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The big 2014 Tulane football preview: The future is suddenly bright

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

A new stadium, a 2013 bowl bid, and some solid recruiting have given Tulane fans more hope for the future than at any recent time. But turnover and a tough schedule could result in a tough 2014 before the program completely gains traction.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

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1. A tip of the cap

On Wednesday, we discussed a team undergoing a relatively impressive rebuild; two years in, Memphis' Justin Fuente has raised Memphis' F/+ ranking by almost 40 spots, and while the wins haven't come yet (and might not in 2014 because of a tough schedule), the Tigers are undeniably moving in the right direction.

Today, we're going to discuss a team that has one-upped Memphis in the "rapid improvement" department. Two years ago, Curtis Johnson took over a Tulane team that had ranked 114th in 2011 (five spots ahead of Memphis) and hadn't ranked better than 99th in what, for lack of a better term, I'll call the F/+ era (2005-present). Since going 12-0 under Tommy Bowden in 1998, the Green Wave had finished with a winning record just twice; since 2002's Hawaii Bowl win, they had not done so. From 2008-11, Tulane went 11-38.

The program was directionless, and the facilities and recruiting draw were unimpressive. And by the end of Johnson's second season, the Green Wave were fighting it out with Louisiana-Lafayette deep into the New Orleans Bowl.

Tulane lost to finish 2013 with a 7-6 record, but ... 7-6! Tulane! We're probably not talking enough about how impressive Johnson's performance was last year. Thanks almost entirely to the defense, which improved from 102nd in Def. F/+ in 2012 to 29th in 2013, Tulane was salty, fun, and downright decent last fall.

I thought the Green Wave would improve; I didn't see seven wins.

2. It makes sense, really

LSU has finished in the AP top 20 for 11 of the last 13 years, top 10 for seven. Louisiana-Lafayette has won nine games for three straight years after failing to do so for more than three decades; the Ragin' Cajuns are now the three-time defending New Orleans Bowl champions. Louisiana-Monroe has won 14 games in two years and reached its first ever bowl in 2012. Louisiana Tech won 17 games in 2011-12 and spent some time ranked in the AP polls in 2012.

And now Tulane just popped up to reach a bowl for the first time in more than a decade.

Louisiana football is humming right now. And this makes perfect sense; Louisiana is absolutely loaded with football prospects.

So which state takes the crown? Louisiana. [...]

Over the period of study Louisiana produced Division I-FBS recruits at almost two and a half times the national average. It ranked first in both average per capita rake and in median per capita rate, though it didn’t rank first in all years. Alabama is a strong runner up, having ranked first in two years (both 2013 and 2012, so maybe there is a trend starting).

Now, academic standards at Tulane and UL-Monroe have forced those schools to expand outside of the state for some of their recruiting needs, but only so much. All five FBS schools in the state of Louisiana have won at least seven games in one of the last two seasons.

When you take per-capita football products into account, this isn't very surprising. In fact, the surprising part might be that four of these five schools were struggling not too long ago. Good hires make all the difference. And so far, it looks like Curtis Johnson was one hell of a hire.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 4-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 70
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
29-Aug Jackson State N/A 34-7 W 20.8 - 33.2 L
7-Sep South Alabama 68 39-41 L 27.6 - 30.8 L
12-Sep at Louisiana Tech 112 24-15 W 18.5 - 16.3 W
21-Sep at Syracuse 75 17-52 L 20.7 - 37.5 L
28-Sep at UL-Monroe 109 31-14 W 22.9 - 20.2 W -5.5
5-Oct North Texas 51 24-21 W 19.6 - 27.6 L -4.7
12-Oct East Carolina 40 36-33 W 24.9 - 26.0 L -4.2
26-Oct Tulsa 94 14-7 W 19.0 - 22.5 L -5.4
2-Nov at Florida Atlantic 73 17-34 L 13.5 - 26.8 L -4.7
9-Nov at UTSA 67 7-10 L 22.1 - 23.1 L -5.4
23-Nov UTEP 119 45-3 W 28.5 - 15.2 W -1.1
30-Nov at Rice 69 13-17 L 2.2 - 14.3 L -3.3
21-Dec UL-Lafayette 86 21-24 L 31.3 - 16.1 W 0.4
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -11.6% 105 +7.4% 29 +0.5% 56
Points Per Game 24.8 91 21.4 18
Adj. Points Per Game 20.9 113 23.8 27

