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May 23, 2012Yes, the start of the college football season is too far away. But, it does get closer every day. To help bridge the gap, CycloneReport.com is sending five questions to an expert on each of Iowa State's 12 opponents this fall. It's early previews of each and every team on Iowa State's schedule.
First up is Tulsa, which plays at Jack Trice Stadium on September 1 in the season opener for both teams. To learn more about the Golden Hurricane in 2012, check out this quintet of questions and answers for InsideTulsaSports.com publisher Chris Harmon.
CycloneReport.com: What stood out for you about Tulsa's spring football practices and spring game this year?
Chris Harmon: Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship is entering his second season at the helm, so the main thing that stood out during spring drills was how much faster the team improved throughout.
Last year, there was a feeling out period for the new coaching staff, and it took time to transition to slightly different schemes on both sides of the ball. That wasn't necessary this spring, and the team got right down to business.
CR: Where does the Golden Hurricane look strong for 2012, and what are the question marks?
Harmon: Tulsa returns a very strong rushing attack, which will be the strength of the offense. Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas, both juniors, each rushed for over 840 yards. The two combined for 1,727 yards and seven scores on just 255 carries last season.
On the other side of the coin, the passing game is a question mark, as Tulsa will have a new quarterback in 2012. Nebraska transfer Cody Green will likely start against Iowa State, and while he played in 17 career games and had four starts for the Cornhuskers, it will be his first live game action in almost two years.
Defensively, Tulsa has to find a new middle linebacker to replace Curnelius Arnick and his 159 tackles from last season. Tulsa's defense depends on the middle linebacker to be a major playmaker, and Arnick's shoes will be tough to fill.
However, the defense overall is expected to be strong. TU lost only one starter along the front four and the defensive backfield is very experienced.
CR: What will be the main storylines for Tulsa heading into the fall?
Harmon: The main storylines heading into the fall will be the left side of the offensive line, the Nebraska transfers, and the Hurricane linebackers.
Tulsa graduated its left tackle and left guard. Both were all-conference players, and LT Tyler Holmes signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Luckily, their replacements have been with the program for a while and performed well in spring practice, but consistency will be the key in the fall.
The quarterback race, which involves Nebraska transfer Cody Green, will have the attention of coaches and fans in the fall. Green was named the starter coming out of the spring, but junior Kalen Henderson is right on his heels.
Green's former teammate at Nebraska, wide receiver Khiry Cooper, is transferring to Tulsa this summer and will enroll in graduate school. Cooper will be immediately eligible and should make a run up the depth chart at flanker or split end.
The Tulsa linebackers are reeling a bit at the moment. In the fall, the Hurricane will continue its search for someone to replace Curnelius Arnick in the middle, which is a big task in itself.
However, TU needs to fill another hole at linebacker as well, at least temporarily. With the recent suspension of starting weakside LB Shawn Jackson for the first three games of the 2012 season, TU will need someone to step up quickly in fall camp to fill in against Iowa State.
CR: Do you anticipate any newcomers making an impact, JUCOs or true freshmen?
Harmon: Previously mentioned incoming transfer Khiry Cooper from Nebraska will obviously be one to watch, but as far as 2012 signees, junior college transfer Taylor Grove at tight end and placekicker Daniel Schwarz should both make an immediate impact.
Tulsa graduated its top kicker and its best pass-catching tight end, so these were smart signings for the Hurricane.
Grove comes from Phoenix Community College and had serious interest from Oklahoma and Texas Tech, but he tore his hamstring in the first game of his sophomore season, which kept BCS programs from offering. Tulsa snuck in and stole the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder.
Schwarz was one of the best kickers in the 2012 class, rated No. 10 nationally by Rivals.com. TU was able to hold onto him despite offers from Alabama, Texas, Oregon State and others. He will immediately take over the placekicking duties at Tulsa.
CR: How does Tulsa's entire non-conference schedule shape up and what record does it need in those games to be successful?
Harmon: Tulsa's non-conference schedule this coming season isn't nearly as difficult as in 2011. Last year, the Golden Hurricane played three Top 10 teams in their first four games and got off to a 1-3 start.
While 2012 may not be as challenging, the schedule does contain some good tests for Tulsa, beginning with the season opener at Iowa State.
Playing a Big Twelve team on the road is always tough, but TU will also be breaking in a new quarterback. Two weeks later, Tulsa hosts Nicholls State, followed by Fresno State the next weekend. The Hurricane will finish the non-conference slate in November at Arkansas, which was a Top 10 team last season.
A 3-1 record in those games would likely help the Hurricane get another 10 or 11 win season. Most will expect Tulsa to go 2-2 in non-conference play, and that would be accepted by TU supporters, but anything less would be seen as a disappointment.
Next Up: Iowa
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