Oklahoma State is all set to kickoff the 2020 football season against Tulsa Saturday morning at 11 AM, and the Cowboys are heavy favorites headed into the game. Still, the Golden Hurricane have a few key players that could walk into Stillwater and impact the game in Tulsa’s favor.
Zach Smith, QB
The quarterback is essentially the most important position for any team, and that is definitely the truth for the Golden Hurricane. In his first season as a starter for Tulsa, Smith started all 12 games as a junior after sitting out a year due to his transfer from Baylor. In those 12 games, Smith threw for 3279 yards, 19 touchdowns, and just 9 interceptions.
Tulsa’s offensive line struggled, allowing 39 sacks in 2019, and Smith is not much of a runner. He finished the year with -96 yards on the ground, so if he’s going to be successful this year, he needs some help up front. If the Golden Hurricane offensive line has improved at all, Smith will have more time in the pocket, and while he’s not the most accurate passer (57.3% completion rate in 2019), he could easily impact this game in a big way for Tulsa.
Shamari Brooks, RB
In order for an offense to be successful, they absolutely have to have some form of a ground game. That typically starts with the front line, but as stated already, Tulsa’s offensive front was not very good last season. Still, running back Shamari Brooks managed to rack up over a thousand yards on the ground.
Brooks managed to find the end zone just 6 times in 2019, which was the same number as two other running backs, but despite his lack of time in the end zone, he was very clearly the feature back for Tulsa, and he will be the key to unlocking the passing game for the Golden Hurricane on Saturday.
Zaven Collins, LB
In a couple of words, Tulsa’s defense in 2019 was pretty bad. They allowed nearly 400 yards of offense per game (185.1 rushing yards per game, 209.7 passing yards per game) and 31.3 per game. It was a rough year for the defense, and the Golden Hurricane lost their best tackler from a season ago in senior Cooper Edmiston.
Next up on the list is linebacker Zaven Collins, who finished his sophomore year in 2019 with 97 total tackles and 2 sacks. Collins enters 2020 with 22 starts under his belt, and he will be an important leader for Tulsa’s defense.
An NFL-caliber player at 6’4″ and 260 pounds, Collins is a do-it-all player for the Golden Hurricane who is capable of dropping into pass coverage when necessary while also working his way into an opponent’s backfield at other times. The Cowboys will need to keep an eye on Collins, as he can make a big hit or force a turnover at any moment.