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Golden Tornado

Golden Tornado

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Location: Tulsa, Okla.Nickname: Golden Hurricane.

How in the world does a team in Oklahoma have this nickname? When Coach Howard Archer took over the program in 1922, he decided to name the team the Golden Tornadoes; this makes sense, at least meteorologically.

But the name was taken by Georgia Tech, so Archer and his team opted to go with Hurricane, not Tornadoes.

2008 Countdown ranking: No.


What I said in last year’s preview: Despite the loss of a three-year starter like Smith, I like Tulsa to win the Conference USA title.

What’s the ceiling for this team? It may very well be an undefeated season.

Of all the non-B.C.S.

conference teams, I have Tulsa among the top five, meaning it has a legitimate chance at busting into the B.C.S.

To do so, it must obviously finish undefeated, a task made tougher by Conference USA’s championship game.

But predicting Tulsa will appear in a B.C.S.

game is unrealistic, especially after losing Smith.

So where will Tulsa finish? I have the Golden Hurricane finishing the regular season 10-2, with one of those losses coming against either U.C.F.

or Houston.

Over all, finishing as Conference USA champs and with its second consecutive double-digit win season (for the first time in program history) would be indicative of where this program currently stands.Postseason re-ranking: No.

35.2008 record and recap: (11-3, 7-1).

Tulsa’s 11 wins set a team record, breaking the mark of 10 set in 1916 and tied five times since, including in 2007.

Never before had the Golden Hurricane reached double-digit victories in back-to-back seasons, as it did from 2007-8; this stretch coincides with the university’s hiring of Todd Graham, the former Rice coach and Golden Hurricane defensive coordinator.

In his short tenure, Graham has built upon the foundation formed by the former T.U.

coach Steve Kragthorpe, who led the team to three eight-win or better seasons in four years.

Graham’s two squads have combined to win 21 games, mainly because of the best offense in the F.B.S.

Tulsa has led the nation in total offense in each of the last two seasons, averaging 569.9 yards per game (7,978 yards) a season ago.

In addition, T.U.

scored 661 points â€Â" the second most in N.C.A.A.

history â€Â" reaching at least 37 points in 11 of the team’s 14 games.

The Golden Hurricane rode this productive attack to a second consecutive Conference USA West division crown, but again dropped the conference championship game.

Nevertheless, this was perhaps the best team in Tulsa’s history.High point: An 8-0 start.

The best win in that stretch was a convincing 63-28 victory over Rice, where Tulsa pulled away in the second half.

The 45-13 win over Ball State in the G.M.A.C.

Bowl marked Tulsa’s second-largest margin of victory in postseason play, trailing only 2007’s N.C.A.A.

bowl-record 56-point win over Bowling Green.Low point: Three tough defeats.

One, a 30-23 loss at Arkansas, was the first blemish of the season.

The next weekend, Houston embarrassed the Golden Hurricane defense in a 70-30 rout.

Finally, Tulsa lost in the Conference USA title game for the second straight season, this time to East Carolina, 27-24.

Tulsa’s seven turnovers, five interceptions, certainly didn’t help its cause.Tidbit: As mentioned, Tulsa has led the nation in total offense in each of the last two seasons.

In doing so, T.U.

joined only six other teams who have led the nation in this statistic in consecutive seasons.

I’d ask you who the other five were, but frankly, I don’t know, either.

Tulsa was equally noteworthy in scoring, finishing behind only last fall’s Oklahoma team for most points scored in a season (O.U.

had 716).

The Golden Hurricane’s 661 points ranks ahead of great teams like the 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers and the 2005 Texas Longhorns and U.S.C.


Tidbit (quiz question edition): No, there is no foreign language preview on the line in this case.

But there will be one Friday, so stay tuned.

My question, and one that can most likely be addressed by Tulsa fans â€Â" and, more specifically, perhaps only graduates of the university â€Â" is this: It’s the University of Tulsa; why does it go by T.U.? Former players in the N.F.L.: 7 â€Â" LB Chris Chamberlain (St.

