2013 Tulane Preview – Defense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Tulane Green Wave Defense
Preview 2013 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: The Green Wave has had a long and painful history of being flattened on defense, a trend that shows no sign of letting up in 2013. Tulane lacks the talent, depth and especially the size to combat the offenses of Conference USA. How bad is the situation? The program has ranked 115th nationally in scoring D in consecutive years, producing just two honorable mention All-Conference USA performers in 2012. Noticeable gains are highly improbable. The Green Wave is small and quick at each level, creating takeaway opportunities, yet also leaving the team vulnerable to no-nonsense ground games. Up front, Tulane relies on DE Julius Warmsley, while holding out hope that LSU import Chris Davenport can bolster the nose. With a spate of young and active returning starters, like FS Darion Monroe and CB Lorenzo Doss, the secondary can't help but be improved.
Star of the defense: Senior DE Julius Warmsley
Tackles: Darion Monroe, 97
Sacks: Julius Warmsley, 3
Interceptions: Lorenzo Doss, 5
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior NT Chris Davenport
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Jordan Batiste
Best pro prospect: Davenport
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Warmsley, 2) Sophomore FS Darion Monroe, 3) Sophomore CB Lorenzo Doss
Strength of the defense: Takeaways, range
Weakness of the defense: Run defense, linebacker, pass rush, softness in coverage, third-down D
The Tulane D struggled mightily at the point of attack a year ago. A few more linemen like Julius Warmsley sure would help. The senior defensive end was named honorable mention All-Conference USA in 2012, and will be looking for higher honors in 2013. The three-year letterman played tackle last year, and has moonlighted on the Green Wave track & field team as a thrower, but he's at his best when going up against guards and centers. The athletic 6-2, 271-pounder, with the quick feet, had 26 tackles, six stops for loss, three sacks and three fumble recoveries last fall.
Flanking Warmsley on the outside will be 6-3, 239-pound sophomore Royce LaFrance, a smaller, quicker pass rusher for the Green Wave. He started the final two games of 2012, making 20 tackles, 3.5 stops for loss, a sack and three fumble recoveries.
Defensive tackle will be the domain of 6-2, 290-pound junior Kenny Welcome, who started all but a single game last season. He made 26 stops and forced two fumbles, yet generally struggled to clog running lanes.
The program is cautiously optimistic about the first—and only—year with senior Chris Davenport. The powerful 6-4, 330-pounder began his career as a five-star recruit of LSU, but never played to his lofty expectations. Still, the Green Wave is ecstatic about having a player, like Davenport, who spent four seasons at one of the most respected programs in America. He's attempting to hold off 6-0, 294-pound sophomore Corey Redwine, a returning letterwinner who had 20 tackles and started four games in 2012.
Watch Out For .... the impact of Davenport. He's smart, he's big and he's appeared in a bunch of important SEC games. No. 94 ought to be an upgrade on the interior of the Tulane, but how much of an upgrade? If he can help free up Warmsley and LaFrance, Davenport will have earned his graduate degree credits this year.
Strength: Warmsley. He's experienced, versatile and perennially productive. Warmsley is the one guy that can spark the Tulane front wall, creating matchup problem pretty much wherever he lines up. The senior will again lead all linemen in momentum-building stops for minus yards.
Weakness: Run defense. The Green Wave ranked 114th nationally a year ago, while yielding more than five yards a carry. No, it wasn't entirely the fault of the D-line, but the unit does assume a fair amount of culpability pertaining to the futile results.
Outlook: Shimmers of hope come in the form of the veterans, Warmsley, Davenport and Welcome. However, the key just might be LaFrance. The Green Wave needs someone to step up and take advantage of the attention that the other linemen will receive. The athletic sophomore has the potential to be that guy for the D. Otherwise, stuffing the run will be a collaborative effort that falls on the shoulders of every member of the two-deep.
The Green Wave is going to be light at linebacker … literally. Manning strongside will be 5-11, 203-pound junior Matthew Bailey, who started eight games at weakside and one at strongside last season. He has the range and quickness to support the pass defense, chipping in 35 stops, two picks and four fumble recoveries.
Replacing Bailey at weakside is 5-11, 204-pound senior Kyle Davis. The converted safety is getting his shot to start, coming off the bench to make 29 stops last season. At 6-2 and 231 pounds, junior Taylor Bullock brings better size to the position, providing depth and support on special teams.
The staff likes its situation in the middle. Starter Dominique Robertson may only be 6-1 and 191 pounds, but he plays the game with a surly attitude and a chip on his shoulder. Largely a reserve, he made 31 stops in 2012. His backup, 6-0, 214-pound senior Zach Davis, is less flashy, yet has a knack for just making plays. The starter in eight games in 2012 tallied 78 tackles, five stops for loss, two sacks and a pick.
Watch Out For .... well-timed blitzes. The upshot of the diminutive Tulane linebackers is that they can cover ground in a hurry. If the cornerbacks can handle the lack of support, the defensive staff would like to unleash its linebackers off the edge from time to time.
