Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Season Preview
Steve Kragthorpe was the one who turned this program around as he came into the 2003 season with absolutely no momentum, with the Golden Hurricane just 2-21 the previous two seasons under Keith Burns.
Yet, Kragthorpe guided them to three bowl appearances and a solid 29-22 record.
The Todd Graham era began and he led them to three 10-win seasons along with one 5-7 season. They finished the season ranked No. 25 and finished 2010 at 67-60 for the decade. Still, Graham shockingly left for the Pitt coaching job and left Bill Blankenship in charge.
No head coaching experience or even as an actual coordinator means he will need some sort of his senior leaders to step up this season. Blankenship was a former Tulsa quarterback (’75-‘79) and actually has coached RBs, WRs, & STs since 2007 but has still never been a coordinator.
Blankenship was a primetime high school head coach in Oklahoma (Spiro, Edmond Memorial, and Union), but D1 Football is certainly a different story.
A Star in His Own Right
Quarterback Paul Smith left in ’07 and became the all-time passing leader. Two years later, a Texas transfer by the name of GJ Kinne stepped in. He has filled any type of void that was gone and is now coming off a season in which he was the leading rusher on top of being a solid quarterback.
Kinne looks to make All C-USA this year and if he improves upon his 31-10 TD/INT ratio, it will soon be a foregone conclusion that he receives the national hype he deserves.
Fresh off a year where he ranked first in C-USA for total offense (322 ypg), second in pass efficiency (141.8) and passing yards per game (275.6 ypg), GJ is a budding star.
Kinne led Tulsa to the No. 1 ranking in C-USA in rushing offense, scoring offense and total offense last season. Kinne also had one 400-plus-yard game and five 300-plus passing yard games.
He completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,307 yards and 28 TDs, while also rushing for 557 yards and 7 TDs.
This offense will be better than the Houston Cougars because they have 10 starters back on offense including all five offensive linemen.
They have the premier line in C-USA, which is a top 20 unit in America. Center Trent Dupy made Second Team All-C-USA a season ago and left tackle Tyler Holmes has a great chance matching that this season. Right tackle Brian DeShane (junior), RG Stetson Burnett (sophomore) and left guard Clint Anderson have over 50 starts and this line is among the most experienced in America.
Despite losing Charles Clay at halfback, the return of Trey Watts, Ja’Terian Douglas, Willie Carter and Alex Singleton should make this unit even more productive.
The receiving core will be the best in C-USA because of Damaris Johnson, Thomas Roberson and Ricky Johnson.
Johnson made First Team All-C-USA and is coming into his senior season with over 3,500 yards of total offense and over 7,600 yards of total all-purpose yards! He has been so sensational that he has led America in all-purpose running for two consecutive seasons.
Tulsa was fifth in total offense last year and should continue to go bonkers in conference play this season.
Much Improved Secondary
The defense returns eight starters and defensive coordinator Brent Guy is looking to improve upon the ranking of 111th, allowing 450 yards per game.
They ranked 34th against the run, allowing 131 yards per game and against the pass they were dead last, allowing 319 yards per game! Marco Nelson made First Team All-C-USA as just a freshman and at only six feet and 192 pounds, many questioned how much he was even going to play right out of the gate.
Nelson has answered the call with authority as he is arguably the best defensive back in the entire conference (UCF-Robinson) and with corner John Flanders back (GW INT over Floyd & Irish), Tulsa will no longer be a joke in the back four.
Fierce Front Four
The front four has been mediocre through the years but with both of their defensive ends back, this could and should be the best in group years.
Tyrunn Walker and Cory Dorris are capable bookends who can harass passers. The interior of their line still needs improvement but at least they have the best linebacking core in the conference minus the Houston Cougars.
Curnelius Arnick led with 115 tackles, 5 sacks and 4 tackles for losses one season ago. Shawn Jackson and DeAundre Brown (redshirt LY) also return and they should only give this defense more of a spark.
The schedule is fairly easy as far as C-USA goes, but the non-conference is nearly impossible with games against Boise State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. I feel that despite losing pretty badly to these three teams, this will only help them for games against UCF and Houston. If they manage to knock off the Cougars, they should be on their way in the Conference USA Championship.
Predicted Finish: 9-5, 8-1
Predicted Bowl: Liberty Bowl
Predicted order of finish in C-USA: First in West, First in C-USA