What you need to know ... The defense finished third in the
last season despite getting next to no production against the run and
not enough of a pass rush. This year, the line has too many veterans and
too much experience not to be better. The defensive back seven
will have major, major problems early with only one returning
starter and not nearly enough size to handle the more physical
teams. Forcing more turnovers is a must after taking it away
only 14 times.
Tackles: Israel Route,
Alvin Johnson, 3
Interceptions: Jeremy Foreman, 1
Star of the defense: Senior CB Israel Route
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
LB Jordan Ellis
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Sean Carney
Best pro prospect: Junior DE Antonio Harris
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Route, 2) Harris, 3) DT
Strength of the defense: Defensive line experience
Weakness of the defense:
Back seven experience
There's experience, size, and versatility
with several tackle-sized ends and decent size in the middle. Now there
has to be far more production in all phases after getting steamrolled
over for 193 rushing yards per game and not getting enough
push into the backfield. End Antonio Harris has the potential to be the
best of the group, but there aren't any obvious standouts among the
The key to the unit: Stop the run. The front four hasn't been
able to do it in years, but there's too much bulk and experience to be
Defensive Line Rating: 5
- DE Antonio Harris, Jr. - 34 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 6 TFL
The team's best tackling lineman last year, Harris has started from day
one and should grow into an all-star. He's big enough at 271 pounds to
be great against the run, and speedy enough to grow into a better pass
rusher. His emergence could be the key to the defense.
- DT Alvin Johnson, Jr. - 15 tackles, 3 sacks, 5.5 TFL
Part end, part tackle, the 6-3, 300-pound junior is an athletic interior
pass rusher with the size to do more against the run. There's no reason
he can't make double-digit plays behind the line with his quickness.
- DT Avery Williams, Jr. - 26 tackles, 2.5 TFL
Williams went from being a full-time starter as a freshman to a key
backup last year. He's a compact tackle at 6-0 and 282 pounds. He bulked
up a bit and should be stronger against the run.
- DE Sean Carney, Soph. - 8 tackles
A pure pass rusher, the 240-pound sophomore saw a little time in every
game last year and now will get the start at one of the end spots with
Taurean Brown moving inside.
- DT Taurean Brown, Sr. - 17 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL
A decent three-year veteran, the 6-6, 280-pound Brown started eight
games at end last year and now will move inside to rotate with Avery
Williams at tackle. He's an experienced talent who should make more
plays behind the line.
- DE Michael Purcell, Sr. - 21 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
Shaky knees have been Purcell's biggest issue. He started in nine games
last year but didn't do nearly enough as a pass rusher. At 275 pounds,
he can move to tackle if needed.
- DT Frank Morton, Jr. - 21 tackles, 5 TFL
Morton has as much talent as anyone on the line, and at 303 pounds, he's
the biggest run stuffer. He got one start last year and played in every
game. While he'll start out behind Alvin Johnson, he'll see time at both
tackle spots to get more size up front.
- DE Billy Harrison, Sr. - 11 tackles, 2.5 TFL
Harris made 65 tackles as a freshman and never got his groove back. He's
a good pass rusher and a smaller, quicker option than Antonio Harris and
Michael Purcell, but he has to be more consistent and has to be more of
a closer when he gets into the backfield.
Uh oh. The linebacking corps, outside of Anthony Cannon,
didn't exactly set the world on fire last year, and now the entire corps
will undergo an overhaul. There's little to no size and almost no
appreciable experience, but there are plenty of good athletes. Jordan
Ellis has the biggest job replacing Cannon in the middle, while the
newcomers on the outside have to be far more disruptive than last year's
The key to the unit: Grow up in a hurry. It's going
to be a work in progress, so this group has to do whatever it can to
just make plays.
Linebacker Rating: 4.5
- Terrence Peterson, Sr. - 6 tackles
A career special teamer, the undersized 215-pound
Peterson is a former safety with great quickness on the strongside. He's
not going to be great against the run, but he has to make plays all over
the field and occasionally get into the backfield.
- Jordan Ellis, Soph. - 6 tackles
Ellis has the unfortunate task of trying to replace heart-and-soul
Anthony Cannon in the middle. He's one oft he team's biggest linebackers
at 235 pounds with the potential to be one of the team's top tacklers.