Strength: Pass coverage. The Green Wave linebackers are built like safeties. They defend like them as well. The group does a nice job of sinking its hips, turning quickly and blanketing a running back or tight end.
Weakness: Size. As it stands now, the projected starters average less than 200 pounds, which is unacceptable at the second line of defense. If these guys are forced to take on offensive linemen on running plays, they're simply going to be obliterated by blockers who have 100 pounds on them.
Outlook: Scrappy will only get a defense so far. Yeah, the Tulane linebackers will pick off a few passes and fly in for the occasional sack, but it won't be enough to offset the number of times that they're bullied by north-south running teams. The Green Wave starters are glorified backups, lacking the size needed to excel at linebacker.
Hope springs eternal in the passing game at Tulane. Pass defense? Not so much. The Green Wave has struggled for years in the secondary, ranking 95th nationally in 2012. However, the 2013 edition boasts a couple of young defensive backs capable of gradually changing old perceptions. Sophomore Darion Monroe, an original Texas A&M commit, began his rookie year at cornerback before flourishing over the final 10 games as a free safety, and earning honorable mention All-Conference USA. While just 5-10 and 190 pounds, he played with all of the size and the intensity of a linebacker. Despite having to learn on the fly and still being somewhat raw in his assignments, Monroe still led the program with 97 tackles and three fumble recoveries. With a full offseason in the weight room and the film room, he'll be even better prepared to wreak havoc.
The emergence of sophomore CB Lorenzo Doss, another budding rookie in 2012, allowed Monroe to move to his more natural free safety position. Doss started the year on the second unit, but started the final nine games, and also was recognized as honorable mention All-Conference USA. He wound up with 44 tackles and a team-high five interceptions, showcasing solid ball skills and coverage ability. The 5-11, 168-pound Doss has to add weight, which ought to come with more time in the program.
If opposing quarterbacks attempt to avoid Doss, they'll likely target the Green Wave's other corner, sophomore Jordan Batiste. While only 5-8 and 169 pounds, he's a dynamic all-around athlete in the secondary. The 10-game starter, mostly at nickel, was in on 41 stops and broke up eight passes. Behind Batiste is 5-8, 183-pound senior Derrick Strozier, a veteran of three letters who's also played some running back.
The identity of the starting strong safety won't be decided until the summer. Competing for the nod are a pair of juniors, 6-0, 198-pound Brandon LeBeau, a former wide receiver, and 6-1, 183-pound Sam Scofield. The latter possesses the edge in experience, starting two games and making 32 tackles in 2012.
Watch Out For .... Monroe to perform with more confidence this fall. As well as the sophomore played in his debut, he was also admittedly too soft in coverage, fearing that receivers would get behind him. With a full year of snaps and an offseason of practice, No. 2 is determined to be much tighter in coverage in 2013.
Strength: Ball skills. Led by Doss' five picks, the Green Wave ranked behind only SMU and Houston in Conference USA interceptions last season. Tulane houses a smattering of quality athletes on the last line of defense, who'll do more than just deflect throws.
Weakness: Softness in coverage. Tulane needs to reduce the number of big plays it gives up through the air this season. The 8.2 yards per attempt that last year's edition yielded was 109th in the country, the product of poor tackling and an unacceptable cushion at the line of scrimmage.
Outlook: The defensive backs are raw, but not without potential. The Green Wave went young last year, and should start reaping some of the dividends in 2013. Sure, Tulane will still be vulnerable through the air, but as long as Monroe, Doss and Batiste continue to improve, there's hope that the secondary might be surprisingly feisty and opportunistic.
Green Wave senior Cairo Santos achieved something in 2012 that placekickers can only dream about ... perfection. He became just the second player in FBS history to attempt at least 20 field goals without a miss. The reigning Lou Groza Award winner was 21-of-21, including a school-record 57-yarder, and ranked No. 4 in the country at just over 64 yards per kickoff. On a Tulane offense that could sputter in the red zone, Santos will again be a critical cog in the machine.
Back at punter will be sophomore Peter Picerelli, who averaged 41 yards in 2012. He needs to work on his hang time and angles, especially after the Green Wave ranked a dismal 104th nationally in net punting.
Watch Out For… the development of rookie Michael Lizanich. Tulane went all the way to Phoenix, Ariz. to land one of the nation's premier deep snappers, an underrated cog in a special teams unit. The true freshman has already elevated to the top of the depth chart.
Strength: Santos. The Green Wave boasts one of the country's preeminent placekickers, a sure-thing from inside 40 yards. No, the 5-9, 160-pounder doesn't have an enormous leg, but if Tulane can drive deep into the red zone, three points are almost automatic.
Weakness: The return game. Junior Dante Butler and sophomores Darion Monroe and Josh Rounds will get every opportunity to ignite a feeble return game that ranked 101st nationally in punt returns and 114th on kickoffs.
Outlook: There's Santos … and then a precipitous drop-off on special teams. Yeah, Tulane has an ace at kicker, but until it can do a markedly better job in coverage and returns, this unit is destined to remain a liability on a macro level in the fall.
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