2010 Tulsa Preview - Defense
Tulsa S/LB DeAundre Brown
Tulsa S/LB DeAundre Brown
Posted Jul 3, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Tulsa Golden Hurricane Defense

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Preview 2010 - Defense

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- 2010 Tulsa Defense | 2010 Tulsa Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: For the second consecutive season, the Tulsa D took steps in the right direction, but why doesn't it seem to be enough? It could be that the Hurricane got progressively worse as the season progressed, allowing an average of 41 points over the final four games. It was that last stretch, which eliminated a solid first half of the year. The program will continue to employ a 3-3-5 formation that gets as many good athletes on the field at one time, and requires them to play hard and fast. That philosophy accepts that big plays will be allowed as long as it nets even more sacks and takeaways. The pillars of the defense will be DE Cory Dorris, LB Tanner Antle, and spur safety DeAundre Brown at each respective level.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: DeAundre Brown, 102
Sacks: Cory Dorris, 3
Interceptions: Multiple, 1

Star of the defense: Junior Spur DeAundre Brown
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior NG Darrell Zellars
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FS Dexter McCoil
Best pro prospect: Brown
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Brown, 2) Senior LB Tanner Antle, 3) Sophomore DE Cory Dorris
Strength of the defense: The defensive ends, overall athleticism, creating backfield pressure, third down defense
Weakness of the defense: Pass defense, allowing the big play

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: While the ends appear set, a new nose guard is needed. Enter 6-2, 300-pound junior Darrell Zellars, a first-year transfer from Hutchinson (Kans.) Community College, who already took part in spring drills. Although he brings some much-needed width to the middle of the line, he also possesses the quickness and burst to get penetration, making a ton of stops behind the line at the previous level.

Leading the way at one outside spot is 6-4, 255-pound sophomore Cory Dorris, a very pleasant surprise in his debut on the field. After winning a tight race for the job, he went on to lead all linemen with 54 tackles, adding 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and two forced fumbles. He has the lean and technique to get into the backfield, yet is also strong enough to hold up versus the run.

In contrast at the opposite end, senior Odrick Ray is more of a pure run-stuffer than someone who'll be counted on to apply steady pressure. At 6-3 and 270 pounds, he has the build and the base of many tackles, holding his ground and creating congestion in the running lanes. A veteran of three letters for the program, he posted a career-best 21 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and a sack last season.

Projected Top Reserves: In the event that Zellars can't hold on to the assignment at the nose, 6-2, 266-pound sophomore Derrick Jackson will get the call. Earning a letter in his first season of action, he played in seven games and made six snaps. He still has a long way to go, needing to improve his fundamentals and add some more weight.

A possible successor to Ray at defensive end is 6-3, 265-pound sophomore Daeshon Bufford, who earned a letter in his debut out of high school, making four stops and appearing in eight games. A coveted recruit from a year ago, he has the mix of agility and upper body strength to command a bigger role in the rotation and earn the starting nod in 2011.

Watch Out For .... the way Zellars adapts to his sudden promotion. Yeah, he was dominant as a Blue Dragon, but this isn't the Jayhawk Conference any longer. Conference USA will provide an entirely different level of competition, and Tulsa needs someone who can take up space in the middle of the line.
Strength: The ends. In Dorris and Ray, the Hurricane has a pair of returning starters covering the flanks. While both possess the size and strength to provide support against the run, Dorris, in particular, has already proven he can collapse the pocket as well.
Weakness: Stuffing the run. What does it say about the interior of the defense that the Hurricane is placing so much emphasis on Zellars, who's yet to play a down at this level? If he comes through, the concerns might be unfounded, but right now, Tulsa appears susceptible to power running games.
Outlook: Depth is a concern and Zellars needs to be a space-eater, but Tulsa has a chance to be solid up front, especially if Dorris continues to blossom into an all-star type performer. At a minimum, averaging 275 pounds across the starting line is something few Conference USA teams can boast.


