Tulsa’s Brooks presents challenge for Texas defense

Robert Larkin

This week, the Longhorns host the Tulsa Golden Hurricane for the home opener at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Here are this week's opponents to watch:

Shamari Brooks, No. 3 – Running back

If there’s an engine that makes the Tulsa offense move, it’s sophomore running back Shamari Brooks. Standing at 5-foot-9-inches, the Tulsa, Oklahoma, native doesn’t have the size of a prototypical three-down back but makes up for it with his strength and vision. Before suffering a season-ending collarbone injury, Brooks averaged a robust 5.8 yards per carry during an impressive freshman campaign last season. 

In Tulsa’s opener, Brooks lifted the Golden Hurricane offense with his 129-yard effort on the ground that also featured two touchdowns. His involvement and success in the running game will be the biggest key to Tulsa’s offense finding success against the Longhorns on Saturday.   

Luke Skipper, No. 13 – Quarterback

After splitting time as a starter in 2017, Skipper steps in as the main signal caller for the Golden Hurricane this season. While he doesn’t have the same running capabilities as last year’s starter Chad President, Skipper does give the Tulsa offense better accuracy at the quarterback position, and he’s not afraid to challenge defenses down the field.  

Against Central Arkansas, the redshirt sophomore displayed some of those skills, throwing for 196 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-27 victory. Skipper will undoubtedly face a more formidable defense this week against the Longhorns, but he’s certainly capable of orchestrating a competent offense if he finds his rhythm early. 

McKinley Whitfield, No. 5 – Safety

Whitfield was one of the lone bright spots for a dreadful Tulsa defense last season. The linebacker-turned-safety led the Golden Hurricane in tackles last season, tallying 113 on his way to honorable mention honors for the American Athletic Conference. This season, the senior defensive back is being asked to do even more as a leader in the Golden Hurricane’s secondary. 

While you can expect Whitfield to be heavily involved in run defense against the Longhorns, don’t be surprised if Texas head coach Tom Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck decide to attack him and the Tulsa secondary through the air. Whitfield’s group ranked 111th in passing yards allowed last season in the FBS. 

Shemarr Robinson, No. 54 – Defensive tackle

Simply put, Robinson is a load on the defensive line. One of the biggest members on Tulsa’s roster, the junior defensive tackle comes in at 6-foot-3-inches and 310 pounds. He packs a punch that troubles opposing offensive lines. 

During the Golden Hurricane’s week one matchup, Robinson starred, recording six tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss in the winning effort. If Texas hopes to expand on its running game this weekend, it’s essential that the Longhorns’ offensive line figures out a way to effectively move Robinson off the ball.