2012 Tulane Preview - The New Wave
Tulane RB Orleans Darkwa
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Tulane Green Wave
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By Richard Cirminiello
Tulane, college football's version of a hot potato, now rests firmly in the hands of first-year head coach Curtis Johnson.
Head coach: Curtis Johnson
First year: 0-0
Off. 23, Def. 27, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best Tulane Players
1. LB Trent Mackey, Sr.
2. RB Orleans Darkwa, Jr.
3. QB Ryan Griffin, Sr.
4. DB Ryan Travis, Sr.
5. FS Shakiel Smith, Sr.
6. LB Darryl Farley, Sr.
7. WR Ryan Grant, Jr.
8. DT Julius Warmsley, Jr.
9. DL Michael Pierce, Soph.
10. RT Eric Jones, Sr.
Sep. 1 Rutgers
Sep. 8 at Tulsa
Sep. 15 OPEN DATE
Sep. 22 Ole Miss
Sep. 29 ULM
Oct. 6 at Louisiana-Lafayette
Oct. 13 SMU
Oct. 20 at UTEP
Oct. 27 UAB
Nov. 3 Rice
Nov. 10 at Memphis
Nov. 17 East Carolina
Nov. 24 at Houston
Nine straight losing seasons provide ample proof that this is an extremely difficult place to win. The facilities are second-rate, the fan base is dwindling and the competition for in-state recruits is insurmountable. Still, Johnson has embraced his new endeavor in his New Orleans hometown, bringing a fresh energy and a positive attitude to the Green Wave. The program can surely use the new vibe.
Last year's squad, the final one under beleaguered head coach Bob Toledo, was rife with problems, beating just one FBS opponent, and losing its final ten games. Tulane was simply unable to stack up in a Conference USA that was as deep as it had been in many years.
The offense executed poorly, while the D simply got trucked on a weekly basis. The results were predictable. Johnson has assembled a staff that has lofty expectations, but also the patience needed to maintain a realistic perspective during the rebuilding phase.
Tulane is not going to engineer any kind of an overnight success story. This will be a brick-by-brick process, sans any quick fixes or shortcuts. Encouraging news does come from a swath of returning starters on both sides of the ball, and a recruiting class dotted with potential future stars.
Success in these parts will be measured differently than it is at most schools. Johnson and his assistants will need to sharpen the little things, such as execution, fundamentals and building depth, before even worrying about wins and losses. It figures to be a long and arduous process, with the tangible rewards not coming until at least 2013.
What to watch for on offense: The return to health of Ryan Grant, the starter at "X" receiver. The 6-1, 194-pound junior was eyeing a spot on the All-Conference Team in 2011, but was limited to just a few plays because of a sports hernia. He's back again, giving the passing game hope and an impressive athlete with which to target. Grant has 50-catch and 750-yard potential, which is exactly what the attack needs in order to get things cranking this season.
What to watch for on defense: A faster pace. The Green Wave wants to do everything a little quicker this fall, from the way it gets back to the huddle to the way it closes on the man with the ball. Tulane knows that it's never going to be the biggest or the deepest D in the south, so it plans to control the things that are achievable. Look for a more frenetic pace out of this group for all 60 minutes. And those poorly-conditioned members of the defense will have a difficult time getting on the field once games begin.
The team will be far better if … it becomes more efficient in the red zone. A year ago, the Green Wave ranked 75th nationally in red zone touchdowns, and a dismal 116th at preventing red zone touchdowns. Neither figure is remotely close to what's needed for a team that's already lagging behind the competition. If Tulane can somehow find a way to improve in both areas, some of the close calls from recent years are liable to wind up in the win column.
The Schedule: The Green Wave don't exactly get a break to start things out, even with three home games in September, starting out against Rutgers and with Ole Miss to deal with. The Conference USA season kicks off in Week 2 at Tulsa, and with a date against SMU up next in league action - but not until October - it could be a rough start. While closing out with two of the final three games are on the road, overall, the Green Wave only leave the state of Louisiana four times.
Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Orleans Darkwa. The latest in a growing line of productive Green Wave runners, Darkwa has been the team's most consistent weapon over the last two years. The back-to-back Second Team All-Conference USA pick has rumbled for more than 1,800 yards and 24 touchdowns since arriving from Nashville, Tenn. Also the team's leading pass-catcher of 2011, he'd be far less unheralded if he got a little more support from up front.
Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Trent Mackey. What the 5-11, 227-pound Mackey lacks in prototypical size, he more than makes up for with heart, instincts and sound fundamentals. In his second year with the program, Tulane's man in the middle racked up 145 tackles, good for second in the league and fourth in the country. More than just a quality defender, he's also the kind of young man who makes a new coach's life just a bit easier because of his leadership and demeanor.
Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Ryan Griffin. Make no mistake about it—whenever Tulane has had success in its modern history, it has usually had a quality quarterback under center. Griffin doesn't necessarily have to be Shaun King or J.P. Losman, but he does have to produce a lot more big plays than he did a year ago. The Green Wave is home to an underrated collection of young receivers, and it's up to Griffin to maximize their ability.
The season will be a success if ... Tulane doubles last year's output by winning four games. Unlike a season ago, when the schedule featured an FCS opponent, there are no sure-things on the 2012 slate. The Green Wave will have to earn every victory this fall, no small accomplishment for a program carrying a 10-game winning streak into the opener with Rutgers.
Key game: Sept. 29 vs. UL-Monroe. Week 4 will be the Green Wave's first decent opportunity to snap its long losing streak. The game will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against an opponent that went 4-8 in 2011. Tulane is never going to be LSU in the state of Louisiana, but it does hope to narrow the divide on its in-state brethren out of the Sun Belt Conference.
2011 Fun Stats:
- Rushing touchdowns: Tulane 17 – Opponents 37
- Third down percentage: Tulane 38% – Opponents 43%
- Third quarter scoring: Tulane 55 - Opponents 110
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