After an impressive 2016 season, the Golden Hurricane will enter the 2017 season without some familiar faces which leaves us with plenty of questions and a lot to talk about as we anxiously await September’s arrival. Tulsa started their first of 15 spring practices on February 28th that will culminate with their annual spring game on April 8th. I know many, if not all, of these questions will not be answered until the season actually begins on September 2nd, but it never hurts to start looking for answers now, during spring practice.
Who will replace Dane Evans at Quarterback?
The 2016 season was one filled with offensive highlights and the leader of the pack, passing for 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns, was Dane Evans. As we bid farewell to the quarterback that helped bring history to this Tulsa fanbase, we look ahead to who could possibly pick up where he left off in 2017 and continue the offensive success for the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa will be bringing five quarterbacks into this upcoming season: Samuel Gottsch (R,JR), Chad President (JR), Will Hefley (R,SO), Luke Skipper (SO) and Seth Boomer (FR). Chad President played mostly receiver in 2015 and spent the majority of his snaps under center running the football. President earned the role of backup quarterback in 2016 but a leg injury sustained in the first game cut his season short. Samuel Gottsch is listed as a quarterback but is used more often as a defensive back for the Golden Hurricane. I’m not expecting Gottsch to take over at quarterback, but since he is listed as one, I can’t count him out. Will Hefley hasn’t seen any time under center at the collegiate level but he was an impressive quarterback during his career at Pulaski Academy, leading his team to a 13-1 record and a state championship. Luke Skipper is another young quarterback who hasn’t played in a college game but had an impressive high school career. Skipper, like President, embodies the dual threat style quarterback that Coach Montogomery had success with in his time at Baylor. Seth Boomer is coming off an impressive high school career and drew interest from a few P5 schools (TAMU and Kansas) but I would be surprised to find out he doesn’t spend his freshman year as a redshirt under Coach Montgomery. I'm expecting Chad President to get the nod, if he's healthy, and look forward to seeing him execute the Tulsa edition of Philip Montgomery's 2011 Baylor offense.
Who will emerge as the #2 running back?
There is no doubt in my mind that D’Angelo Brewer has earned the status of starting running back. Brewer was the #2 running back behind Flanders last season and racked up 1,425 yards and seven touchdowns on 264 carries. With Tulsa only losing one offensive lineman from the 2016 squad, I believe the running game will be just as successful in 2017. The Golden Hurricane found tremendous success last season featuring two running backs and I would expect them to make the same approach in 2017, even potentially featuring a three-headed rushing attack if P-Monty chooses to go with one of the mobile quarterbacks next season.
Tulsa will have seven running backs next season: D’Angelo Brewer (SR), Rowdy Simon (R-SR), Javon Thomas (R-SO), Corey Taylor II (SO), Ramadi Warren (R-JR), Matthew Harvey (SO), and Shamari Brooks (FR). Shamari Brooks was something special at the high school level rushing for 2,018 yards and 28 touchdowns his senior year as he led Tulsa Union to the 6A state championship where he rushed for 232 yards and three touchdowns. That being said, I still think he ends up red shirting his freshman year which leaves five backs to compete for that number two spot.
Two names that stick out to me are Ramadi Warren and Rowdy Simon. Warren missed all of the 2016 season and parts of the 2015 season but still managed to rush for 475 yards and six touchdowns on 71 carries. Rowdy Simon saw some more playing time in 2016, rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries (quite a bit more than his seven carries for 35 yards and a touchdown in 2015). Corey Taylor II and Javon Thomas are the only other backs on this squad to have seen any in-game action at the college level. Taylor II rushed for four yards and a touchdown on five carries in 2016 and Thomas rushed for eight yards on two carries. That being said I think their roles may increase a little next season but I wouldn’t expect much more than a handful of carries and that goes for Matthew Harvey as well. Ultimately, I think Rowdy Simon ends up splitting carries with D’Angelo Brewer in 2017.
Who will fill the void left at defensive tackle?
With defensive ends Jesse Brubaker and Jeremy Smith (combined for 9.5 sacks and 92 tackles) returning for their senior season, whoever takes over at the defensive tackle positions will at least have some help on the outside generating pressure. Replacing Jerry Uwaezuoke and Hayden Carman will be no easy feat for the Golden Hurricane. Uwaezuoke accounted for 47 tackles (two for loss) and was credited with half a sack in 2016 while Carman attributed 27 tackles (4.5 for loss) and a half of a sack as well as a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Not overly impressive on the stat sheet, but the pressure these two brought allowed for the outside guys to get to the quarterback.
Tulsa will bring back a group of young defensive tackles with Shemar Robinson (SO), Jacob Pugh (SO), Tyarise Stevenson (SO), and Garrett Flanery (FR). Shemar Robinson is the only tackle on this returning squad to see any playing time last season where he was able to get eight tackles (one for loss) and a sack. Each of these guys has the size you would expect from a defensive tackle but Shemar Robinson (6’4-280lbs) and Tyarise Stevenson(6’4-320lbs) are the biggest guys and I’d expect to see these two getting the majority of the snaps next season. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them share snaps with the likes of Kolton Shindelar (DE), Frankie Davis (DE), or Trevis Gipson (DE) either as each of these players had time on the field last season and produced for the Golden Hurricane Defense.
Shindelar had a very productive season as a backup in 2016 racking up 23 tackles (4.5 for loss), three sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles. Davis contributed 12 tackles (two for loss), half of a sack, and a fumble recovery. Gipson also added eight tackles (one for loss) and a sack for the defense. There’s no one or two players that particularly standout for me at this position and I believe the defense would actually benefit from a healthy rotation of these guys on the defensive front.
Who will replace the leading tacklers at linebacker?
Tulsa will no doubt be sad to see the departure of linebackers Matt Linscott and Trent Martin, who led the defense in tackles in 2016. Martin led the way with 100 tackles (6.5 for loss), a sack, two interceptions, and a forced fumble while Linscott added an impressive 80 tackles (11 for loss), four sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. On a positive note, Craig Suits will be returning at linebacker for the Golden Hurricane next season. Suits followed close behind Matt Linscott in 2016 with 79 tackles (nine for loss), 3.5 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
The Golden Hurricane have no shortage of linebackers coming into 2017 but of the fifteen returning players, only five of them have playing experience at the college level. Cooper Edmiston (SO) played in all thirteen games last season and even started one game; he finished the year with 18 tackles. Petera Wilson Jr. (SR) didn’t get to start but did get to play in all thirteen games; he finished the year with 16 tackles (seven for loss) and a team high 6.5 sacks, as well as two fumble recoveries.
Robert Revels III (SO) also got a chance to play in all thirteen games his freshman year and finished the season with 11 tackles. Diamon Cannon (R-SO) participated in eight games last season and contributed six tackles. C.J. Gooden (R-SR) also participated in eight games and added five tackles for the defense. I think Petera Wilson JR. is a lock to start at linebacker next season and Cooper Edmiston could very well be the other starter but I just can’t count out the young guys yet. This could very well be, and more than likely will be, another scenario where a healthy dose of rotation from the younger guys comes into play.
One thing is for certain, this team has given us plenty of reasons to be excited and I trust Coach Montgomery to make the right decisions to keep the Golden Hurricane on the winning path. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing some new faces, and some familiar, taking over these positions and leading the Golden Hurricane to victory.