The top 10 Tulsa football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
WR Keevan Lucas, Jr.
Tulsa’s best offensive player was lost for the year to injury after just the first month. Now that he’s headed back, he’s poised to once again be the school’s No.1 option in the passing game. Lucas is a next-level talent, catching 101 balls for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns in his last full season of action. He’s only 5-10 and 198 pounds, but he’s close to a complete receiver. No. 2 is scrappy in the middle of the field, fast enough to take the top off the defense and never fearful of contact if it means picking up additional yards.
QB Dane Evans, Sr.
Evans has improved in each of the last two seasons. If the trend continues in 2016, he’ll finally vie for the all-conference honor roll. Evans adapted well to the new offense, completing 305-of-485 passes for 4,332 yards, 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The 6-1, 210-pound triggerman of the Hurricane attack led the American passing and yards per attempt, indicative of his ability to spread out the field and stretch defenses.
LB Trent Martin, Sr.
With a full season of health, Martin finally started to flash his potential in 2015. After missing big chunks of time in each of the previous three seasons, he collected 104 stops, 14 tackles for loss, two sacks and four forced fumbles to earn honorable mention All-AAC. At 6-2 and 232 pounds, with one of the highest football IQs on the team, Martin is an ideal fit to flourish in the middle. Martin could have a future as a coach, since he preps for opponents much the way his coaches do.
LB Matt Linscott, Sr.
In many ways, Linscott is the typical Golden Hurricane defender; he entered Tulsa without a scholarship, but has hustled his way to a prominent role. The undersized local product starred as a hybrid linebacker-safety a year ago, finishing second on the team with 107 tackles and first with 16 stops for loss and five sacks. Linscott won’t win pro day, but he’s smart, physical at the point of attack and instinctive on timing his blitzes.
WR Josh Atkinson, Sr.
Keyarris Garrett earned most of the headlines, but Atkinson served as a vastly underrated No. 2. Atkinson is a polished all-around veteran who runs good routes, catches the ball away from his body and picks up yards after the grab. A picture of consistency throughout his junior year, the 6-2, 208-pound target ranked fifth in the American with 76 receptions for 1,071 yards and five touchdowns.
OT Evan Plagg, Jr.
Plagg didn’t earn All-AAC in 2015, but he made a compelling case with his play. In his first season as a starter, the former walk-on was surprisingly consistent, especially on running plays. At 6-4 and 292 pounds, Plagg is never going to overpower the opponent, but he’s quick, smart and not about to take anything for granted after working so hard to get to this point.
DE Jeremy Smith, Jr.
The Golden Hurricane has high hopes that Smith can offset some of the lost production from the graduation of Derrick Alexander. Smith took another step forward as an 11-game starter in 2015, making 43 tackles, 6.5 stops for loss and 2.5 sacks. At 6-5 and 260 pounds, he has good size and a frame that can handle more weight and muscle. Tulsa could move Smith around this year to leverage his athleticism.
RB D’Angelo Brewer, Jr.
Brewer emerged last season as an up-and-coming weapon out of the backfield in 2015. He’s a versatile 5-9, 185-pound jackrabbit who’ll contribute between the tackles, as a receiver and even in pass protection. Brewer is tougher than his size might indicate, sprinting for a team-high 837 yards and six touchdowns on 162 carries a year ago. His third of three 100-yards games came against Virginia Tech in the bowl game.
DT Jesse Brubaker, Jr.
Tulsa will lose some of its production off the edge, but Brubaker is back to provide pressure from the inside. After sitting out 2014 as a medical redshirt, he anchored the interior as a 12-game starter. The 6-3, 270-pound Brubaker made 30 tackles, 4.5 stops for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles, and was a frenetic nuisance from snap to whistle.
S Jeremy Brady, Sr.
Brady’s shift from running back to the defensive backfield couldn’t have gone much better in 2015. He notched 71 tackles in his defensive debut, including 48 solos and a couple of interceptions. Plus, the 5-10, 197-pounder was named the Defensive MVP of the Independence Bowl, so he was evolving as the season progressed. Brady should be even better this year now that he has a full season under his belt.