Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Head coach: Philip Montgomery
2014 Record: 2-10; 2-6 AAC
2014 Bowl: N/A
2015 Returning Starters: 8 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +990000
Odds to win 2015 AAC Title: +10000
Regular Season Wins: Over 5 (+130), Under 5 (-150)
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Philip Montgomery had success at Baylor and brings that offensive know how to Tulsa in an attempt to start rebuilding the program.
Last year was a disaster for Tulsa, winners of just two games (Tulane in Week 1 and SMU in Week 9). Philip Montgomery should start changing that fast, and his seven years at Baylor will factor in large with what he does. He thinks the team can progress in its second full season as a member of the AAC.
“We’ve had to knock off some of the rust from the spring, and have done well with that, we’re pushing consistency with our players. We need to make sure we have more good plays than bad plays this season,” Montgomery told the AP.
The fit is a good one; Montgomery has long-admired the Golden Hurricanes’ program and its recent bowl triumphs play a role in that. He feels he can take the program to the next level, adding “They’ve (Tulsa) won a conference championship here..won a lot of games, and we want to help them get back to that level.”
Improving scoring is paramount in the AAC and it will begin with junior QB Dane Evans and true freshman Chad President. Evans ranked No. 2 in passing yards in the AAC last season with 258.5 per game, and President was a Baylor commit who is already familiar with a similar offense that he ran in an illustrious high school career.
The Golden Hurricanes have weapons at both RB and WR with senior Zack Langer who led the conference in rushing yards (80.1 per game) as well as WR Keevan Lucas who tallied 101 receptions last season, amassing 1,219 yards and 11 TDs in the process.
Keyarris Garrett should shine at WR too given his 698 yards and five TDs last year. Montgomery really likes the depth in his offensive unit, saying that the team must be in position to make plays. The OL returns four of five starters, too, so the Golden Hurricane should have the blocking it needs to succeed.
Defensively veteran coordinator Bill Young has his work cut out for himself. The team ranked No. 114 last season in total defense, allowing 489 yards per game while also surrendering 39.3 points (119th). It only held one opponent under 30 points the entire season (SMU). It likely will take time to right this mess, but there are some nice pieces which could eventually develop into a formidable unit.
All-AAC second team end Derrick Alexander had 12 tackles for loss last season and 7.5 sacks, and T Derrick Luetjen has started the last 24 Tulsa games.
That brings consistency and experience to a unit somewhat bereft of both. LB Craig Suits was an FWAA Freshman All-American with 81 tackles and he along with Trent Martin should be able to stop runs. Martin had eight tackles in just nine appearances last year, but can certainly build on that as a significant enough sample. The secondary features leading tackler Michael Mudoh who had 113 stops last year.
Punter Dalton Parks averaged 42 yards per kick last season, but all other special teams duties are up for grabs. Preston Soper and Renford Jones will try for the kicking duties and D’Angelo Brewster brings some experience at kickoff returns. Connor Floyd returned punts last year but does not have a stronghold on it this year, with several candidates vying for his role there.
Montgomery is going to build this into a program again, of that there is little doubt. The matter is how quickly he can do it and how much improvement can be expected on last year’s disaster. The Golden Hurricane face Florida Atlantic and New Mexico in Weeks 1 and 2 before facing Oklahoma and Houston in Weeks 3 and 4.
It would be great to come out with a 3-1 record by virtue of winning the easy ones and potentially Houston, but the Oklahoma game is a long shot to say the least. It faces Houston, UCF, Cincinnati and Navy in conference play, which is a pretty tough draw. Due to the relative strength of the schedule it will be difficult for Tulsa to exceed the ‘5’ win O/U set at 5dimes.
Prediction: 4 wins