After going 3-9 the two years before his arrival, Willie Fritz took Tulane to a 4-8 year in 2016, then a 5-7 year in 2017, then a 6-6 year in 2018 where the Green Wave won a bowl game for the first time since 2002 to finish the year with a winning record.
Fritz has made a career out of changing programs for the better from his stints in DII and FCS to smoothing Georgia Southern’s transition to the FBS so well that the Eagles won the Sun Belt title the first year they were eligible for it. The defense was young last year and returns a lot, but the schedule gets tougher and some key pieces on offense are gone so improving yet again may be challenging.
RBs Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphine return after combining for nearly 2,000 yards and averaging 5.9 yards per carry together, QB Justin McMillan is back after an up and down year, and the top pass catcher returns in Darnell Mooney (993 yards, 20.7 YPC, eight touchdowns). That’s the good news. The bad news is that essentially everyone else is gone including three of five on the line and their top three pass-catchers after Mooney. Needless to say, this feels like a high variance offense.
Some transfers come in to plug some of the holes like Oklahoma State grad transfer WR Jalen McCleskey, a name that might be familiar to you. Virginia grad transfer Ben Knutson and Brown grad transfer Christian Montano come in on the line as well.
The gaps in the receiving corps and on the line won’t be completely filled by the grad transfers, but they should stop the bleeding to some extent, and I’m much more bullish on this offense than I expected to be when I saw just five starters returning from a 26.8 PPG offense on my spreadsheet.
Tulane boasts the top defensive line in the AAC between DEs Cameron Sample (four sacks), Patrick Johnson (10.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, five PBUs), and De’Andre Williams. NT Jeffery Johnson returns on the inside and Alfred Thomas is a young name to keep an eye on. Linebackers Marvin Moody and Lawrence Graham return as well as NB Tirise Barge.
There are some notable departures in the secondary between S Roderic Teamer Jr. and CB Donnie Lewis Jr., but Tulane played a pretty wide rotation in the secondary so a lot of guys have some experience, most notably star corner Thakarius Keyes (11 PBUs).
The front six is great and while there are a couple of holes in the secondary that group could be solid. With eight starters back from a good D this has the potential to be a top-three defense in the conference.
I am certainly higher on Tulane than my model is (84th). This, to me, is a team that if things go right can challenge for an AAC West title. I’m excited about the run game and the defense the schedule isn’t awful. I think this is a bowl team that, if holes on the OL, receiving corps, and secondary are addressed has the potential for much more.
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Average Projected Record: 6.0 wins, 6.0 losses (3.9 wins, 4.1 losses)