Three Bulls on preseason watch lists

USF senior Austin Reiter is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's top center.

Photo provided by USF

USF senior Austin Reiter is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's top center.

Barely a week into July, USF already has three blips on the nation's preseason radar, with more likely to materialize.

Two Bulls seniors -- WR Chris Dunkley and C Austin Reiter -- and junior TE Sean Price have been named to preseason awards watch lists. Dunkley, one of the American Athletic Conference's top return specialists, is among 47 players on the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the most versatile player in college football.

Meantime, Reiter is on the Rimington Trophy watch list --  presented each year to the nation's top center -- for the second consecutive season. Price is on the list for the Mackey Award given annually to the country's top tight end.

Dunkley, who has changed his number from 88 to 1 this season, averaged 22.6 yards per kick return and 24.2 per punt return in 2013. His junior-year highlights included 171 all-purpose yards at Houston, a 50-yard TD on a punt return against SMU, and a 13-yard TD on a reverse play at UCF.

Reiter, who has added more than 20 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame (to 295) this offseason, has started every game the last two years. In 2013, he tied for the team lead with 735 snaps played. …

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Former UF, Ocala standout Bradley to lead USF golf

Former University of Florida golf captain Steven Bradley, who helped lead the Gators to the 1999 SEC title, as been named men's coach at USF, the Bulls announced Friday.

An Ocala Forest graduate who helped lead the Wildcats to the Class 5A state title in 1994, Bradley replaces Chris Malloy, who stepped down after four seasons to become coach at Ole Miss, his alma mater.

"I was born in Bradenton and went to high school in Ocala, so I'm a Florida boy," said Bradley, who has spent the past three seasons as coach at Mercer. …

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Bulls add DE to '14 roster

Exactly one month before USF's players report for preseason camp, the Bulls have received an 11th-hour addition to one of their neediest defensive spots.

Former Virginia Tech signee Kevin Bronson, a three-star defensive end from Delray Beach who never enrolled in Blacksburg, will start Summer B classes at USF on Monday. He'll be eligible for this season, the school announced.

"Kevin is a great young man and a player whose size and athleticism fit very well in our defensive system," Coach Willie Taggart said in a USF news release. "We recruited him very heavily leading up to signing day and are happy that some things evolved and he now has the opportunity to be a Bull."

The evolution commenced less than a week ago, when Hokies coaches informed Bronson on Friday that he did not academically qualify. According to the Palm Beach Post, Bronson knew his college-entrance test scores didn't meet Virginia Tech standards, but he was made to believe it wouldn't be an issue.

"Virginia Tech did make it known that there was a possibility head coach Frank Beamer would have to go in front of a committee to speak on behalf of Kevin," Don Hanna, Bronson's coach at Delray Beach Village Academy, told the Post. …

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Woodie selected for NFL fellowship

Count USF linebackers coach Raymond Woodie among the Bulls enrolled in the Summer B session.

Only the 'B' stands for Bucs in his case.

Woodie, 40, was among four coaches chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants for the 2014 Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship Program. Selected by the Buccaneers, he'll work alongside the team's coaching and scouting staffs when Tampa Bay's training camp commences July 20.

His internship lasts two weeks. USF begins preseason drills Aug. 4.

“Wow, it’s a great opportunity,” Woodie said in a USF news release. “There is so much information you can learn, and I’m going to be there like a sponge. I want to absorb a lot, take a lot of notes and just come in and incorporate.”

Woodie, named the American Athletic Conference's top recruiter by two national scouting services earlier this year, engaged in a lengthy application process that began in April. Bulls coach Willie Taggart, who interned with the Eagles and Raiders early in his career; and defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan gave hearty recommendations.

A former Palmetto High and Bethune-Cookman linebacker/safety, Woodie is entering his second season on USF's staff, and his fifth season as a Taggart assistant. …

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Herget misses cut on national team roster

The morning after his second shaky cameo for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, USF right-handed ace Jimmy Herget learned his brief stint with the club has ended.