Louis Rams), QB Gus Frerotte (Minnesota Vikings), CB Nick Graham (Indianapolis Colts), WR Brennan Marion (Miami Dolphins), TE Garrett Mills (Minnesota Vikings), OT Kevin Shaffer (Chicago Bears), QB Paul Smith (Jacksonville Jaguars).Top five N.F.L.

players from Tulsa: I was hoping to find five players who spent their entire careers with the same team, but Matuszak put an end to that.

Over all, a very good list from the Golden Hurricane.

It’s led by Largent, whose hit on Mike Harden remains my favorite N.F.L.-related story, but includes three additional memorable players.

Finks was a solid player, but is in the Hall of Fame for his work as an executive.

Just missing the cut: quarterback Gus Frerotte.


WR Steve Largent (Seattle; 1976-89) 2.

WR Drew Pearson (Dallas; 1973-83) 3.

OT Bob St.

Clair (San Francisco; 1953-63) 4.

QB Jim Finks (Pittsburgh; 1949-55) 5.

LB Marv Matuszak (Pit., S.F., G.B., Bal., Buf., Den.; 1953-64)TeamConference: Conference USA, West division.Head coach: Todd Graham (East Central University ‘87), 21-7 after two seasons with the Golden Hurricane.

His back-to-back double-digit seasons are the first in team history.

Over the past two years, Tulsa has won a pair of Conference USA West division titles, though the Golden Hurricane has lost in the conference title game in each season.

A 10-win 2007 campaign marked a triumphant return to Tulsa for Graham, who served as the current Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator from 2003-5.

The Golden Hurricane defense made a distinct improvement in each of Graham’s seasons, improving from 109th nationally in total defense in 2002 to 60th in 2003 and 40th in his final season.

The pass defense ranked among the top 25 each campaign, perhaps a result of Graham’s experience as a two-time all-N.A.I.A.

defensive back at East Central University in the mid-1980s.

It was after the 2005 season that Graham received his first collegiate head coaching opportunity, taking on a struggling Rice program coming off a 1-10 finish in 2005.

Graham led the Owls to a 7-6 record and a bowl appearance (their first in 45 years) in his lone season, and was the logical choice for the Tulsa job when it became open after the 2006 season.

Before arriving in Tulsa in 2003, Graham coached under Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia from 2001-2, first as linebackers coach, before taking on the co-defensive coordinator job his second season.

He was a vital part of a 9-4 2002 season, the first of Rodriguez’s five straight seasons of tremendous play with the Mountaineers.

Given the fact that Graham, minus 2006, has played a major role in each of Tulsa’s successful seasons, he may deserve much of the credit for Tulsa’s revival.

With his national standing on the rise, he may be a target of a B.C.S.

conference program in the near future.Tidbit (coaching edition): Tulsa lost its esteemed offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Auburn, where he’ll take on the same position.

Malzahn had been the coordinator for each of the past two seasons, a period in which Tulsa put together a pair of the most impressive offenses in F.B.S.


Malzahn will be replaced by Herb Hand, the Tulsa offensive line coach who also carried the title of co-offensive coordinator alongside Malzahn.

Don’t expect any changes in philosophy, but I’ll be paying close attention to how well the T.U.

offense performs without Malzahn calling the shots.

Hand is certainly a qualified replacement.Returning starters: 13 (6 offense, 8 defense).Key losses: What a standout season it was for quarterback David Johnson, who stepped into Paul Smith’s large shoes and put forth one of the finest passing seasons in the history of the program.

In all, Johnson’s 4,059 yards passing and 46 touchdowns trailed only Smith for the best marks at the college.

He got off to a bang, completing 20 of 24 passes for 332 yards and 3 scores against U.A.B., and never looked back.

Johnson cracked 280 yards eight times and threw for at least five touchdowns in three separate games.

If it weren’t for a five-interception performance against East Carolina in the conference championship game, Johnson would have finished with the best passer rating in F.B.S.

history; as it was, his 178.69 rating was good for second in the nation.

Equally impressive was the running back Tarrion Adams, who concluded his career with a team-record 3,651 yards rushing.

He also tied the team's career record with 32 rushing touchdowns.

As a senior, Adams rushed for a single-season record 1,523 yards and 14 touchdowns, and added 23 receptions for 213 yards.

He was a perfect fit for Tulsa’s spread offense.

