB Charles Clay, Jr.
5. WR Slick Shelley, Sr.
6. NG Wilson Garrison, Sr.
7. WR Trae Johnson, Jr.
8. LB Tanner Antle, Jr.
9. LB George Clinkscale, Sr.
10. LT Tyler Holmes, Soph.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2009 Record:

9/4 at Tulane
9/12 at New Mexico
9/19 at Oklahoma
9/26 Sam Houston State
10/3 at Rice
10/14 Boise State
10/21 at UTEP
10/31 SMU
11/7 Houston
11/15 East Carolina
11/21 at Southern Miss
11/27 Memphis

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record:

8/30 at UAB W 45-22
9/6 at North Texas W 56-26
9/20 New Mexico W 56-14
9/27 Central Ark. W 62-34
10/4 Rice W 63-28
10/11 at SMU W 37-31
10/18 UTEP W 77-35
10/26 UCF W 49-19
11/1 at Arkansas L 30-23
11/15 at Houston L 70-30
11/22 Tulane W 56-7
11/29 at Marshall W 38-35
12/5 East Carolina L 27-24
1/6 Ball State W 45-13

Over the last four years, Tulsa has gradually become a machine, spitting out points and winning seasons at an impressive rate. Now, just seven years after producing back-to-back one-win campaigns, the school has become a national commodity that expects to compete for championships annually.

After Steve Kragthorpe laid the foundation, Todd Graham has built up this program beyond anyone’s expectations. The Hurricane has won 38 games over the last four seasons, leading the nation in total offense and averaging 47 points a game in 2008. On offense, the quarterbacks have changed, but the hurry-up, no-huddle attack continues to be too prolific for most opponents to handle. Tulsa hopes that continuity also applies to a coaching staff that’s losing its offensive architect, Gus Malzahn, to Auburn. If the offense sneezes, the entire team will catch a cold because the defense perennially has a few too many holes.

After getting upset in the title game the last two years, Tulsa desperately wants to take the next step in its evolution by winning a Conference USA championship. Graham believes he’s building to a point where the Hurricane will soon be contending for a BCS bowl game, much the way Utah, Hawaii, and Boise State have done this decade. To get there, however, he’ll first have to lead his team over the hump and to the perch of his conference.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback competition. This is as plum a job as there is outside the major conferences. And why not? David Johnson accounted for 49 touchdowns in 2008, and he was a career backup with only modest appeal at the next level. Fill this opening, and the potential is there for an uncommon amount of attention for a Conference USA player. Jacob Bower, G.J. Kinne, and Shavodrick Beaver all have an interesting story and a burning desire to be under center when Tulsa travels to Tulane on Sept. 4.

What to watch for on Defense: The pass rush up front. Although Tulsa only employs three defensive linemen and will blitz frequently, the secondary would benefit if it didn’t have to sell out so often. Not only did the line do a poor job of creating pressure, but its best edge guy, Moton Hopkins, has graduated and George Clinkscale is moving back to outside linebacker. The onus falls on Odrick Ray, Cory Dorris, and Un’Tavious Scott to collapse the pocket with a little less assistance than in the past.

The team will be far better if … the defense can create more turnovers. This was the same problem that haunted the 2007 edition. Tulsa takes chances with its attacking 3-3-5 defense, but it hasn’t gotten enough dividends for that frenetic style. More specifically, the Hurricane has to get more picks after finishing with just nine a year ago. The faster it can get the ball in the hands of the offense, the better it is for everyone in old gold and blue.  

The Schedule:
Starting out the year with three straight road games, four in the first five, and five of the first seven is hardly a way to rebuild. On the plus side, the Golden Hurricane plays at home for four of the last five games. Playing Oklahoma and Boise State will be high-profile non-conference games, but Tulsa needs some more tuning up. The biggest problem is the interdivision schedule getting the East's three toughest teams: East Carolina, Southern Miss and Memphis. Against the West, Tulsa gets Houston at home.

Best Offensive Player
: Sophomore WR Damaris Johnson. Johnson set the bar unusually high as a true freshman, finishing fifth nationally in all-purpose yards, while setting the stage for dynamite career in Tulsa. Undersized and overly quick, he caught 53 passes, ran for 327 yards, and was one of the league’s premier kick returners. He’s the kind of jackrabbit that needs to be accounted for at all times by opposing defenses.

Best Defensive Player: Senior S James Lockett. At Tulsa, playmakers have a habit of popping up at the most unexpected time. Lockett, for instance. An afterthought in his first three seasons, he blossomed into the team’s most disruptive defensive force. Playing the spur and permitted to freelance, he roamed through opposing offenses for 82 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles.
Key player to a successful season: The new quarterback. Tulsa lives and dies by its offense, putting pressure on David Johnson’s successor to deliver without any setbacks. Whether it’s Jacob Bower, G.J. Kinne, or Shavodrick Beaver, he has to distribute the ball effectively, getting all of the Hurricane’s speedy weapons involved in the offense. When Tulsa has scored 30 or fewer points over the last two seasons, it’s gone 1-6. More than 30? 21-1.

The season will be a success if ... the Hurricane wins the Conference USA crown. The program has reached a point where it expects to win a title every year, and has the talent to back up that mindset. It’s fallen short in the championship game the last two seasons, losing to UCF and East Carolina, so there’s a feeling of unfinished business surrounding the school.    
Key game: Nov. 7 vs. Houston. This has become the must-see game in Conference USA each year, featuring more fireworks than South of the Border and major implications in the West Division. Tulsa obliterated Houston, 56-7, in 2007. The Cougars responded last November with a 70-30 rout. Maybe one of these years the game will be competitive in the second half. 

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Second quarter score: Tulsa 201 - Opponents 122
- Third down conversions: Tulsa 110-of-193 (57%) - Opponents 70-of-191 (47%)
- Points per game: Tulsa 47.2 - Opponents 27.9