3. The defense was decent, then good, then great

Tulane and Memphis in 2013 were the same but different. Both teams featured offenses that never came around and held them back. Both teams rode defense as far as it would take them. But while Memphis' defense was very good at the beginning of the season and eventually gave out after a string of close losses, Tulane's just got better and better.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Opponent 29.5, Tulane 21.9 (minus-7.6)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 6 games): Opponent 24.4, Tulane 20.3 (minus-4.1)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 3 games): Tulane 20.7, Opponent 15.2 (plus-5.5)

The Green Wave allowed 6.0 yards per play to South Alabama and 5.7 to Syracuse as part of a hit-or-miss September. But after pulling off a strangely offense-friendly 36-33 win over ECU on October 12, the defense would allow more than 4.9 yards per play in a game just one time. (Strangely, UTSA averaged 5.8 per play but scored just 10 points.)

A series of close wins kept Tulane in contention for the Conference USA West title into November, but a series of close losses finished them off. The offense played at even an average level (~28.0 Adj. Points) just twice all year; that usually catches up to you.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.05 108 IsoPPP+ 90.9 107
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 37.6% 109 Succ. Rt. + 88.9 97
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 30.4 77 Def. FP+ 95.4 103
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.0 83 Redzone S&P+ 96.6 76
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 21.7 ACTUAL 24 +2.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 118 105 98 116
RUSHING 102 103 97 105
PASSING 103 101 100 106
Standard Downs 108 106 100
Passing Downs 97 82 117
Q1 Rk 110 1st Down Rk 109
Q2 Rk 96 2nd Down Rk 112
Q3 Rk 103 3rd Down Rk 113
Q4 Rk 124

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Nick Montana 6'3, 208 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 158 296 1717 14 10 53.4% 22 6.9% 5.0
Devin Powell 6'3, 213 So. 2 stars (5.4) 60 110 681 5 5 54.5% 9 7.6% 5.3
Tanner Lee 6'4, 203 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Glen Cuiellette 6'1, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

4. Let's start over

The offense really was bad last year. Tulane was something approaching mediocre -- not good, not terrible -- when it came to converting on passing downs (82nd in Passing Downs Success Rate+) and finishing drives (76th in Redzone S&P+); the Green Wave were something approaching terrible in just about every other possible way.

Nick Montana's completion percentage of 53 percent would have been fine if he was averaging about 16 yards per completion, but he averaged 10.9. Orleans Darkwa was a strong short-yardage runner with almost no explosiveness. Of the seven players targeted by at least 15 passes in 2013, only two averaged better than a miserable 5.6 yards per target, and one (Rob Kelley) is a fullback.

All things considered, the fact that Ryan Grant averaged 8.5 yards per target and racked up 1,039 receiving yards for the season is damn near super-human.

Grant is gone now, as is Darkwa. Without his best long and short threats, offensive coordinator Eric Price appears to be going young. Really young. Redshirt freshmen Tanner Lee (quarterback) and Sherman Badie (running back) finished spring practice atop the depth chart in the backfield (PDF). (Lee technically finished tied with sophomore Devin Powell for the top spot, but hey, his name is listed first.) Meanwhile, three sophomores are starters on the interior of the offensive line; hell, there's a sophomore atop the two-deep at fullback, too (Lazedrick Thompson). If you're going to stink, at least stink with guys who could improve with experience.

Things can't get much worse for the Tulane offense, so now's as good a time as any to ride with youth, especially considering how many three-star recruits Johnson has recently reeled in at the skill positions.

(One youngster who might have played a role but probably won't now: three-star freshman receiver Teddy Veal, who allegedly did something very, very stupid this past weekend.)

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Orleans Darkwa RB 188 863 12 4.6 3.7 42.0%
Rob Kelley FB 5'10, 228 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 98 420 3 4.3 5.0 32.7%
Josh Rounds RB 5'11, 189 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 49 163 0 3.3 2.4 32.7%
Nick Montana QB 6'3, 208 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 23 116 0 5.0 4.1 34.8%
Lazedrick Thompson FB 6'0, 209 So. 3 stars (5.5) 22 68 0 3.1 3.3 22.7%
Dante Butler FB 5'10, 216 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 24 146 0 6.1 7.7 41.6%
Devin Powell QB 6'3, 213 So. 2 stars (5.4) 10 42 0 4.2 2.3 40.0%
Marshall Wadleigh FB 5'11, 195 So. NR
Sherman Badie RB 5'10, 192 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)





Dontrell Hilliard RB 6'0, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)




Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Ryan Grant WR-Z 122 77 1039 63.1% 32.6% 51.4% 8.5 97 8.7 118.4
Justyn Shackleford WR-X 5'11, 174 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 82 36 419 43.9% 21.9% 48.6% 5.1 -120 4.5 47.8
Xavier Rush WR-Z 6'2, 203 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 35 17 196 48.6% 9.4% 33.3% 5.6 -44 5.7 22.3
Kedrick Banks WR-Z 5'9, 181 So. 2 stars (5.3) 27 19 118 70.4% 7.2% 38.1% 4.4 -102 4.2 13.5
Rob Kelley FB 5'10, 228 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 26 18 176 69.2% 7.0% 40.0% 6.8 -34 5.6 20.1
Sydie London TE 6'2, 238 Jr. NR 17 12 58 70.6% 4.5% 62.5% 3.4 -81 3.8 6.6
Josh Rounds RB 5'11, 189 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 15 12 65 80.0% 4.0% 60.0% 4.3 -66 3.5 7.4
Devon Breaux WR-X 5'11, 169 So. 2 stars (5.3) 14 6 101 42.9% 3.7% 66.7% 7.2 10 7.0 11.5
Orleans Darkwa RB 13 8 57 61.5% 3.5% 54.5% 4.4 -42 5.1 6.5
Dante Butler FB 5'10, 216 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 14 7 79 50.0% 3.7% 42.9% 5.6 -19 4.2 9.0
Matt Marfisi TE 6'6, 252 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 5 4 53 80.0% 1.3% 100.0% 10.6 9 5.9 6.0
Lazedrick Thompson RB 6'0, 209 So. 3 stars (5.5) 2 1 31 50.0% 0.5% 100.0% 15.5 17 8.6 3.5
Teddy Veal WR 5'11, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)









Kendall Ardoin TE 6'6, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)








Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 87.6 2.53 3.45 37.5% 77.8% 21.9% 91.5 4.9% 8.8%
Rank 110 117 44 83 11 106 78 74 93
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Zach Morgan C 40
Sean Donnelly RT 6'8, 312 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 23
Rio Mares RG 21
Mike Henry C 14
Arturo Uzdavinis LT 6'6, 295 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 13
Nathan Shienle C 6'5, 317 So. 2 stars (5.4) 12
Chris Taylor RG 6'1, 324 So. 3 stars (5.6) 3
Todd Jacquet LT 6'5, 277 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 2
Alex Paul LG 6'6, 326 So. 2 stars (5.4) 1
Nate Skold RT 6'6, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Colton Hanson LG 6'5, 318 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Kenneth Santa Marina LT 6'5, 323 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Brandon Godfrey C 6'4, 277 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jason Stewart RG 6'4, 395 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Junior Diaz C 6'2, 277 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

5. The good news: the line won't be much worse

Losing three players who combined for 75 career starts -- basically six combined seasons -- is never a good thing. But when they were the starters for a generally poor line, that makes the loss a little easier to take. Tulane's offensive line absolutely improved in 2013, but it was still rather mediocre.

Tulane will start two senior tackles, which certainly won't hurt in terms of pass protection. But the Green Wave aim for balance and will need the young interior linemen to play well. Sophomores Colton Hanson, Nathan Shienle (a 2013 starter), and Chris Taylor are currently listed as first-stringers, and two three-star redshirt freshmen could make noise, too.

Recruiting has been solid here, and the size of this line is rather impressive -- the 12 linemen listed on the post-spring depth chart average 6'5, 311, and that's with two 277-pounders dragging the average down -- but at some point potential has to turn into production.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.21 92 IsoPPP+ 87.2 117
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 35.7% 10 Succ. Rt. + 110.2 29
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 33.0 13 Off. FP+ 105.5 9
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.7 17 Redzone S&P+ 120.5 12
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 31.7 ACTUAL 35.0 +3.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 22 40 29 67
RUSHING 17 29 24 41
PASSING 60 56 36 96
Standard Downs 42 22 120
Passing Downs 46 53 60
Q1 Rk 69 1st Down Rk 58
Q2 Rk 20 2nd Down Rk 20
Q3 Rk 40 3rd Down Rk 74
Q4 Rk 71

6. A mid-major Michigan State

Tulane was basically the mid-major Michigan State, only if Michigan State's offense hadn't improved after September. The Green Wave tried to ride field position and an intensely efficient defense to wins, and it worked to at least a degree. The line was big and strong, and the corners were aggressive, especially on standard downs (sometimes detrimentally so). Tulane dared opponents to beat the defense deep, and while the big plays were quite big, they were also rare.

