Scouting Report: Tulsa Linebackers

Tulsa returns two senior linebackers from last year's squad, and both have been named to the preliminary list of candidates for the prestigious Butkus Award. Total Blue Sports caught up with Harvey Unga, Joe Semanoff and Andrew George for the Tulsa linebacker scouting report.

Senior linebacker Chris Chamberlain (#32) faced BYU's potent offense last season in a 49-24 loss at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The three-year letter winner and two-year starter has played in 36 career games, starting in 26 of them. He has 187 career stops and 20 tackles for -104 yards.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound Chamberlain saw former BYU running back Curtis Brown carry the ball 21 times for 125 yards, and Fui Vakapuna carrying the ball 11 times for 96 yards.

The other Butkus nominee is 6-foot-2-inch, 235-pound Nelson Coleman (#55) from Dallas, Texas. Also a three-year starter, Coleman has played in 41 games, starting in 35. He has 274 career stops, which ranks him 11th on Tulsa's all-time career tackles chart. Coleman has the sixth-most career tackles among returning NCAA players.

Rounding out the trio of linebackers is 6-foot-1-inch, 250-pound senior Alain Karatepeyan (#44), who has played in 25 career games. Karatpeyan transferred from Boise State to Pierce Junior College and joined the Tulsa squad in 2005.

This Saturday, Karatepeyan, Chamberlain and Coleman will face a new starting running back in Harvey Unga. Unga said that Tulsa's linebackers are similiar to what the Cougars saw against Arizona than what they saw against UCLA.

"They're pretty much similar to Arizona in that they're big, physical guys," said Unga. "For guys their size, they move really well and they're sure-tacklers and they're physical for their size."

Fullback Joe Semanoff agrees with Unga's linebacker assessments.

"We as running backs look more at their linebackers and safeties," said Semanoff. "We don't look at their defensive line as much, but their linebackers are bigger and more physical than the guys we faced at UCLA. The UCLA guys weren't really physical, but were more runners."

Unga was running all over Utah high school defenses during the time when Coach Mendenhall was BYU's defensive coordinator and coaching the 3-3-5 defense. Tulsa's co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, who coached the safeties last year and coaches the linebackers this year, has implemented more of BYU's old defense into his new Hurricane defensive packages.

"We're not going to do anything too special really," said Unga. "We will focus on some things that we need to do to adjust to their defense, like learn different blocks that we'll set up against their defense.

"For the most part we'll come out and see what their different reads are with their defensive line, and then progressing out to their linebackers and safeties to pick up where the blitzes will come from. But we don't do too much because our reads are pretty much the same. We just have to be careful there isn't anybody sliding up off the edge. For the most part we'll watch that safety or a linebacker coming from the outside."

Semanoff said that Tulsa doesn't run anything defensively that most of the Cougars haven't already seen, especially with some of players having been on the team back when the defense utilized the 3-3-5 scheme. He said that he doesn't think the team will be surprised by what is thrown at them, including the cross blitzes the offense is expecting to see.

"If it's a pass we'll try and pick up that safety," said Semanoff. "If he comes with a linebacker, we'll try and pick him up. They usually give it away with a secondary shift, and we know what to look for. We'll know if it's coming or not."

After watching the limited film BYU has of this year's Tulsa defense (Tulsa had a bye week last week and has played only one game so far), the Cougars haven't seen too many stunts from their d-line or linebackers like UCLA utilized. Instead, the Hurricanes play straight-up with the idea of trying to keep everything in front of them, much like the defensive philosophy of Arizona.

"So far we haven't seen too much," Unga said. "Nothing really out of the ordinary. We watched a little bit of film on them here and there to get a little bit of a feel of what they're going to bring at us. We don't have a whole lot of film on them, but that's okay because for the most part we're just trying to perfect our game."

The Golden Hurricane linebackers a lot of zone defense and pursue towards the ball. This is the type of defense that BYU's running backs enjoy facing, as they are able to find holes in the defense when they catch balls out of the backfield.

"In our passing game, our backs are a huge part of our offense," said Semanoff. "I think it's going to be hard for them to cover us in the flats and out in the middle. A lot of the times during the pass we'll read the defense and find holes in the zone and just sit. That's kind of what our offense thrives on. We'll take five yards a play with passes underneath and frustrate defenses by being able to drive down the field like that. This is the kind of defense that's going to give us those kinds of holes.

"In the run game, we're used to taking on these bigger linebackers. I think it's going to be a lot of how we played against the linebackers in that Arizona game. We'll be physical when we have to, and because they're bigger backs, we can juke them when we need to."

Tight end Andrew George gives his thoughts on the Tulsa 3-3-5 defense and the linebackers the Cougar offense will face this weekend against Tulsa.


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