Tulane seeks turnaround in Curtis’ second year

After eight consecutive years with four wins or fewer, Tulane is

talking turnaround.

Eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, a lighter

schedule and some key transfers have raised hopes for a rare bowl

appearance.

The most prominent addition is junior quarterback Nick Montana,

the son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana. Montana lost a tight

battle for the starting job at Washington in 2011, played at a

junior college in 2012 and is the clear front-runner at Tulane.

Tulane also brought in 6-foot-4, 334-pound defensive tackle

Chris Davenport, who was a premier recruit at LSU in 2009 but never

found his niche with the talented Tigers.

Second-year coach Curtis Johnson says he’d be disappointed with

second-straight losing season.

”As ultra-competitive as I am, I would probably be disappointed

with six wins,” Johnson said. ”We better get more than six. We’ve

added some pieces.” —

Here are five things to watch with Nick Montana leading Tulane

this season:

1. MONTANA’S DEVELOPMENT: The coaches hope Montana has the same

touch as predecessor Ryan Griffin, who turned in the two most

prolific passing games in school history last season and earned a

free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints. They know Montana

is more mobile than Griffin, which should come in handy behind a

shaky offensive line. Montana started only one game at Washington,

but he was highly recruited as a high school senior in 2010. Almost

all of the Green Wave’s receivers are back, including first-team

All-Conference USA pick Ryan Grant, who caught 76 passes for 1,149

yards last season.

2. NEWCOMERS: Davenport, a graduate student in his final year of

football eligibility, was unblockable in the first two weeks of

preseason practice. The difference between LSU, where he played

sparingly and was moved to offensive line in 2011, and Conference

USA is tremendous. He’s not the only significant addition. Former

Arkansas linebacker Tyler Gilbert, a junior, will play defensive

end, and Tulane’s freshman class is faster and more physical than

in previous years. For the first time in a while, Tulane will match

up size-wise with its opponents.

3. BETTER BLOCKING: The offensive line struggled mightily in

2012. With four of the five starters having next to no experience

entering the season, Tulane averaged 39.6 rushing yards, the second

lowest total for any FBS team this century. The Green Wave did not

score its first rushing touchdown until the eighth game. All but

one of those linemen is back, and sturdy senior center Zach Morgan

returns after missing 2012 with a shoulder injury. If this group

improves dramatically, the Green Wave can win. If not, it will be

another long season.

4. SECONDARY STANDOUTS: The Green Wave had three freshman

starters at defensive back, and all three were productive as they

learned on the job. Free safety Darion Monroe, who reneged on a

commitment to Texas A&M to sign with Tulane, led the team with

96 tackles. Cornerback Lorenzo Doss had five interceptions.

Cornerback Jordan Batiste had 41 tackles. With a year of

experience, they should make more plays as sophomores.

5. SCHEDULE: Tulane plays a light schedule in its last season in

the Superdome before leaving for a new on-campus stadium, and is in

its last year in depleted Conference USA before joining the

American Athletic Conference. After opening with FCS opponent

Jackson State, the Green Wave faces the likes of South Alabama,

North Texas, Florida Atlantic and Texas-San Antonio while avoiding

former Conference USA powerhouses Houston and UCF. Almost every

game is winnable.

Predicted finish in Conference USA: Sixth in the West

Division

Online:

AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/