With just five wins combined over the past two years, Phillip Montgomery is now fighting for his job. A 10-3 year in 2016 has bought him some goodwill, but I’m not sure that he has enough to survive another two or three-win year.
Things look like they may come together this year, with most of the key pieces returning, but the schedule is really tough and the deck feels stacked against Montgomery getting back to a bowl.
Seth Boomer came in midyear in 2018 after an injury to the starter and did a solid job manning the ship for a freshman QB, throwing nine touchdowns to just four interceptions and averaging seven yards a throw. He’ll have some stiff competition though, in Baylor transfer Zach Smith, who has ten starts of P5 experience over the past two years at Baylor.
Whoever the QB is will have three of the top four targets from last year back between Keylon Stokes, Jarion Anderson, and Keenan Johnson, as well as a handful of exciting young recruits that Montgomery has brought in.
The run game was up an down last year, but Shamari Brooks and Corey Taylor II are two solid hands that combined for 18 touchdowns and a bit under 2,000 yards. Tulsa played a wide rotation on the line last year so four of the five projected starters have starting experience, but redshirt freshman X’zauvea Gadlin may be thrown into the deep end at RT.
It’s hard to make sweeping predictions when the QB race is still up in the air, but I think Smith has a good chance of winning the job, and while that may mess with the chemistry a bit, I think he’s the superior quarterback and would lead the offense to improve on last year’s numbers.
Tulsa promoted from within after journeyman DC Bill Young retired, going with LB coach Joseph Gillespie, who has a lot of talent to work with on the defense.
Pretty much the entire linebacking corps is back in a group led by all-conference mike linebacker Cooper Edmiston. Will linebacker Zaven Collins was a revelation as a freshman last year, racking up eight tackles for loss from his weakside role.
The secondary returns four starters from what was a good pass defense, and on the line they played a wide rotation and return most of it, most notably stud end Trevis Gipson (four sacks, five TFL, five forced fumbles).
This won’t be a great defense but should be a solid AAC-level group that shows some improvement with a lot of the key pieces back and the new scheme from last year starting to settle in.
It’s tough to make a jump from three wins to a bowl, and while this team may, in theory, have the talent to do it, the schedule is pretty rough, with Michigan State and Oklahoma State in the non-conference and the unfortunate draws of Cincinnati and UCF from the East.
Tulsa is good enough to make a bowl run but the schedule is too tough for me to call for it. If Montgomery can do enough to save his job the offense is still quite young and could gear up for a rebound year in 2020.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|30-Aug||at Michigan State||20||-17.5|
|7-Sep||at San Jose State||116||4.4|
|30-Nov||at East Carolina||107||-0.5|
Average Projected Record: 4.5 wins, 7.5 losses (2.9 wins, 5.1 losses)