POSTED ON JULY 31, 2013:
The Hurricane Cometh
Hoping for a repeat, TU faces hurdles
Ah...Football. It doesn't get any better than this time of the year, does it? No disrespect to baseball fans, but I usually refer to the period between the last day of the NBA Finals and the first day of the football season as "the dry season." Don't get me wrong -- I love going to a baseball game every now and then, but watching it on television is brutal.
Football, on the other hand, was made for TV. College football, in particular, is a joy to behold on Saturday afternoons. Watching these kids play their hearts out with no thought of contracts, showboating, or other selfish ambitions (okay, maybe there's a little thought about those things, but not as much as in the pros) is refreshing and makes for great television. If you've never attended a college football game, well, to call it an experience is an understatement.
With that being said, we are just weeks away from the start of the college football season, and one team in particular is looking to build upon previous successes. The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane had a phenomenal season last year. Ending last season with a whopping 11 wins and only three losses, TU won the Conference USA championship and the Liberty Bowl, and the Hurricane defense was considered one of the best in the conference.
However, for the 2013 season, the Hurricane lost eight starters on defense and will have to depend on their younger players who may have the talent, but may not have a lot of experience.
"Every year, on offense and defense, one of the things that we think is important is that we adapt to the personnel that we have," said head coach Bill Blankenship. "The truth is we will have a much more inexperienced squad defensively. So we fully expect that there will be some mistakes along the way, but we think we've got a group that is going to compare favorably in their abilities. Their speed and athleticism are going to be as good if not better than what we had a year ago."
Blankenship also confirmed that there will be some adjustments made defensively.
"Our defense coordinator, Coach Guy, will be a little more aggressive in terms of possibly doing a little more blitzing and pressure because inexperienced players need to be on the move instead of sitting back waiting to read the defense," explained Coach Blankenship.
Offensively, though, the Hurricane is in good shape as the majority of their weapons are returning for this season. Running backs Ja'Terian Douglas and Trey Watts, who collectively rushed for over 2,000 yards last year, will be in the backfield once again along with wide receivers Keyarris Garrett and Jordan James. The team will be led by quarterback Cody Green who proved to be a capable leader last year. He threw for over 2,500 yards, completed 54 percent of his passes, and had a quarterback rating of 114.5, but even with those impressive stats, Coach Blankenship has even higher hopes for his quarterback.
"We expect Cody to be much more fit this year," said Coach Blankenship, "Last year, Cody was coming off surgery on his hip in the spring and didn't get to train like he should've in the fall. This year, he was down about 15 pounds by the spring, was able to move around in the pocket and become a little more of a threat as a runner.
"Secondly, he will have had all spring and summer with our receivers and, hopefully, the chemistry will have been developed in the passing game a little more than it was a year ago," Blankenship explained. "Fifty-four percent is not where we would want him to be. We think he ought to be closer to the 60 percentile in pass completions, but not all of those were his fault or the receivers' fault. It's about chemistry. You have got to spend time with the guys you are going to throw to, and I believe the time he's spent this summer with those guys is going to pay off this season."
TU will start the season with a bang playing Bowling Green on the road and will host Colorado State for the home opener. Other than an "away" game in Norman versus the Sooners, the one other game TU players are circling on their calendar is a rematch with their Liberty Bowl rivals, the Iowa State Cyclones. The teams met twice last year, with Iowa State winning the first game and TU winning the bowl matchup.
"In the Iowa State rematch, this will be the third game in thirteen months, which is very unusual in college football," Blankenship said. "This will be the first one at our place. We were beaten on the road, we won at a neutral site, and now we get to come home. I think it's going to take everything we have, but I think our guys are really excited. I don't think there will be a lack of motivation at all."
The Golden Hurricane has been chosen as the preseason favorite in the West Division of Conference USA and will be on every team's hit list as the defending conference champs.
When asked how a team prepares for a season in which they are the ones to beat, Blankenship said they'd give it the old college try.
"We're going to get everybody's best shot," he said. "We're not going to fly under the radar or sneak up on somebody like we were able to do once or twice last year. Players and coaches have to embrace the fact that that's what comes with following up a championship year. There are very few back-to-back champions, and the reason for that is it takes a tremendous amount of maturity and a great work ethic to stay on top. It's easier to get there than to stay there. Our guys put it this way -- if you're not hungry, you don't get to eat."
So the questions remain: Will the Golden Hurricane be able to repeat as C-USA champs? Will the defense be able to hold its own with all the young talent? Will Cody Green be able to lead the Hurricane back to another bowl game? Tune in this season, folks, and see if they can pull it off.
For more information on the team, including stats, schedules, and anything else you need to know about the Hurricane, visit tulsahurricane.com.
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