Projected Starters: Now that Mike Bryan has graduated, 6-4, 225-pound senior Tanner Antle is set to take over as the leader of the linebackers from weakside. Entering his third year as a starter, he's a rangy and agile athlete, who's packed on weight, yet has maintained the burst and quickness that have become his trademarks. Able to make plays all over the field, he finished fourth with a career-high 78 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.

Holding down strongside will be 6-1, 231-pound junior Curnelius Arnick, a returning starter and letterman in each of the last two seasons. In the most extensive action of his career, he had 53 tackles, three tackles for loss, and a sack. Playing with a non-stop motor, he can cover a lot of ground, making him useful in pass defense, on special teams, and when blitzes are called.

The freshest face among the potential starters in the middle is 6-0, 250-pound redshirt freshman Shawn Jackson, who was coveted by a number of Big 12 schools. A former dual-threat quarterback in high school, he grayshirted a year ago to get bigger and stronger. For a player his size, he moves surprisingly well, a combination that's going to lead to plenty of stops in run defense over the next four years.

Projected Top Reserves: Behind Jackson at middle linebacker will 5-10, 203-pound sophomore Alan Dock, who has an edge in experience, but less overall upside. He appeared in four games a year ago, making four tackles and showing off the range and athleticism of a safety. While he'll provide depth and contribute on special teams, his lack of size will be a liability in run defense.

True freshman Donnell Hawkins is another first year player, who's going to play an important part of the rotation this season. The likely successor to Antle at weakisde, he's explosive off the edge and quick enough to excel as a pass defender. While just 6-1 and 210 pounds, he's expected to fill out over time, which will help his potential as a run stopper.

Watch Out For .... Jackson to lay the ground floor of a very successful career in Tulsa. Not only does he cover a lot of ground at 6-0 and 250 pounds, but he has the work ethic and drive to succeed that hasn't gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.
Strength: Range. Above all else, the Tulsa linebackers are good athletes, who move well laterally and can fill running lanes in a hurry. Even as Antle, Arnick, and Jackson have packed on weight, they've remained light on their feet and able to freelance all over the field.
Weakness: Inexperience in the middle. Everyone seems to love the upside of Jackson, but he's still a first-year player, which pretty much guarantees some level of inconsistency. Plus, he's trying to fill the shoes of Bryan, one of the program's most consistent defenders over the last three years. Outlook: Two years removed from losing the trio of Nelson Coleman, Chris Chamberlain, and Alain Karatepeyan, Tulsa is still trying to regroup at linebacker. Antle is a solid anchor, but he's surrounded by only modest talent, and a rookie in the middle is hardly an ideal situation.


Projected Starters: In the Hurricane's edition of the 3-3-5, the fifth defensive back is a versatile hybrid known as the spur. In light of the graduation of all-star James Lockett, 5-11, 200-pound junior DeAundre Brown is poised to take over the position. One of the school's key recruits of 2008, he's played extensively in his first two seasons, leading the 2009 team with 102 tackles and three stops behind the line. A physical defender, with improving ball skills, he has his eye on a spot on the all-star team this fall.

The defense got a break when 5-9, 180-pound senior Charles Davis was granted a medical redshirt year after tearing his ACL last September. A former free safety making the switch to cornerback, he plays bigger than his frame and doesn't shy away from contact. In 2008, he had 78 tackles, supporting the run well, but still has a lot to prove when the ball is in the air.

Challenging for the other corner spot is 5-10, 175-pound senior Laquentin Black, who made his debut out of North Iowa Area Community College last season. He played sparingly in a dozen games, making 12 tackles and contributing on special teams. The staff likes his physicality when the ball is in the air and his ability to go step-for-step with some of the teams faster receivers. Now, he has to go out and prove it in the games.

At bandit, 5-10, 170-pound junior John Flanders is doing being the apprentice and has his sights fixed on becoming a full-timer. Playing in all 12 games and made 24 tackles, but did little to contribute in pass defense. A terrific athlete, with good speed and leaping ability, he needs to avoid getting out muscled by bigger receivers.

