Tulsa football
First-year Kevin Wilson has head coaching experience in the Big 10. Could that translate to success at Tulsa (PHOTO CREDIT: Tulsa Athletics)

Tulsa Football 2023 Preview: Can Kevin Wilson Propel Golden Hurricanes To Relevance?

Tulsa is hopeful for a breakthrough football season in 2023, and with first-year coach Kevin Wilson now on board, could it happen?

Tulsa has a football heritage all the way back to its 1942 Sun Bowl victory. More recently, the alumni can point out their most notable player, Steve Largent, who was a Hall of Fame wide receiver with the Seattle Seahawks. There have certainly been good times at Tulsa in the past.

This season, Tulsa is trying to jumpstart its program after going roughly .500 since the COVID-19 pandemic, plucking former offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson from Ohio State, a perennial college football power. Whether that high-powered offensive system can translate for Tulsa will set the tone for the Golden Hurricane's first season under the new coach.

Wilson was the offensive coordinator for Ohio State for six years, and the head coach at Indiana before that. Fans expect him to make a difference for the Tulsa offense. The program's offense was mediocre last year, 51st in scoring, and was below average for their standards. During the late 2010s, the Hurricane offense was top notch, finishing in the top 40 for two consecutive years. Meanwhile, six new three-star defensive transfer players joined the team to improve last year's defense.

Reinforcements Coming For Tulsa

A Tulsa Golden Hurricanes helmet.

Photo by Ken Murray/ICON Sportswire

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Tulsa has been quite busy in the transfer portal. New defensive transfers joining the program include Coleton Smith, a 6-foot-2 linebacker; Demarco Jones, a 6-foot-1 cornerback; and Adrian Huey, a 6-foot cornerback. Also en route are Zaid Hamden, a defensive lineman weighing 263 pounds; Julien Simon, a 221-pound linebacker; and Keuan Parker, who is 5-foot-11. All six defensive newcomers are listed as three-star players.

Wilson bolstered his recruiting class by adding Braylin Presley, a three-star running back transfer from Oklahoma State. Overall, the recruiting ratings are much higher for the incoming defense. Tulsa hopes its history of scheme-heavy offensive playmaking can help it maintain its offensive tradition. The Tulsa offensive line is highly rated despite not having any returning starters and could be a factor in a weakened conference. A new scheme might help what had been a less-effective offense in 2022.

Tulsa has a tough non-conference schedule: at Washington and then at home against Oklahoma. Assuming losses against those perennial top 25 programs, the Golden Hurricane could end up 3-2 after five games. Florida Atlantic and Rice are new to the American Athletic Conference, and Charlotte should be comparably matched. If they go 2-1 against these last three, Tulsa has a chance for a good season. But late season against a very good Tulane club, home against North Texas — probably the strongest out of Conference USA last year — and on the road at a pesky East Carolina team will be a lot for a young team with a first-year head coach. Expect a fringe bowl possibility at best, and much worse if the Wilson offensive magic doesn't carry over from Ohio State.

Fan notes: Featured games include a nationwide ESPN game, with Temple coming in Thursday night, Sept. 28, for the first meeting between the teams. The Oklahoma and Rice games will be on ESPN/ESPN2, the Washington game will be on Pac-12 network, and the rest of the games will be on ESPN+, according to the AAC media contract.

MORE: American Athletic Conference Football 2023 Season Preview