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Five questions for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane spring practice

Tulsa isn’t going anywhere, and there aren’t many concerns with this team.

Tulsa v Temple Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Tulsa had an incredible year last year full of thrills. Philip Montgomery’s team now looks to continue that success in 2021, and returns nearly every key piece on both sides of the ball. Two of the biggest names are gone, but there are other future stars still on the roster. As spring practice begins, the questions are more about finding depth than anything, which is completely different than last year.

Who replaces Zach Smith?

Even though he struggled a bit last year, Zach Smith provided stability at a position that desperately needed it. Now, he’s moved on and the position is open once again. Replacing a player with nearly 8,000 career yards won’t be easy, but Tulsa’s options at least bring some experience to the table. Seth Boomer enters his fourth season with the Golden Hurricane, playing sparingly in the last two and a lot in his freshmen year. His play has been inconsistent, but the coaching staff clearly sees something in him to keep listing him as the backup. Now he’ll compete with Davis Brin, the hero from the Tulane game. Brin’s the favorite to win the job thanks to his performance in that game, and it will come down to who can show the coaching staff more in spring practices (maybe even into the fall).

Who becomes the new playmaker in place of Zaven Collins?

It was inevitable that Zaven Collins would leave for the draft. After producing a number of huge plays over the last few years, including more in 2020, it would have been a bad decision to return to Tulsa. Collins leaves a giant hole in the Golden Hurricane defense, but there’s plenty of talent to fill it. Justin Wright led Tulsa in tackles and tackles for loss last year, and plays the game as hard as Collins did. Treyvon Reeves is my pick to fill Collins’ spot. He brings the size and athleticism to do what the staff asked Collins to do. Now, asking anyone to be the next Zaven Collins, but there are players who can produce similar results if asked.

NCAA Football: Tulsa at South Florida
Prince is one of the many options in the backfield for Tulsa this year.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Will there be enough carries for everyone?

Even with Corey Taylor II gone, Tulsa’s backfield is loaded. Unfortunately, that also means it’s crowded. Shamari Brooks returns from injury to join Deneric Prince and T.K. Wilkerson in the backfield, giving Tulsa one of the deepest backfields in the country. With every starter returning at wide receiver as well, the concern becomes number of carries. Taylor, Prince, and Wilkerson all had 80+ touches last year, which helps keep legs fresh but also limit the rhythm they get in a game. Brooks was the starter heading into last year, but might find it tough to see the field as frequently as he’d like. Luckily for all three, a new quarterback could mean a reliance upon the running game more early, meaning more opportunities for all.

Where are the positions of concern?

Besides quarterback and Zaven Collins’ linebacker spot, there really aren’t many. Which is vastly different from last year’s spring practices. At this point the concern is getting players enough touches on offense, and enough stats to go around defensively. Quarterback will be the biggest concern if we have to pick one. Boomer’s been wildly inconsistent, and Brin has just the one game of true experience. Fortunately, they have so many options at the skill positions on top of an experienced offensive line that they won’t have to be the hero (though we know Brin can be).

Was last year a flash in the pan?

Maybe the biggest concern with this Tulsa team is if they can repeat last year’s success. Heading into 2020, Tulsa won just nine games over the last three seasons. This year now becomes just as important as last year for Philip Montgomery. It was tough to see them competing for a conference title last year, but now it’s tough to see them not. Even with the concerns at quarterback, there’s so much experience returning that it would be stunning to see this team struggle. They’ve done a full 180, and it looks like they’re not going anywhere.