Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Tulane Green Wave

Tulane Green Wave
Year one of the Willie Fritz era at Tulane went about as well as could be expected. Tulane won four total games in year one, but three of those four wins came outside of AAC play, and the Green Wave finished just 1-7 inside of conference play. It is going to be a bit of a process to get this thing turned around, as when Fritz arrived, there was not much at all to work with. He will take his time to build his team around him, and that may get frustrating, but Fritz is one of the better coaches in the game, and if anyone can turn this thing around, it would be him.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
With struglles at the QB position last fall, the Green Wave found themselves a solid RB in Dontrelle Hilliard, who led the team with 759 yards rushing and nine scores. He averaged 5.62 yards per carry, and will return to give Tulane a player that they can build around while settling down the offense.
Terren Encalade and Darnell Mooney will also both return as starting receivers. They combined for 60 receptions and 767 yards last fall, and also combined for eight TD receptions.
Three starters return on the line in C Junior Diaz, Leeward Brown, and John Leglue. It is not known where Brown and Leglue will line up, but they have solid experience at this point.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Glen Cuielette is back at QB, but he was not good in 2016. He finished by completing just 42.6% of his passes for 1309 yards and ten scores to eight picks, and averaged just 109.1 yards per game. If Fritz is going to get this offense churning, he may have to find someone to push him or just simply take the job, but who knows who that will be right now.
Even with Hilliard back at RB, Josh Rounds and Lazedric Thompson are gone, and they combined for 1264 yards rushing and 14 scores. Those numbers are going to be tough to reproduce for any newcomers to the position this fall.
Two new starters also need to be found on the line, and a reshuffling of that deck could be in line overall, giving more reasons to be worried about an under producing passing game in general.
Only two receivers caught more than 20 passes last season, and finding skilled production here will be a major camp challenge as well.
Andrew DiRocco was not very good at PK last season, hitting just 62.5% of his FG attempts, but he will need to be replaced anyway.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The strength of this defense may actually be the secondary, where all four starters return.Parry Nickerson and Donnie Lewis, Jr. both return at CB, and Jarrod Franklin will be back at FS, along with Roderic Teamer, Jr. at SS. This group combines for 93 total career starts. Lewis and Nickerson combined for 18 PBUs last season, and also combined for six picks.
Sean Wilson will be back at NT in 2017, after finishing with five TFLs last fall, and Ade Aruna is back at DE. Aruna finished with 10 TFLs off of the edge, and totaled 43 tackles last season.
Zachery Harris played in nine games last season, and finished with 45 tackles at LB. He returns as well.
Zachary Block returns at Punter, and he will give his defense a chance to succeed after averaging 40.76 yards per punt last fall as a sophomore.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The LB unit, overall, was hit with some serious loss, including Nico Marley, who finished second on the team in TFLs, and led the team in tackles. Two new starters need to be found, with Rae Juan Marbley and Eric Bowie looking like leading candidates early. They combined for 48 tackles as reserves last season.
Losing Tanzel Smart in the middle up front will really hurt the Green Wave, as he was one of the most productive defenders up front in school history.
The Unit as a while, gave up 27.7 points per game last season. I see some areas where improvement can show, but this is still very much a work in progress.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Grambling, 9/9 at Navy, 9/16 at Oklahoma, 9/23 Army, 10/7 Tulsa, 10/14 at FIU, 10/21 USF, 10/27 at Memphis, 11/4 Cincinnati, 11/11 East Carolina, 11/18 Houston, 11/25 at SMU
Final Overview
Remember what I said about Tulane being a work in progress. When Fritz got to New Orleans, this program was a disaster, and in some ways, it still is. Investments have been made into this program, but it will take some time for the talent level to grow, and it is not nearly there yet on offense, specifically at QB. With the schedule on hand, and the talent that exists, or doesn't, Tulane is looking at another four win season, but there are opportunities for a couple of wins in league play that were not there a year ago. It's progress. Long, slow progress.

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