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2010 Tulsa Preview
Tulsa FB/TE Charles Clay
Tulsa FB/TE Charles Clay
Posted Jul 3, 2010

Tulsa dipped a bit last year in rebuilding mode, but it'll once again be among the most exciting teams in the country with a loaded offense and an improved defense. Will it be enough to get back to the Conference USA title? Check out the CFN 2010 Tulsa Preview.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Preview 2010

- 2010 Tulsa Preview | 2010 Tulsa Offense
- 2010 Tulsa Defense | 2010 Tulsa Depth Chart
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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Todd Graham
Fourth year: 26-14
Returning Lettermen
Off. 23, Def. 15, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 14
Ten Best Tulsa Players
1. WR/KR/PR Damaris Johnson, Jr.
2. HB Charles Clay, Sr.
3. S DeAundre Brown, Jr.
4. QB G.J. Kinne, Jr.
5. LB Tanner Antle, Sr.
6. LT Tyler Holmes, Jr.
7. P Michael Such, Sr.
8. WR Trae Johnson, Sr.
9. DE Cory Dorris, Soph.
10. S Dexter McCoil, Soph.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 5 at East Carolina
Sept. 11 Bowling Green
Sept. 18 at Oklahoma St
Sept. 25 Central Arkansas
Oct. 2 at Memphis
Oct. 9 at SMU
Oct. 16 Tulane
Oct. 30 at Notre Dame
Nov. 6 Rice
Nov. 13 at Houston
Nov. 20 UTEP
Nov. 26 Southern Miss

Now that Tulsa has fallen, how long before it gets back on its feet?

For four seasons between 2005-08, the Hurricane was breezing along, going 38-16 over that four-year stretch and piling points like a pinball machine. And then 2009 happened. A six-game losing streak in the middle of the year evaporated a 4-1 start and unexpectedly sent the program scrambling for answers. Most perplexing, the offense, which had been the cornerstone of Tulsa’s ascent, fell flat. Sure, G.J. Kinne was a first-year quarterback and architect Gus Malzahn had left to coordinate the Auburn offense, but this was supposed to be a plug-and-play attack, right?

Maybe so, but all bets are off when the line allows almost four sacks a game and forces the quarterback to run for his life. Kinne is back, as are top receivers Damaris Johnson, Charles Clay, Trae Johnson, and A.J. Whitmore. However, unless the blockers do a much better job in 2010, this attack will again misfire more than it should.

After Steve Kragthorpe put down the ground floor, head coach Todd Graham has built Tulsa into a shining high-rise that’s overlooked most of the nation’s non-BCS programs over the last few seasons. Now, he has to prove he can overcome adversity and get the Hurricane back into the postseason and back into West Division contention. He has access to enough talent to turn 2009 into an anomaly, but he also has to contend with Houston and SMU in his own backyard, so the margin for error isn’t what it was a few years ago.

What to watch for on offense: The play of the line. Everyone else will be fine ... as long as these guys step it up and play markedly better than a year ago. Basically, if they give QB G.J. Kinne time to operate and distribute to his playmakers, the Hurricane has a chance to approach its production of 2007 and 2008. The good news is that last season’s injuries up front forced a slew of linemen to letter unexpectedly. In fact, nine are back, including four starters, which has the program believing it can get past the disaster of 2009 and provide better support for the backs and receivers.

What to watch for on Defense: The attacking to continue. Sure, the defense will get burned through the air on occasion, but that won’t deter the staff from turning loose its linebackers and safeties in order to create havoc in opposing backfields. The Hurricane plans to play hard and fast, setting the tempo with its speed and intensity, and generating as many sacks and turnovers as possible. The program has recruited a specific type of athlete, who can cover ground quickly and perform the tasks of multiple positions. In Tulsa, the job descriptions can be rather extensive.

The team will be far better if … Kinne gets the time he needs to make plays. The junior is a dynamic playmaker, with his arm and feet, but you didn’t always know it a year ago. Too often, he was avoiding the rush and throwing while under duress. Give him the time he needs to run this offense and run through his progression, and he’ll have a chance to be every bit as productive as predecessors David Johnson and Paul Smith, who won division titles.

The Schedule: It’s not a walk in the park. The Golden Hurricane have to go on the road in interdivisional play to start the season with a nasty date at East Carolina, and going to SMU and Houston in key West Division battles all but ends the conference title hopes. Throw in non-conference dates at Oklahoma State and Notre Dame, and it’ll be a fight throughout. On the plus side, three of the last four games, and four of the last six, are at home.

Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Damaris Johnson. Also the program’s best special teams player, he led the nation in all-purpose yards in 2009. Instant offense when he touches the ball, he ran for 175 yards, caught 78 passes for 1,131 yards and three scores, and was among the country’s most dangerous return men. Fast and elusive when he gets into the open field, he’s like trying to nab a jackrabbit for opposing defenses. For good reason, the staff will do whatever is necessary to get the ball into his hands.

Best Defensive Player: Junior spur DeAundre Brown. He fits the mold that the staff requires at this hybrid position, stepping up to defend the run like a linebacker and seamlessly stepping back into the secondary to cut off passing lanes. Commanding a feature role a year ago, he posted a team-high 102 tackles and three stops for loss. A physical defender in all facets of the game, he won’t catch anyone, including all-star voters, off guard this fall.

Key player to a successful season: Junior RT Brandon Thomas. In a recurring theme this offseason, Tulsa needs to build a fortress around the quarterback after finishing 118th nationally in sacks allowed. The front wall should be set on the left side now that Tyler Holmes is back from injury, but the right side is more of a question mark. Although Thomas has the upside and the size to be a brick wall, he wasn’t a year ago, and needs to start blossoming as quickly as possible.

The season will be a success if ... the Hurricane makes a quick return back to the postseason. For a team that had so much success last decade, nothing would be more deflating than back-to-back bowl-less Decembers. If Tulsa can win seven or eight games in the regular season and perform well versus higher-profile opponents, such as Notre Dame and Oklahoma State, it’ll have successfully put 2009 in the rear view mirror.

Key game: Oct. 9 vs. SMU. Now that Tulsa has slipped behind Houston in the West Division pecking order, it wants to avoid a similar fate with the Mustangs. SMU is surging fast under June Jones, a trend the Hurricane hopes to thwart on the road in Dallas. Having to also travel to play the Cougars a month later, this is a must win if there’s any chance for a divisional crown in 2010.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Red zone touchdown %: Tulsa 57% – Opponents 43%
- First quarter scoring: Tulsa 94 – Opponents 67
- Sacks: Tulsa 25 - Opponents 46

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