Herget did not make the squad's final 24-man roster released Monday. On Sunday night, he allowed four runs in an inning in the team's 7-5 loss to the Peninsula Pilots -- a collegiate summer-league team -- in Hampton, Va.

It was his second appearance in the club's seven-game Red, White & Blue Tour through the Coastal Plain League. In Herget's only other appearance, six nights before, he allowed three runs on as many hits in two innings in an 11-6 win against the Thomasville (N.C.) HiToms.

His second appearance was delayed two nights by rain along the Eastern seaboard.

"Let it fuel the fire and rise up from it," Herget tweeted Monday morning.

A first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection this past season, Herget set a Bulls record with a season ERA of 1.26. His 1.48 is lowest in program history among players with at least 25 starts.

The Collegiate National Team embarks on an international slate of games, starting with Tuesday night's contest against Chinese Taipei in Cary, N.C.

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Bulls CB Durden transferring

USF CB Kenneth Durden, arrested in January on a marijuana-possession charge, told the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday evening he's transferring to Division I-AA Youngstown State.

A fourth-year junior from Valdosta, Ga., Durden confirmed his departure via text message, adding he will be eligible for the 2014 season. He is expected to have two years' eligibility remaining.

A starter in 11 games last season, Durden recorded 32 tackles and an interception, and appeared poised to anchor a promising young Bulls secondary in 2014 prior to the drug charge.

According to an arrest affidavit, USF police were dispatched to his on-campus residence in mid-January in response to a complaint of possible drug use. Durden ultimately acknowledged to having cannabis in his room, the report stated, producing a clear bag of the substance later weighed at 21.7 grams.

He was indefinitely suspended by Bulls coach Willie Taggart, but was listed on the spring roster.

"He's got things he's got to take care of, much bigger than football," Taggart said following the first day of spring drills. "Those are his issues, and if he works those things out, he can come back and talk to us then." …

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NBA Draft bolsters Antigua's resume

New USF basketball coach Orlando Antigua has coached two-dozen players taken in the NBA Draft.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

New USF basketball coach Orlando Antigua has coached two-dozen players taken in the NBA Draft.

As anticipated, Thursday night's NBA Draft did nothing to illuminate USF's basketball resume per se, but it added another couple of sparkles to Coach Orlando Antigua's. 

The bio of the Bulls new coach now can rightfully indicate he has coached 24 college players taken in the NBA Draft. The latest two: Kentucky forwards Julius Randle and James Young, picked by the Lakers and Celtics, respectively, in Thursday's first round.

In all, Antigua worked with 19 players ultimately selected in the NBA Draft during his five seasons as a John Calipari assistant at UK. That number is certain to increase by the 2015 draft. …

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With cuts looming, Herget hangs on for USA

USF right-handed ace Jimmy Herget, whose knack for rising to the occasion has been well chronicled in these parts, probably needs to levitate his game once more tonight for any shot at remaining on his current roster.

Herget is slated to be in the rotation for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team tonight when it travels to face the Florence (S.C.) Red Wolves, a college summer team. It would be Herget's second appearance for the squad, and likely his last before the roster is trimmed Sunday.

In his lone appearance to date, Herget worked two relief innings, allowing three runs on as many hits (including a three-run homer) in Monday's 11-6 victory against the Thomasville (N.C.) HiToms. He has worked the fewest innings of any of the 17 pitchers on the current roster, which includes fellow All-American Athletic Conference pitchers Jake Lemoine (Houston) and Kyle Funkhouser (Louisville).

It is believed the team, coached by Arkansas' Dave Van Horn, will carry 12 position players and 12 pitchers. Its latest results and stats can be found here.

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USF athletics: The year in review

A day after his mom's funeral, Bulls DE Ryne Giddins (#97) came up huge in a win against Cincinnati.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

A day after his mom's funeral, Bulls DE Ryne Giddins (#97) came up huge in a win against Cincinnati.

