Tulane’s Defense went from 76th in the nation in total defense in 2015 up to 30th in 2016. Can the defense continue the upward trend?
For the last four years Tulane’s front seven, really front six due to the Green Wave’s 4-2-5 alignment, has had to rely on Nico Marley and Tanzel Smart. But those two, both two time All-AAC selections, have exhausted their eligibility. Who does the Green Wave turn to for playmakers and leadership going into the 2017 season?
Tulane may have lost two starters from last year’s front six, but everyone else returns. Edge rusher Ade Aruna, headlines an impressive group of ends. Whilst Sean Wilson, returns for his senior season at defensive tackle. The linebackers will benefit from the return of part-time starters Rae Juan Marbly and Zach Harris.
Defensive Ends: The Green Wave return one of the best edge players in the AAC in Ade Aruna (5 sacks, 10 TFL), at 6’6” 270lbs Aruna has next level size and talent. Luke Jackson (1 sack, 5 TFL) is currently listed as the starter at the other end position; but there will be plenty of competition for the postion starting opposite Aruna, as the Green Wave return three players who have started at least one game at end. Robert Kennedy (27 tackles, 2 TFL), Peter Woullard (13 tackles, 2 sacks) and Daren Williams (14 tackles, 1 sack) have experience and ability. The trio have been around the block and all flashed ability. If Woullard, Kennedy or senior Quinlan Carroll (15 tackles, 2 sacks) can stay healthy the Green Wave will have one of the top defensive end rotations in the AAC.
Defensive Tackle: Tulane graduated the best defensive tackle they have had this century in Tanzel Smart, and you don’t get better by losing smart guys. Tulane has a talented but thin group returning at the defensive tackle position.
Senior Sean Wilson (5 TFL, 3 sacks) returns after starting 11 of 12 games last season for the Green Wave at Nose Tackle. The 3-Technique position will be manned by redshirt senior Eldrick Washington (4 TFL, 2 Sacks) who saw extensive duty in the tackle rotation including one start. Behind starters Wilson & Washington, Tulane will be as green as their uniforms. redshirt junior Braynon Edwards has only played sparingly, logging two tackles last season, while the other two tackles are redshirt freshmen DeAndre Williams and Deion Rainey.
Linebackers: At Linebacker Tulane graduated a four year starter in Nico Marley, but the players who remain have the talent and game experience to mitigate any drop off. The currently listed starters, senior Rae Juan Marbley (36 tackles, 2 TFL) and redshirt junior Zach Harris (45 tackles, 4 TFL) combined for nine starts last season. Backing up Marbley and Harris are sophomores Larry Bryant and Lawrence Graham, who spent most of the season playing special teams. Also look for sophomore Chase Napoleon, a former safety to also be added to the mix.
Tulane’s defense improved greatly in defensive coordinator Jack Curtis’ first season calling the defensive plays. Going from 73rd against the run to 50th, and improving 110th to 59th in points per game. The Green Wave needs to avoid injuries up front, but the size, talent and experience that returns for coach Curtis will lead to a continuation of the improved play we saw last season.