The Golden Hurricane also lost its top receiver in Brennan Marion, who secured his place as college football’s premier deep threat with a 25.9-yards-per-reception average as a senior.

Care to be impressed? As jaw-dropping as that average was, Marion set an N.C.A.A.

record in averaging a staggering 31.9 yards per catch (39 receptions for 1,244 yards) as a junior.

As I said last year, video game numbers (if you’re good enough, which I’m not).

Three starters are lost up front: right tackle Rodrick Thomas, right guard Justin Morsey and center Jody Whaley.

Both Morsey (first-team) and Thomas (honorable mention) earned all-conference honors as seniors, while Whaley, who graduated, opted to forgo his final season of eligibility.

Losses are also felt on the defensive line, where the Golden Hurricane must find two new starters.

The first is end Moton Hopkins, who made 42 career starts.

As a senior, Hopkins finished fourth on the team with 77 tackles, and finished second on the team with 12 tackles for loss.

For his career, Hopkins posted 216 tackles and 26.5 tackles for loss.

He was a second-team all-conference pick as a junior and senior.

The big nose guard Terrel Nemons made 30 career starts of his own.

As a senior, Nemmons had 38 tackles, a career high, with three tackles for loss.

One additional starter must be replaced in the secondary.

Roy Roberts, who split time between cornerback and bandit as a senior, finished his final season with 65 tackles and 3 interceptions.

For his career, the 2008 all-conference honorable mention had 186 tackles and 10 interceptions, including two he returned for scores.

He departs with 44 career starts.

On special teams, kicker Jarod Tracy set the college's career scoring record with 286 points (with most coming on many, many extra points).

Players to watch: Despite its losses, Tulsa will feature a sterling set of offensive skill players.

Let’s begin at wide receiver, if for no other reason than I have those notes in front of me.

The sophomore Damaris Johnson was spectacular as a rookie, leading the team and the conference with 2,475 all-purpose yards: 743 receiving, 327 rushing, 1,382 on kick returns and 23 on punt returns.

He led the team with 53 receptions and 10 receiving touchdowns, and also led the team in averaging 8.0 yards per carry.

Johnson’s a potential all-American, if not this year than in the future.

He’s joined by the senior Slick Shelley (39 receptions for 627 yards and 8 scores) and the junior Trae Johnson (20 for 475, 3 scores).

Shelley, a Tennessee transfer, was strong in his first season in the program, while Johnson suffered a statistical dip after passing 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman.

Rounding out this solid group is the senior Jesse Meyer and the junior A.J.


The backfield is led by the junior fullback Charles Clay, who also excels in the passing game.

As a sophomore, Clay caught 38 balls for 464 yards and 9 scores; he added 145 yards on the ground.

With Adams gone, look for Clay to continue to excel in the passing game while adding more carries to his résumé.

The favorite to fill Adams’s spot in the starting lineup is the junior Jamad Williams, who finished second on the team in rushing last fall with 523 yards.

The line will have a new look, but Tulsa can build around the talented sophomore Tyler Holmes, who started all 14 games at left tackle as a freshman.

Also back up front is the senior guard Curt Puckett, who has started 27 of Tulsa’s last 28 games.

The T.U.

defense will be strong at linebacker.

All three starters return, including the terrific senior middle linebacker Mike Bryan, who led Tulsa with 119 tackles (10.5 for loss) in 2008.

Seeing as last fall marked his first year in the starting lineup, Bryan could be even better in his final season.

The starters on the outside are Tanne Antle (63 stops, 4.5 sacks) and George Clinkscale (53, 2 sacks).

The senior James Lockett returns to man the spur position, a fifth defensive back who is asked to play the run like a linebacker and the pass like a safety.

In his first year in the starting lineup, Lockett led the team with 16.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.

The front three in Tulsa’s 3-3-5 brings back only one starter, the senior Wilson Garrison.

Though smaller than Nemons, Garrison will be moved to nose guard after making nine starts at end as a junior.

The former JUCO transfer was an honorable mention all-Conference USA selection last fall.


also returns a pair of experienced ends in the junior Un’Tavious Scott and the senior Odrick Ray.

They’re the favorites to step into the two open spots on the line.

One area of concern is the play of the secondary, which contributed to Tulsa's allowing 249.6 yards passing per game and 32 touchdowns through the air.