In a school year rife with grimace-inducing images, the final snapshot was a keeper. When triple jumper Matthew O'Neal and high jumper Courtney Anderson ascended their respective medal stands to receive All-America recognition at the recent NCAA Championships, the Bulls' 2013-14 athletic season formally concluded. Depending on one's perspective, it was a year to savor or shred. While the most prominent sports teams on campus (football, men's hoops, baseball) struggled to achieve mediocrity, others (tennis, men's soccer) flourished in their grim shadows. Meantime, upheaval became trendy. Stan Heath and Doug Woolard left. Roberto Cid and Courtney Williams arrived. Unlikely stars emerged from out of the blue (Marvin Kloss), while new coaches emerged from out of the Bluegrass (Orlando Antigua). Dismal? Yes, at times. Dull? Never. It all warrants one last lengthy reflection before embarking on a new year. From the superlatives to the sound bites to the surreal moments, here's your 2013-14 nutshell, in awards fashion.

Male Athlete of the Year
Matthew O'Neal, Soph., Soccer/Track and Field
Sorta tough to argue with a two-sport athlete who performs best at the most critical stage. A defender on the Bulls soccer team that allowed one goal in the American Athletic Conference tournament, O'Neal placed fourth at the NCAAs in the triple jump with a school-record effort (53 feet, 2.5 inches).
Also in the conversation: Kloss (football), Cid (tennis), Chase Koepka (golf)

Female Athlete of the Year
Sara Nevins, Sr., Softball
This potential future Olympian ended arguably the greatest softball career in USF lore as the program's career leader in several categories including wins (101), strikeouts (1,103), saves (20) and opponent batting average (.170). In nearly 26 innings at the NCAA Regionals, Nevins allowed nine hits and three runs.
Also in the conversation: Anderson (track), Erin Fairs (volleyball), Williams (basketball)

Coach of the Year
George Kiefer, Men's Soccer
Kiefer's clubs have maintained such a solid level of consistency, one loses an appreciation for them over time. Behind a stellar back line, the Bulls (8-4-9) won the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament and reached the NCAAs for the seventh year in a row.
Also in the conversation: Matt Hill (men's tennis), Agustin Moreno (women's tennis)

Play of the Year
Among the few endearing moments provided by the men's basketball team was one that made SportsCenter's Top 10. In case you haven't seen Victor Rudd's posterizing of Rutgers F Junior Etou at least a dozen times, here it is.

Snub of the Year
In 2113, we'll still be scratching what's left of our scalps over Kloss' omission from the All-American Athletic Conference team. A Lou Groza Award finalist, Kloss led the nation with 11 field goals of 40 or more yards, and set a school record by converting 13 consecutive field goals at one point. Candidly, we believe this snub harmed the All-AAC team's overall credibility.
Also in the conversation: USF women's basketball team denied a spot in NCAA Tournament

Most Poignant Moment
A day after burying his mom, who had waged a valiant battle with uterine cancer, Bulls senior DE Ryne Giddins helped preserve his team's first win of the year. With USF leading Cincinnati by 13 with 6:45 to play, Giddins and DeDe Lattimore stuffed Tion Green on a fourth-and-inches play at
USF's 10-yard line. The Bulls held on, 26-20. "I was so impressed with (Giddins)," Coach Willie Taggart said.

Most Awkward Moment
While the discovery of Steve Masiello's embellished resume garnered the most national attention during USF's prolonged basketball coaching search, the immediate aftermath may have been more embarrassing for the Bulls. After Masiello disqualified himself, new Bulls AD Mark Harlan immediately turned his attention to UNLV's David Rice, meeting with the Runnin' Rebels alumnus in Tampa. Less than 24 hours after that meeting, Rice agreed to a contract extension with UNLV. In the vernacular of the 25-and-under demographic: USF got played.

Most Awkward Moment, Part Deux
On the same day USF's most bitter rival celebrated the biggest football win it its history, the Bulls countered by celebrating...wait for it...their mascot. On New Year's Day, several dignitaries including Taggart and Stan Heath were summoned to the Selmon Center to honor Rocky the Bull as winner of the Capital One Mascot Challenge. Hours later, UCF demolished Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. The cheers -- and cackles -- reverberated all the way from Oviedo.

