Tulane seeks turnaround in Curtis’ second year
After eight consecutive years with four wins or fewer, Tulane is
Eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, a lighter
schedule and some key transfers have raised hopes for a rare bowl
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
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
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/