He was a top recruit a few years ago and should look like it right away.
- James Dillard, Soph. - 7 tackles
Quick, quick, quick. Dillard is 6-1 and 220 pounds with good pass
rushing ability on the weakside. He'll have to prove he can hold up
against the run and always be in the right position against the pass,
but he's athletic enough to make up for mistakes.
- David Kirksey, RFr.
A safety-sized 6-1 and 200 pounds, Kirksey will push for time on the
strongside. He was a 185-pound defensive end in high school and needs to
be an aggressive pass rusher.
- Evan Lee, Soph. - 11 tackles
The 230-pound sophomore saw time in every game last year mostly as a
special teamer. He's one of the team's bigger linebackers and will play
behind Jordan Ellis in the middle.
- James McMurchy, RFr.
A great open-field tackler, the 215-pound McMurchy just needs a little
bit of time. He'll combine with James Dillard on the weakside.
The secondary only returns one starter,
Israel Route, but it isn't starting from scratch with several
experienced backups ready to emerge as starters. Technically, the pass
defense finished 13th in the country since so many teams spent time
running the ball, but the secondary didn't exactly do much of anything
on big plays and only came up with seven interceptions. It'll be an
overall work in progress.
The key to the unit: Hold up on third downs and don't
give up many big plays. This will be a far better group by the end of
the year, so it's just a question of how quickly they can get there.
Secondary Rating: 5
- CB Jeremy Foreman, Sr. - 25 tackles, 1 interception, 2
broken up passes
A spot starter over the last three years, the 6-2, 172-pound Foreman is
the biggest corner option and has to grow into a steady pass defender
now that he has the full-time gig. He has good speed and isn't a bad
- SS Joe Goosby, Jr. - 25 tackles, 1.5 TFL
A nice receiver over the last two years and a good special teamer, the
203-pound junior will take over for long-time star Tra Boger. He's quick
enough to be like a free safety against the pass, and big enough to be
strong against the run.
- FS Carlis Jackson, Jr. - 4 tackles
One of the team's fastest players, the former corner will take his range
and athleticism to free safety where he'll try to replace Sean Lucas.
Staying healthy has been a bit of a problem, but he should be a good
producer when he's on the field .
- CB Israel Route, Sr. - 40 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 3 broken up passes
The team's most experienced and productive returning defender. Route has
31 games of experience with 134 tackles and 14 broken up passes. He's
also the team's top returning tackler. He came through with a nice
season after spending the first part of his career mostly as a nickel
back, and now the 5-9, 184-pound senior has to be a shutdown defender.
- CB Josh Lumar, Soph. - 8 tackles
Still learning the cornerback job, the thin 5-11, 165-pound sophomore
has good quickness behind Jeremy Foreman. He'll also be used on special
- SS David Skehan, Jr. - 5 tackles
The former walk-on has been a special teamer so far. Now he has to be a
factor behind Joe Goosby in the attempt to replace Tra Boger.
Chris Beckman is one of the nation's best punters and should
be one of the team's top weapons. Barrett Pepper is a solid punter and
kickoff man, but he'll have to prove he can handle himself as a regular
field goal hitter. Israel Route is a solid all-around kick returner
averaging 22.3 yards per kickoff return and 10.1 yards per punt returns
last season. The coverage units have to be much, much better.
The key to the unit: Barrett Pepper has to use his
big leg to add more range on field goals.
Special Teams Rating: 7
- PK Barrett Pepper, Jr. - 9 punts, 364 yds, 40.4 yards
per kick, 4 inside the 20
Pepper will take over for Jacob Hartgroves after spending last year as
the main kickoff man and part time punter. He has a big leg, but he has
to prove he can be consistent.
- P Chris Beckman, Sr. - 53 punts, 2,166 yds, 40.9 yards per
kick, 15 inside the 20
Tulane punters are always good, and Beckman is
no exception. He missed the last two games last year after a hunting
accident, but still managed to come up with a big year. The starter over
the last three seasons, he has a career average of 42.4 yards per kick
with 50 put inside the 20.