Lasting (or last) words
"I told my players, it's time for this program to get to a (NCAA) regional and compete for conference championships. We've got a beautiful facility, we've got good players and can't accept anything less than that. We've got to raise the bar here." -- former baseball coach Lelo Prado,
whose team finished 27-31

Have a good feeling that something special is going to happen tonight. I hope no one misses it -- Bulls RHP Jimmy Herget on Twitter, hours before taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a 2-1 win against Connecticut
 
Thought an organization with 5 Super Bowl titles would have a stricter draft criteria. Clearly, integrity & character are not a priority. -- Bulls strength coach Hans Straub on Twitter, shortly after the 49ers took former USF DE Aaron Lynch in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Straub resigned days later

"My guess is they will do things that have never been done before at South Florida." -- Kentucky coach John Calipari upon USF's hiring of Antigua, one of his longtime assistants

Predictions for 2014-15
* Football team more than doubles its '13 win total, but falls just shy of a bowl berth.

* Behind first-team All-AAC G Courtney Williams, the women's basketball team earns second NCAA Tournament berth in three years

* Cid earns second consecutive All-American berth after another sparkling run in NCAA men's singles tourney

* Men's soccer team earns eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, winning at least one game in the postseason. For good measure, the Bulls women also reach NCAAs

* Only six months into the job, Harlan reaches a milestone, commemorating the 1,000th time he's asked whether USF will build an on-campus football stadium

* Two names you hear a lot: Price and McFarland

* Two names you barely hear: Eastman & Beaudine

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Could Olympics be in Nevins' future?

Former USF ace Sara Nevins again will represent her country this summer on the USA Softball Women's National Team.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

Former USF ace Sara Nevins again will represent her country this summer on the USA Softball Women's National Team.

Arguably no appendage in USF sports history has been more priceless than Sara Nevins' left arm.

It has collected wins by the hundreds and strikeouts by the thousands. It has occupied a World Series circle and collected more records than a disco-era DJ. If and when the USF Athletics Hall of Fame gets up and running again, Nevins is a first-ballot lock.

Which is to say, she's off to a nice start.

"College is the minor leagues, in all honesty, when it comes to softball," Bulls coach Ken Eriksen said Monday.

But the big leagues have beckoned again. On Sunday, Nevins, 22, learned she has made the USA Softball Women's National Team for a second consecutive season. The 17-player squad, coached by Eriksen, will compete in four different countries this summer, culminating with the ISF Women's World Championship in the Netherlands in August.

If she continues developing her repertoire at the world's highest level, and if politics don't infringe upon softball returning to the Olympic docket, Nevins has a shot at representing her country in 2020 in Tokyo.

"Coach Ken always says that the prime time for Olympic athletes is between like, 28 and 32 or 34, so I'll be up there," said Nevins, who logged more than 30 innings for the U.S. in international play last summer. "It's in what, six years? ... I hope to keep playing and I'm pretty sure (softball) will be back in 2020."

Eriksen shares the optimism, saying softball has an approval rating of "better than 60 percent" within the International Olympic Committee, which votes on whether to re-instill the sport in December. Combine that with the immense popularity of softball and baseball in Tokyo, and the planets seem to be aligning for a sport that hasn't been played in the Olympics since 2008.

"Six years from now, (Nevins) will be 28 years old, right in her prime-time stuff," Eriksen said.

Some might suggest she's already there. During recent team exhibitions and workouts, Eriksen said some players appeared mesmerized by Nevins' velocity, which accounted for 101 career wins and 1,103 strikeouts -- both school records -- at USF.

In the 2013 World Cup, she fanned 14 in 12.1 innings for the silver-medal-winning U.S., which finished second to Japan.

"First, you've got to play on the team and wear the three letters across your chest just to get comfortable," Eriksen said. "Then you have a chance to get good, then you have a chance to get really, really good.

"Right now Sara has a chance to get good in international ball. She proved last year, getting her feet wet against Japan, Australia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Canada, she did very, very well."

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Curtain call: Nevins again makes national team

The amateur softball career of USF left-hander Sara Nevins is ending in a blaze of Old Glory.

