As reported by various Tulsa, Okla. media outlets, the University of Tulsa confirmed on Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 27) that senior safety Demarco Nelson has been ruled academically ineligible for the team's Thursday night game at Bowling Green.
The university has appealed the NCAA's ruling, which is based on the "Progress Towards Degree" requirement, and his status for the remainder of the season is unclear.
The suspension will end Nelson's streak of 39 consecutive starts, which is tied for second nationally among all returning players. Nelson also entered this season on both the Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe Award watch lists.
This is undoubtedly a huge loss for Tulsa and an even bigger plus for Bowling Green. Nelson collected 80 tackles, four tackles for loss, three pass break-ups and two interceptions in 2012. His eight career interceptions places him among the top ten active leaders in that category. Both he and linebacker Shawn Jackson were arguably the best and most experienced players on Tulsa's defense; in fact, Nelson was one of the few returning starters from the team's 2012 unit.
The bigger problem, aside from the loss of Nelson's production, is his potential replacements. In the linked report at the beginning of this article, it is noted that the Nelson's likely replacement is sophomore Bradley White. White is a former walk-on and played 13 games on special teams last season. White's backup will likely be redshirt freshman Matt Linscott, who is also a walk-on. The other back-up safety on Tulsa's depth chart for this week, Jeremy Brady, is also a redshirt freshman.
This loss means that three of the four projected starters in Tulsa's secondary for Thursday night's game are either freshmen or sophomores. When you consider that UT's defensive line also suffers from lack of experience, you come to the conclusion that the Golden Hurricane defense is very vulnerable.
It is unclear how much, if any, of this week's game plan that Bowling Green Falcons head coach Dave Clawson can (or would) change at this point, but this development should definitely encourage him to open up the offense early and test Tulsa's secondary.
If Clawson wants to get quarterback Matt Schilz some early-season confidence, it's hard to imagine a more perfect storm of events...pun definitely intended.