Yesterday, we broke down the Tulsa offense. Today, we turn our attention to a defense that has had its fair share of struggles. The Golden Hurricanes ranked near the bottom in nearly every major statistical defensive category in 2017. Despite returning 7 starters, Phil Montgomery figures to have his hands full as he tries to generate stops to get the ball back to his offense.
Despite only allowing 82 rushing yards to FCS opponent Central Arkansas in week 1, the Golden Hurricanes have shown a trend of giving up chunk yards in the run game. In the season opener, UCA had stretches where they physically overmatched Tulsa at the point of attack and kept the game close for most of the evening. Tulsa gave up an average of 265 yards on the ground a season ago, lacking size and strength across the defensive line, minus 330-pound defensive tackle Tyarise Stevenson.
The pass rush was not much better for the Golden Hurricanes in 2017. The defense combined for 12 total sacks, ranking 121st in all of the FBS. The improvement seen from the Texas starting 5 in pass protection should be very noticeable this week.
Cooper Edmiston is the main name to watch at the linebacker position. Edmiston occupies the middle linebacker spot and is in his 2nd season as a full time starter after racking up 106 tackles last season. Diamon Cannon is classified as a linebacker, but the junior will spend most of his time at the STAR position, a defensive back/linebacker hybrid in the 4-3 defense. Cannon is the most dynamic player on the Tulsa defense and will be utilized as such.
Akayleb Evans and Keanu Hill hold down the two corner spots. Evans started 6 games as a true freshman a season ago and played admirably. Hill missed the 2017 season with a knee injury but started 8 games as a junior college transfer in 2016. Neither corner has recorded an interception in their career.
McKinley Whitfield starts at strong safety and led the team in tackles in 2017 with 113. Whitfield checks in at 213 pounds and he will likely spent most of his time committed to stopping the Texas rushing attack. Free Safety Manny Bunch returned to the starting lineup last weekend after missing the final 6 games in 2017 with a knee injury.
As a whole, Tulsa isn’t much better against the pass as compared to the run. The Golden Hurricanes struggle to create takeaways and haven’t had much success generating pressure on opposing offenses.
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