After a 2-10 season, only two years removed from a Conference USA title, it’s safe to say that the Tulsa football program is in free fall. Also, apparently I was really feeling the Tom Cruise clips this week. However, Phillip Montgomery is one of the most exciting hires in the conferences and may end up being Tulsa’s “Angel of the Morning”.
We don’t have video evidence of WR Keevan Lucas’ reaction to the Montgomery hire, but I like to imagine it looked a little something like this…
Lucas managed to catch 101 passes for over 1,200 yards in an inefficient offense last year. The sky is the limit for Lucas in 2015, and it wouldn’t be a stretch for him to lead the conference in receiving. His main running mate Keyarris Garrett should also be jumping for joy. Garrett had 47 catches for 698 yards last year.
Montgomery’s first task this offseason should have been working with QB Dane Evans on ball security. Evans’ 3,102 yards and 23 touchdowns were comparable to the conference leaders, but his 17 interceptions really hurt the Golden Hurricane. He also completed a mere 55.4% of his passes. That isn’t awful, but closer to 60 should be the goal.
Freshman QB Chad President is a guy to look out for if Evans can’t quit throwing the ball away. President was originally a Baylor commit, but followed Montgomery to Tulsa.
Plenty of all carriers return in the backfield, but expect the lion’s share of the carries to go to Zach Langer and James Flanders. Langer and Flanders led the team in carries last year and went for over 1,250 yards and 5 touchdowns combined. That touchdown total needs to improve, but the yardage and yards per carry (4.1 and 4.5 respectively) numbers were fine.
A solid line should augment all of these potential playmakers at the skill positions. Garrett Stafford is a two-year starter at left tackle and Dylan Foxworth has 18 career starts at center. Expect the two of these guys to be the leaders of a deep and experienced line, with seven total linemen on the roster with starting experience.
Most of you may be thinking at this point, how was this team 2-10 if they had so many playmakers on offense? The defense completely fell apart last year is the easy answer to that question. They finished outside the top 100 in virtually every standard and advanced metric imaginable.
Derrick Alexander was one of the few bright spots of this defense. He proved a chaotic force at defensive end with 12 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He needs to continue that this year if this Tulsa team is going to stop anybody.
Craig Suits and Trent Martin are experienced linebackers and the two combined for over 100 tackles last year. No other linebacker on this team reached even ten tackles last year though, so these two will shoulder a big burden in 2015. And while they may end up being good, the lack of depth will end up hurting the Golden Hurricane.
Much like the linebacking corps, the secondary has a bright spot at the top of the depth chart in safety Michael Mudoh. No other player in the secondary had more than 15 tackles last year, and only two had more than ten. A thin back seven could prove to be a very costly Achilles’ heel.
Sometimes a team has to bottom out before they can start to rebuild, and that may be the case in Phillip Montgomery’s first year. Much like I wrote about Troy, I think the first year under the new coach will be the worst, but brighter days are definitely on the horizon. Another big issue is that Tulsa doesn’t have the easiest schedule, especially the home schedule. Florida Atlantic goes to Tulsa in week 1, and that’s easily the best bet for the Golden Hurricane to win one in front of the home crowd.
Credit Cover Photo to David Manning/USA TODAY Sports