A handful of starters return, so perhaps an improvement is in line for 2009.

Beyond Lockett, the Golden Hurricane will bring back the senior free safety Charles Davis (78 tackles, 2 interceptions) and three 2008 starters at cornerback.

The senior Kenny D.

Sims started all 14 games, making 41 tackles and an interception, while the sophomore John Flanders and the senior Jon Destin each made five starts.

That duo will battle for the full-time job.

After making six starts as a rookie, the sophomore DeAundre Brown (56 tackles, 2 interceptions) is slated to replace Roberts at the spur position.Position battle to watch: I do my best to look at competition outside the glamour positions, but when a quarterback battle arises, I have no choice.

There is certainly one brewing at Tulsa, as Graham and his staff are auditioning three capable candidates to replace the one-year star David Johnson under center.

The first challenger is the junior Jacob Bower, who backed up Johnson a season ago.

He didn’t get much action (11 of 15 for 138 yards), but his pedigree â€Â" a commitment to B.Y.U.

and a highly regarded stint on the junior college level â€Â" is impressive.

Joining him under center is the sophomore G.J.

Kinne and the incoming freshman Shavodrick Beaver.

Kinne is a transfer from Texas who sat out last fall because of N.C.A.A.


Beaver is the top recruit in Tulsa’s 2009 class; he had committed to Michigan before choosing T.U., which should give you some indication of his skills.

One thing separates these three from previous T.U.

quarterbacks: each arrived with much fanfare, unlike a player like Johnson, who was little known before ascending to the top spot last fall.

The position battle remained undecided heading into the summer, and the starter will not be named until practice resumes in the fall.

Which of the three will strike the quarterback lottery and win the starting role?2009 schedule: Sept.

4 @ Tulane Sept.

12 @ New Mexico Sept.

19 @ Oklahoma Sept.

26 Sam Houston State Oct.

3 @ Rice Oct.

14 Boise State Oct.

21 @ UTEP Oct.

31 Southern Methodist Nov.

7 Houston Nov.

15 East Carolina Nov.

21 @ Southern Mississippi Nov.

27 MemphisGame(s) to watch: I’m interested in seeing how many points Tulsa can put up on Oklahoma, though the Sooners will undoubtedly score more.

The Oct.

14 home date with Boise State is the premier non-BC.S.-conference matchup of the season.

In Conference USA play, keep an eye on the first three weeks of November; luckily for Tulsa, the first two games come at home.Season breakdown & prediction: It says much about how far this program has come over this decade that an eight-win season, which I’m predicting, can be construed as a letdown.

Lest we all forget, Tulsa finished with only one winning season from 1987-2002, and went a combined 2-21 over the two seasons before Steve Kragthorpe’s arrival in 2003.

The Golden Hurricane has been on the rise since, culminating in the back-to-back double-digit win seasons under Graham.

I think that streak ends in 2009.

But not by much: I have Tulsa favored in seven games, and only penciled in for one definite loss (Oklahoma).

How good can T.U.

be? I don’t expect much of a decline on offense, though matching last year’s numbers with a new quarterback may be tough.

Of course, I said the same thing in my 2008 preview.

I also don’t believe Tulsa will struggle on defense, though the secondary must be a concern.

Over all, it’s the schedule that will keep the Golden Hurricane from reaching 10 wins; T.U.

gets two very difficult nonconference games and a deadly late-season stretch in Conference USA play.

I have the team losing two of three against Houston, East Carolina and Southern Mississippi, and finishing 8-4, 6-2 in conference.

Second behind Houston, breaking Tulsa’s two-year hold on the West division.

Dream season: A tough loss to Oklahoma only propels Tulsa to greater heights: 11-1, unblemished in Conference USA play.

Tulsa goes on to win its first conference title since 2005.Nightmare season: Tulsa scuffles through a 6-6 regular season.

A lot would have to go wrong for this to occur.Where do Tulsa fans congregate: Golden Hurricane message boards can be found at Inside Tulsa Sports and

You can also find recruiting coverage at both sites.

More information can be found at the Web site of The Tulsa World, though the paper focuses much more on Oklahoma’s big two F.B.S.

programs than on T.U.Who is No.

53? An easy one for Friday.

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