With spring practice a little more than a couple of weeks away let’s begin our evaluation of the 2017 version of the Tulane Green Wave by taking a good look at the roster position by position as they prepare to begin their second spring under the tutelage of head coach Willie Fritz.
Previously: Quarterback - Running Back
Tulane struggled mightily to pass the ball in 2016, ranking 126th in the nation in passing. The quarterbacks had a problem with accuracy, the offensive line had a hard time keeping the quarterbacks upright and the receivers had trouble getting open. One of the issues that has plagued Tulane in recent seasons was a lack of depth at the wide receiver position. Growing so acute that during spring practice last season the Green Wave only had three healthy scholarship receivers.
In his first singing class Coach Willie Fritz addressed the wide receiver depth issue, signing four wide receivers. Fritz then added to that haul in 2017’s signing class with four more receivers, including Jabril Clewis a JUCO transfer who is available for spring practice. Now the Green Wave goes into spring practice with eight scholarship athletes at wide receiver along with two at tight end with more to arrive in the fall.
Junior – Terren Encalade – (36 catches 500 yards 6 TD’s) Encalade was Tulane’s leading receiver last season, posting career highs in catches, yards and TDs. The rising Junior showed sure hands, ran tight routes and brought consistency to the WR position. He also proved to be a capable blocker on the edge, a must in Willie Fritz’s offense. Encalade even garnered a few carries on option plays rushing for 41 yards.
Junior – Jabril Clewis – (JUCO transfer) Clewis transferred into the program from Grossmont Community College. Prior to his stint at Grossmont, Clewis began his college career at San Diego State where he was a 3 star recruit in 2014.
Junior – Devin Glenn – (3 catches 32 yards) Nicknamed “Jet,” Glenn has seen time at RB, WR and kickoff returner, but has yet to find the right position to utilize his speed and quickness.
Redshirt Sophomore – Andrew Hicks – (2 catches 52 yards 1 TD in 2015) Hicks suffered a torn ACL toward the end of the 2015 season, then suffered another ACL injury and was forced to miss the 2016 season. If healthy he will provide Green Wave QB’s with a large (6’3”) target.
Sophomore – Chris Johnson – (1 catch 18 yards) Johnson had worked his way into the starting lineup as a true freshman due to his size, speed and tenacious blocking; starting multiple games before an ACL injury derailed his season.
Sophomore – Darnell Moody – (24 catches 267 yards 2 TD’s) Moody was the Green Wave’s second leading receiver as a true freshman. He flashed impressive speed in the open field and a willingness to block that belies his small stature.
Sophomore – D. J. Owens – (1 catch 28 yards 1 TD) Owens was yet another true freshman receiver to see significant playing time, although mainly on special teams. He did make his one reception count, going for a touchdown vs Houston.
Redshirt Freshman – Jacob Robertson – Robertson was a three-star recruit in the 2016 class and redshirted last year. However, he was touted as the most polished of the receivers of the 2016 recruiting class. He’ll get a chance to impress the coaches this spring before the next crop of freshmen arrive in the fall.
Senior – Kendall Ardoin – (Four Catches 80 yards 1 TD) The rising senior wasn’t given many opportunities in the passing game but he made the most of his targets. Ardoin is a willing, but not dominant blocker in the run game.
Junior – Charles Jones II – Began the 2016 season as the starter, but was sidelined for the season with an ankle injury. In the previous two seasons Jones II had 38 catches for 323 yards and six touchdowns. If he can stay healthy he is an asset in all phases of the offense.
Although the Green Wave is a spread option team, Coach Fritz has stressed the importance of offensive balance, with a credible passing threat to open up the run game. Tulane was extremely inconsistent passing the ball last season. When the Green Wave was successful passing the ball, most notably vs UL-Lafayette, SMU, UMass and UConn, the Green Wave won 3 of the 4 games.
In order to take the next step offensively the receivers have to do a better job of creating separation from defenders and making the most of their opportunities presented in play-action. Encalade was shown he can be a number one receiver, but Tulane needs two more receivers to step up and be a threat. If Mooney can improve his focus, if DJ Owens and Jacob Robertson can progress as sophomores, and if Johnson and Hicks comes back healthy (a lot of ifs), the Tulane passing game will have some quality depth.
Jabril Clewis’ speed and size will be welcomed into a group without an established deep threat to loosen up defenses. While the staff needs to find some way to get the ball to Devin Glenn in space; where his exceptional quickness can be put to use. With regard to the tight ends, this spring will be about staying healthy and becoming better in-line blockers.