Linebackers at one point in the season were a strong point for Fresno State. An injury to stud OLB Marcus Riley has hurt the Bulldogs more than anyone could have imagined. His replacement Emanuel Sanchez has not been able to keep up the pace on the outside. Sanchez was mainly used on passing downs and his run defense is for the lack of a better word, terrible. However, speedy sophomore Ahijah Lane is finally healthy and true freshman Quaadir Brown has emerged as more than a special teams player. Dewayne Andrews continues to be a solid force in the middle, and Alan Goodwin does a decent job at the other outside spot.
The strength of Tulsa's defense is their linebackers. Junior Nick Bunting and Sophomore Nelson Coleman were named all-conference. Bunting was on the preseason Butkas and Bednarik Award watch lists, but has somewhat underachieved this year. The OLB still ranks third on the team with 77 tackles. Coleman is a monster in the middle. The 6-2 235 lb MLB leads the Golden Hurricane with 103 tackles. Sophomore Chris Chamberlain is the other OLB and is tied with Bunting with 77 tackles on the year. Between the three starters they have a combined 73 starts in their career.
Fresno State has one of the best secondaries in the country. Despite losing SS James Sanders a year early to the NFL, the Bulldog defensive backs have not missed a beat. Sanders replacement Josh Sherley is an aggressive hitter, but makes too many mistakes. Richard Marshall and Marcus McCauley are one of best CB duos in the country. Marshall receives a boatload of national attention, but his counterpart, McCauley is an aggressive corner that deserves more hype. FS Tyrone Culver is the only senior of the bunch, and is a playmaker.
Tulsa had to replace three starters this year, but have improved their pass defense dramatically this year. The Golden Hurricane ranks 16th in the nation in pass defense. They use 5 DBs, and Bobby Blackshire is the biggest and strongest of the bunch. The 6-3 205 lb Bandit Safety was named first team all-conference, and is second on the team with 92 tackles. Starting at the SPUR is sophomore Anthony Germany. He leads the team with 13.5 tackles for losses. Bobby Klinck is an Oklahoma transfer and former prep all-star, but has been from stellar this year at FS. The corners are better than average. Junior Nick Graham has 5 ints on the year and was named 2nd team all-conference. The other corner is JC transfer Julian McGowan. McGowan is bigger than Graham and will more than likely draw the tough assignment of covering Paul Williams. Freshman Roy Roberts is a player to watch off the bench. The backup CB was named to the CUSA all-freshman team.