For the second consecutive season, Nevins, whose sparkling college career ended last month, has been chosen for the USA Softball Women's National Team. The 17-player roster, coached by USF's Ken Eriksen, will compete in a number of events highlighted by the International Softball Federation (ISF) Women's World Championship in Haarlam, Netherlands in mid-August. …

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Tarpon Springs' Wilcox commits to USF

Tarpon Springs DE/TE Mitchell Wilcox announced Saturday he has committed to USF.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Tarpon Springs DE/TE Mitchell Wilcox announced Saturday he has committed to USF.

USF has picked up its second commitment from the Class 0f 2015 in five days, landing a pledge from Tarpon Springs rising senior TE/DL Mitchell Wilcox.

Wilcox (6-foot-4, 230 pounds), a member of the nationally heralded Team Tampa 7-on-7 squad, announced his commitment Saturday evening via Twitter. He also had offers from Ball State, James Madison, Miami (Ohio), Charleston Southern and Samford.

He projects as a tight end for the Bulls, who feature the position in Coach Willie Taggart's offense.

"I love the coaching staff and (USF) is close to home," said Wilcox, who committed after competing with Team Tampa in Saturday's IMG 7-on-7 National Championships. "And I get to play tight end, the position I love."

As a junior, Wilcox had six catches for 100 yards and three TDs, while collecting six sacks on defense. A two-sport Spongers athlete, he recently told the Tampa Bay Times he'll focus on football as a senior.

His commitment comes only four days after the Bulls got a pledge from Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward QB Brett Kean, a 2,800-yard passer in 2013.

Times staff writer Bob Putnam contributed to this report.

 

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Afternoon home kickoffs a rarity for Bulls

When the American Athletic Conference released kickoff times and TV assignments for several games Thursday, the slate was a bit unexpected.

For USF, it was unprecedented.

The Bulls' home games against Maryland (Sept. 6) and North Carolina State (Sept. 13) both kick off at 3:30, marking the first time in USF's 18-season history it will have two home afternoon kickoffs in September.

It equals the total number of September afternoon home kickoffs in USF's previous 17 seasons. Last year's Miami game and the 2007 North Carolina contest both began shortly after noon.

The Maryland and N.C. State games will be televised by CBS Sports Network, the league announced. USF's Aug. 30 season opener, at home against Western Carolina, starts and 7 and will be available on ESPN3. A Friday night home game, Sept. 19 against UConn, starts at 8 and will be shown on ESPN or ESPN2.

Another Friday night game, Oct. 24 at Cincinnati, kicks off at 7 and also will be shown on an ESPN network.

 

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Men's hoops: Omogbehin leaves Bulls

Center Jordan Omogbehin, a 7-foot-3, 315-pound rising redshirt junior, is no longer with USF.

Times files

Center Jordan Omogbehin, a 7-foot-3, 315-pound rising redshirt junior, is no longer with USF.

Anatomically, the USF men's basketball roster experienced its biggest loss -- by far -- of the offseason.

Center Jordan Omogbehin, a 7-foot-3, 315-pound rising redshirt junior, is no longer with the program, team spokesman Steven Schoon confirmed Wednesday night. It is believed Omogbehin and the Bulls' new coaching staff mutually agreed to the departure.

He's the sixth scholarship player to leave the team since former coach Stan Heath's dismissal in mid-March. USF, at its yearly capacity of 13 scholarships only two weeks ago, suddenly has two vacancies. Marshall transfer Kareem Canty, whose arrival to USF was announced by the school, announced earlier this month he'll instead attend Auburn.

A Nigeria native, Omogbehin was widely deemed a low-post project upon signing with the Bulls in 2011. He totaled 24 minutes in nine games last season, scoring three points and collecting seven rebounds. The year before, he totaled 16 points and 27 boards in 24 total games.

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Two-a-days: AAC football team previews

Over the last couple of weeks, we've offered a summer glimpse of every American Athletic Conference football team except USF, on whom we keep an eye 24/7. Today, we conclude with Tulane and Tulsa

Tulane

Coach: Curtis Johnson (third season, 9-16)

2013 record: 7-6 (5-3 in Conference USA; lost to Louisiana 24-21 in New Orleans Bowl)

Starters returning/lost: 15/11. Tulane returns seven offensive and six defensive starters, and two specialists.

