Tulane Green Wave
Head Coach: Willie Fritz
2015 Record: 3-9
2015 Bowl: N/A
2016 Returning Starters: 3 Offense, 6 Defense
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +999999
Odds to win 2016 AAC Championship: +20000
Regular Season over/under: 3.5 wins
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The Tulane Green Wave will be keeping the ball on the ground a lot. And by “a lot” we mean almost constantly. Tulane led the nation in rushing in 2014 and 2015, but passed just ten times all last season. New coach Willie Fritz did much the same at Georgia Southern, and Fritz takes four eager running backs under his wing, undoubtedly all eager to reap the benefits of his unsophisticated offense.
Fritz said the depth in the backfield constitutes his deepest position, which seems as fortuitous as it is improbable. Whatever the case, junior Dontrell Hilliard will be the No. 1 back, and he had 646 yards (5.6 per carry) last season in a pretty disastrous season as Tulane went 3-9 in 2015.
Junior Sherman Badie also will see a lot of reps, and he had three runs of 70-plus yards last season. Rounding out the backfield are Lazedrick Thompson and Josh Rounds.
At QB, the Green Wave will be looking at redshirt sophomore Glen Cuiellette and true freshman Darius Bradwell. Neither did particularly well in spring. Neither has much experience to speak of, either. It likely will not matter much with Tulane’s leading passing option being Trey Scott, a converted TE that has just 18 catches to his name. The leading WR from last season, Teddy Veal, transferred to Louisiana Tech. But as already made clear: Tulane will not be passing the ball much this year either.
Tulane’s defense last season was pitiful. The Green Wave allowed 36.3 points per game (No. 110 among FBS schools) while giving up 412.2 yards per game (No. 80). The Green Wave do return six starters, and two of those were first-team AAC performers. Things could change, but it may not happen all this season.
Tanzel Smart had 62 tackles and 15 for loss last season, which is about as good as it gets for an interior lineman. Nico Marley is a three-year starter who came up with 82 stops both last year and the year prior. Junior end Ade Aruna played just one year of high school football, but he is a superb athlete and started last season.
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The experience could snowball into something big for Aruna, as he probably has the highest upside of all Tulane’s defensive players. Junior CB Perry Nickerson had six INTs in 2014, but he had none last year, and the Green Wave will need him to force some turnovers in the secondary.
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Tulane managed a +1 turnover margin last year, but improving on that could help compensate for the disparity between its offensive and defensive units. At S, the Green Wave have Jarrod Franklin and Leonard Davis. Franklin was a LB last season, and Davis was suspended for academic reasons. Both stepping up (and returning to form) could help Tulane drastically improve its defense.
It will likely be better this year, but how much better is unclear.
Tulane has been horrible kicking the ball the last two seasons, and Andrew DiRocco has to improve his range as a kicker. He made 9 of 10 last season, but with his limited range he could lose his job to freshman Coby Neenan.
Punter Zach Block averaged 37.9 yards last season, which hardly cuts it. Fritz brought in a new long snapper, and the special teams have to get better. It was one more black mark on Tulane’s season, and improvement is requisite if the Green Wave are to become threats in the AAC any time soon.
Tulane opens the season Sept. 1 at Wake Forest. It will face Navy in its first AAC matchup on Sept. 17, but will not face another conference opponent until Oct. 7 when the Green Wave travel to UCF. With UCF, Memphis and Tulsa beginning its conference stretch, the chance is there for Tulane to get off to a better start in Conference play, though that may not matter much in the grand scheme of things.
Tulane has gone 3-9 the last two seasons, and the Green Wave really lack a proven option at QB. Even for a team so dependent on the rush, there has to be some semblance of balance to take Tulane more seriously. Fritz has been a successful coach, but it seems Tulane is taking something broken and trying to make it less broken, rather than revamping the program and heading a different direction.
This season will be slightly better than last, and the difference likely will not be overly manifested in the win column…
Prediction: 4 wins
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