The more I discuss the importance of efficiency, field position, etc., the more I find my line of thinking shifting when it comes to the importance of big plays. The single most telling stat in the average box score is yards per play, and explosiveness has long been seen (by me and basically everybody else) as the end-all, be-all in football. But efficiency and three-and-outs drive field position, and even a slight advantage in field position can create a huge advantage overall. Tulane sacrificed random big plays for three-and-outs on defense, and it worked. Again, with a terrible offense, Tulane was a small handful of plays away from double-digit wins.

Notice we're talking in the past tense here. Defensive co-coordinators Jon Sumrall and Lionel Washington have some work to do to replicate last year's success.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 121.6 2.29 2.51 32.9% 43.8% 29.0% 158.6 6.7% 10.7%
Rank 8 5 10 9 1 1 7 21 8
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Julius Warmsley DT 13 38.0 5.2% 18.0 6.0 0 2 2 0
Tyler Gilbert DE 6'3, 244 Sr. NR 13 23.0 3.1% 6.0 3.0 0 0 0 0
Royce LaFrance DE 6'3, 244 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 23.0 3.1% 10.0 6.5 0 2 0 1
Andre Robinson DE 6'1, 235 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 13 16.0 2.2% 5.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Calvin Thomas (2012) DT 6'3, 286 So. 2 stars (5.2) 12 15.0 2.1% 2.0 2.0 0 1 0 0
Chris Davenport NT 12 14.0 1.9% 4.0 1.5 0 1 0 0
Kenny Welcome NT 6'2, 289 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 13 13.0 1.8% 2.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Aaron Bryant DE 6'2, 252 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 11.5 1.6% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tanzel Smart DT 6'2, 331 So. 3 stars (5.5) 12 10.5 1.4% 0.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Corey Redwine NT 6'0, 316 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 7.0 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Jeremy Peeples DE 8 4.5 0.6% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ade Aruna DE 6'6, 230 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Quinlan Carroll DE 6'1, 213 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Eric Bell DT 6'2, 250 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Eldrick Washington DT 6'1, 240 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Luke Jackson DE 6'2, 215 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Braynon Edwards DT 6'2, 350 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Sean Wilson DE 6'4, 265 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Peter Woullard DE 6'3, 240 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

7. Two big gaps in the middle

Tulane was insanely aggressive in 2013, and the Green Wave were able to consistently dominate the middle of the field. Defensive tackle Julius Warmsley was one of the best defensive play-makers in the country, especially against the run. Nose tackle Chris Davenport (a former five-star LSU signee) was an immovable space-eater. Middle linebacker Zach Davis racked up nine tackles for loss, and safeties Sam Scofield and Darion Monroe were dominant, both near to and far from the line of scrimmage.

Three of the five players I just mentioned are gone, and more than anything else, the loss of both Warmsley and Davenport could change the tenor of the defense. Tulane's defensive line will be far less proven in 2014. There are plenty of potential play-makers here -- ends Tyler Gilbert and Royce LaFrance combined for 9.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss, and to be sure, projected starting tackles Tanzel Smart and Corey Redwine (combined: 647 pounds) are beefy. But Redwine was special and Davenport was quite athletic for his size, and they allowed Tulane to put together top-10 rankings in the run-blocking categories above.

There will be regression here.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Nico Marley WLB 5'8, 180 So. 2 stars (5.2) 13 53.0 7.2% 11.0 2.0 1 2 1 0
Zach Davis MLB 10 41.0 5.6% 9.0 3.5 0 2 2 0
Dominique Robertson MLB 12 38.5 5.3% 4.0 1.0 1 1 1 2
Kyle Davis WLB 11 11.5 1.6% 3.5 0.5 1 0 0 0
Edward Williams MLB 6'3, 221 So. 3 stars (5.7) 7 7.0 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Matthew Bailey WLB 5'11, 203 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 7.0 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1
Eric Thomas MLB 5'9, 234 So. 2 stars (5.3) 13 4.5 0.6% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sergio Medina LB 6'0, 210 So. 2 stars (5.3) 13 3.5 0.5% 0.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Brandon Schmidt LB 5'8, 226 Sr. NR 9 2.5 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Rae Juan Marbley LB 6'0, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Zachery Harris LB 6'0, 220 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Robert Kennedy LB 6'1, 230 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)







Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Sam Scofield SS 6'1, 185 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 13 89.0 12.1% 9.5 1.5 0 8 2 1
Darion Monroe FS 5'10, 189 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 13 73.5 10.0% 9 3.5 1 6 1 0
Jordan Batiste CB 12 45.0 6.1% 8 7 1 8 4 0
Derrick Strozier BOSS 13 44.0 6.0% 4.5 0 3 14 0 0
Jordan Sullen CB 13 38.5 5.3% 0.5 0 3 10 0 0
Lorenzo Doss CB 5'11, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 29.5 4.0% 1.5 0 7 9 0 1
Jarrod Franklin BOSS 5'11, 194 So. 2 stars (5.3) 13 19.5 2.7% 1.5 1 1 0 1 0
Taurean Nixon CB 6'0, 185 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 9 12.0 1.6% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Richard Allen CB 5'9, 168 So. 2 stars (5.3) 13 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Parry Nickerson CB 5'11, 157 So. 2 stars (5.4) 1 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Brandon LeBeau FS 6'0, 201 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Leonard Davis SS 6'0, 186 So. 2 stars (5.3) 13 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Richard Carthon S 5'7, 197 Jr. NR 11 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
William Townsend CB 6'0, 190 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Tristan Cooper DB 6'0, 175 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)







8. Cry havoc

Regression is less likely in the back. Starting cornerbacks Jordan Batiste (transfer) and Jordan Sullen (graduation) are gone, as is stud BOSS safety Derrick Srozier. But Tulane had six play-making defensive backs last season, and three return. Scofield and Monroe combined for 18.5 tackles for loss and 15 passes defensed -- a rare combination -- last fall, and corner Lorenzo Doss should be ready for an even bigger role. As I always say about guys with pretty high ratios of passes defensed to tackles, they're either phenomenal cover men or terrible tackles. You're not going to find a PDs-to-tackles ratio much higher than Doss' 16-to-29.5 (even if his seven interceptions to nine break-ups were a bit lucky).

Granted, Tulane wants to play five defensive backs as much as possible, and 5 > 3. Still, there's experience here, and quite a few freshmen (now sophomores) got solid playing time last fall: Jarrod Franklin, Richard Allen, pre-injury Parry Nickerson, etc.

If the pass defense regresses, it will probably be because opponents are running more successfully and throwing from more advantageous situations.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Peter Picerelli 6'1, 190 Jr. 80 41.5 5 22 23 56.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Cairo Santos 62 62.8 47 2 75.8%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Cairo Santos 38-38 9-10 90.0% 7-13 53.8%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Devin Boutte KR 5'8, 170 Sr. 14 19.4 0
Dante Butler KR 5'10, 216 Sr. 7 19.4 0
Devin Boutte PR 5'8, 170 Sr. 23 4.1 0
Darion Monroe PR 5'10, 189 Jr. 6 6.3 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 56
Field Goal Efficiency 38
Punt Return Efficiency 73
Kick Return Efficiency 75
Punt Efficiency 79
Kickoff Efficiency 37
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 3

9. Wanted: a new cannon

Special teams was a mixed bag for Tulane last year. Returns were okay, punting was okay, and kickoffs and place-kicking were well above average.

Cairo Santos was automatic inside 40 yards and booted more than three-quarters of his kickoffs for touchbacks. He's the only loss in this unit, but he's a huge one. Once Tulane crossed the opponent's 40-yard line, the Green Wave had a pretty decent chance of ending up with at least three points. That was quite an asset for a points-challenged squad.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
28-Aug at Tulsa 64
6-Sep Georgia Tech 44
13-Sep SE Louisiana NR
20-Sep at Duke 55
27-Sep at Rutgers 70
11-Oct Connecticut 86
18-Oct at Central Florida 24
31-Oct Cincinnati 54
8-Nov at Houston 41
15-Nov Memphis 95
22-Nov at East Carolina 72
6-Dec Temple 87
Five-Year F/+ Rk -20.2% (115)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 80
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 11 / 10.0
TO Luck/Game +0.4
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (7, 6)

10. Downgrade and upgrade

So basically, the run defense will probably regress, the pass defense probably won't, the ace kicker is gone, and it would be pretty difficult for the offense to get any worse (though it might a little in the short-term). Add that up, and Tulane might end up seeing slight regression overall.

After such a breakthrough, there are worse things in the world than a single step backwards, but with the youth movement on offense and two new defensive tackles, Tulane should be happy with any ranking above about 80th or 85th.

The problem is that Tulane might get a little worse while the schedule gets harder. Only four opponents are projected worse than 85th, for instance, and all six road games come against teams projected 72nd or better. A second straight bowl bid will be tough.

Still, last season completely changed the trajectory and outlook of what was for quite a while a directionless program. Tulane is moving back to campus with its sparkly new stadium, Curtis Johnson has been recruiting pretty well, and the future is bright for this program. That's a statement that would seem stunning not very far into the past, even if there's a speed bump in the near future.

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