Despite enjoying a breakout first year, sophomore Dexter McCoil will still have to stave off the competition in order to win the free safety job. He was terrific in 2009, his first on campus, finishing third on the team with 85 tackles and breaking up six passes. At 6-4 and 175 pounds, he has the long frame that's sure to fill out in coming years, and the athletic ability to start making more big plays.

Projected Top Reserves: Pushing McCoil hard at free safety is 5-11, 198-pound sophomore Trent Wilkins, who is also one of Brown's caddies at spur. While quite a bit shorter, he's also a lot thicker and better equipped to deliver the payload. He, too, got on the field in his first season, making nine tackles, playing on special teams, and earning a letter.

The Hurricane believes it once again scored big at the JUCO level with 6-0, 180-pound junior Milton Howell, who's currently running second to Flanders at bandit. A quarterback while at Navarro (Tex.) Junior College, he's moving to defense in order to showcase his leadership, poise, and versatility.

Watch Out For .... Brown to take the next big step in his evolution. He's simply a playmaker, and now that he has two full seasons of experience in the rear view, he'll be even better equipped to uphold that reputation.
Strength: Open field tackling. The upside to so many plays drifting beyond the first and second levels of defense is that the defensive backs have been forced to become proficient wrap-up tacklers. The safeties react like linebackers, and the corners hit like safeties. Call it a job requirement in Tulsa.
Weakness: Pass defense. New year. Same problem for the Hurricane. Tulsa continues to be soft in coverage, allowing 23 touchdown passes and picking off just nine all season. It actually improved from 2008, but without a true lockdown corner, can more strides realistically be expected this fall?
Outlook: History has shown that one extra defensive back on the field doesn't mean Tulsa will have a man advantage versus opposing passing games. On the contrary, the Hurricane will continue having problems yielding too many big plays and scoring strikes. A physical group, it needs to add a little more finesse to the equation one of these years.
Rating: 4.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Much to the surprise of the program, Tulsa found a placekicker in 2009 who it's going to lean on for the next couple of seasons. Playing one of the more underutilized positions on this team, junior Kevin Fitzpatrick made the most of his limited opportunities, hitting all but one of his 14 field goal attempts. He led the team in scoring and was also an asset on kickoffs, sporting a strong leg that provided a boost to the Hurricane coverage units.

The defense is once again going to be aided by the strong leg of senior P Michael Such, a four-year regular on special teams. The former transfer from Nebraska averaged a career-high 44.5 yards an attempt to rank No. 7 nationally. After earning all-conference honorable mention, he's set to climb a little higher on the honor roll.

In junior Damaris Johnson, the Hurricane will continue to boast one of the nation's more lethal return men. A jack rabbit in the open field, he ranked No. 8 nationally in punt returns and was fifth in the league at 24.5 yards a kick return.

Watch Out For … the development of Fitzpatrick. Is last year's degree of accuracy going to be the norm over the next two seasons? The Hurricane can only hope so. He was an ace on field goal tries in his debut, but wasn't asked to make many pressure kicks or really extend his leg too often.
Strength: The return game. Johnson is so dangerous that he forces opposing coaches to alter the way they kickoff and punt. An extensive of the offense, he's a weapon who provides the Hurricane with better field position and can put up points on his own with just a hint of daylight.
Weakness: Long-distance kicking. It's a nit-pick, for sure, but where else did Tulsa raise any doubts a year ago? All but two of Fitzpatrick's field goal tries came from within 40 yards, leaving open to interpretation his ability to connect from long range.
Outlook: Tulsa has all of the ingredients in place to boast Conference USA's most complete special teams unit. The placekicker and punter are all-league caliber and the return man could get All-American attention. Throw in tight coverage teams, and it's clear that coordinator Bill Blankenship is earning his paycheck.
Unit Rating: 8.5

- 2010 Tulsa Preview | 2010 Tulsa Offense
- 2010 Tulsa Defense | 2010 Tulsa Depth Chart
- Tulsa Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006