Schedule's toughest stretch: A three-game gauntlet of UCF (away), Cincinnati (home) and Houston (away) in a four-weekend mid-season stretch. Mercifully, a bye week separates the UCF and Cincy contests.

Top priority in August: Building depth in critical areas, and settling on a starting quarterback. Because of injuries, particularly at running back and linebacker, Johnson held three fewer spring practices than the NCAA permits. As for the healthy guys, redshirt freshman QB Tanner Lee dazzled at times during spring drills and may be the front-runner over returners Devin Powell and Nick Montana (Joe's son). 

One name likely to roll off Mel Kiper's tongue: CB Lorenzo Doss. This 5-foot-11 junior earned second-team Walter Camp All-America honors last fall, when he had a team-high seven interceptions and broke up nine other passes. Doss is among six starters back from a unit that ranked 22nd nationally in total defense.

If the Green Wave were a classic WWE wrestler, they would be: Bob Backlund. Like the former baby-faced technician extraordinaire, the Green Wave likely will lean heavily on defense in lieu of firepower and gadgetry on the other side. Backlund, of course, became a champion. Tulane, moving into a new stadium this season, is probably a few years from contention.

Off the rack (what the magazines are saying): With the new stadium (on campus) and coming off a winning season, the Green Wave is trending up. But will that continue with the move to the American? A big key is for the program to stay healthy, as depth could be a problem across the board. - Sporting News

Audible: "This spring showed me some stuff about our kids. Our defense is definitely ahead. ... I think our team is led by our secondary: Darion Monroe, Sam Scofield, Lorenzo Doss. Just fantastic athletes who have been leading in our secondary for the last couple of years." -- Johnson

December plans: A second consecutive bowl appearance -- following a decade of postseason absence -- is conceivable, especially if the Green Wave can knock off a notable non-conference foe (Rutgers, Duke, Georgia Tech). But Johnson first must shore up an offense that ranked 115th last season in Division I.


Tulsa

Coach: Bill Blankenship (fourth season, 22-17)

2013 record: 3-9 (2-6 in Conference USA)

Starters returning/lost: 15/9. The Golden Hurricane return four offensive and nine defensive starters, and two specialists.

Schedule's toughest stretch: The Golden Hurricane end the season with games against UCF, Houston and East Carolina in a 15-day stretch. The first two contests are on the road.

Top priority in August: Where to begin? Tulsa returns nine starters from a lousy defense, so fourth-year coordinator Brent Guy has work ahead. Projected QB Dane Evans made five starts last season, but struggled mightily (four TDs, 10 INTs). The Golden Hurricane also are green at running back and receiver.

One name likely to roll off Mel Kiper's tongue: FS Demarco Nelson. Though a preseason first-team All-Conference USA pick last year, Nelson sat out the season to focus on academics. With 239 career tackles and eight picks, this senior's return should be a boon to a defense that surrendered 30 or more points eight times last season.

If the Golden Hurricane were a classic WWE wrestler, they would be: The Brooklyn Brawler. Like the cigar-chomping glorified jobber, the Golden Hurricane will scratch and claw with anyone, but likely will end up losing more than they win.

Off the rack (what the magazines are saying): The defense should be improved, but there are concerns on offense, especially at quarterback. Tulsa appears headed toward a second straight losing season. - Athlon

Audible: "We pride ourselves in being the smallest enrollment in Division I-A football. That may seem kind of strange, but we think there's a uniqueness to Tulsa. We consider ourselves to be uncommon; we love that. ...We had to re-load last year and with that, didn't accomplish what we should have. Traditionally, we have put some really strong defenses out on the field the last few years, and I think we'll do that again." - Blankenship

December plans: A coaching search? In the wake of last season's 3-9 debacle, many forecasters say Blankenship's residing on the conference's hottest seat. Then again, Tulsa is only two seasons removed from a Conference USA title and Liberty Bowl victory.

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