Spring is in the air, or at least it will be soon enough. That means that college football programs around the nation are gearing up for Spring ball; one of the most important times of year. Just because no one is hitting the gridiron against other opponents doesn’t mean that a lot can’t be learned from what we see in March and April.
After a successful season a year ago, Tulane has undergone another roster shakeup heading into 2019. That means that Spring ball in New Orleans will be of the utmost importance to head coach Willie Fritz and his staff. New guys are coming into the program and old faces have since left. Many questions loom for the Green Wave right now, but what happens over the next month and a half can go a long way in answering those questions.
Here’s what the squad will need to get ironed out as spring goes on...
Who will be “the guy” in the secondary this season?
As of late, the Wave has been blessed to have a cluster of playmakers on the back end of the defense. Parry Nickerson rightfully earned the nickname “Mayor of Uptown” during his five seasons in New Orleans. The star corner went pro in 2018 but when his departure left a hole last season, Donnie Lewis Jr. stepped up and led the team in interceptions. Last year, Tulane notched 12 interceptions with Lewis and fellow DB Roderic Teamer on patrol. They’re both gone now, though, someone else will need to fill the shoes.
Seniors Larry Bryant and Thakarius Keyes will undoubtedly be looked to as veteran presences in the secondary but who’s waiting in the wings that could possibly also take on the responsibility as well? Keep an eye on redshirt sophomore Willie Langham. Langham defended seven passes in 2018 and may very will see an increased role this season.
With things more solidified on offense, expect this to be one of the more intense position battles that unfolds this spring.
Who will be QB 2?
Justin McMillan took the team by storm last season and helped conjure up a bowl bid after he took over for Jonathan Banks. Even after the QB swap, though, there was still a clear top two on the depth chart. Banks is now gone however and with McMillan expected to run the ship this season, the team has the task of naming a backup.
As of publishing this piece, Tulane has five other quarterbacks listed on their 2019 roster alongside McMillan. P.J. Hurst, Dane Ledford, Christian Daniels, Josh Holl and Keon Howard all could compete for the job. Ledford did get to see a brief glimpse of game time last year, attempting four passes.
This will be another interesting position competition to watch, even if it likely is only for a second-string spot.
How big will the committee behind Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphine be?
It’s no secret that any Willie Fritz-coached team features a slew of running backs. Tulane established themselves as a ground-oriented team in 2018 with transfer Corey Dauphine and Darius Bradwell spearheading the operation. Despite the success of those two, though, the Green Wave would not have seen near the success it did in the run had it not been for the guys in the supporting rolls.
Amare Jones made a splash as a freshman and seems primed to break out this season. A year ago he had 216 yards and four touchdowns all on 47 carries. Joining Jones will be Stephon Huderson who had 68 totes and 281 yards. But what fresh faces will also join the mix?
Sophomores Cameron Carroll and James Poche may easily see a bigger role this season but don’t be surprised if we see some other names get in on the action as well. In 2018, Tulane had 12 different players carry the ball throughout the season. Our hot take is that we will see even more do so this year... that’s just how Fritz does things.
How well will the O line rebound after losing its anchors?
John Leglue and Dominique Briggs were dominant on the offensive line last year but both have since graduated leaving big holes to fill. It will now fall on upperclassmen like Tyler Johnson, Keyshawn McLeod and Corey Dublin to step up. As we mentioned earlier, the staple of this team is running the ball. That obviously all starts at the line.
Fritz and the staff will have their work cut out for them replacing last year’s seniors but it’s certainly not an impossible task. The most vital facet of the team’s development this offseason will happen in the trenches. Much of 2019’s success will hinge on what happens in this department over the next several months.
What exactly will the receiving corp be capable of this season?
One huge saving grace on offense is the fact that Tulane still has receiver Darnell Mooney. Last season he led the team by a wide margin with 933 yards and eight scores and the now-senior seems poised to post even bigger numbers this year. Behind him was Terren Encalade who is now gone meaning that the theme we see with the backs is also true for the guys on the outside; who will be the support?
Mooney no question will be the go-to guy but he can’t do it alone. Jaetavian Toles and Jacob Robertson Jr. may be the answers. As sophomores in 2018 both receivers showed real promise, combining for 143 yards and a touchdown. They won’t have much of a choice to step up this year. Even though the Green Wave relies heavily on the run, it doesn’t mean they can be a one-man show on the outside.
The year is young but the season will creep up on us before we know it. The Wave better have answers to these questions when that happens because the expectations are now high in New Orleans. Anything short of another bowl victory this season will be seen as a setback. What happens over the following months will decide weather or not that standard will be met. Fritz has already made a name for himself at Tulane, but what he does this spring will ultimately help define his career in the Bayou as he enters his fourth season.