5 reasons to be optimistic about Tulane’s immediate football future
Tulane completed one of the best seasons in its history as a football program with a Cotton Bowl victory over USC.
With what the Green Wave have put together, the momentum that can be carried over into 2023. Continuity in key places from last year to next is a big reason why. You get the sense that this is no one-off season – it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Here are five reasons to be optimistic about Tulane football’s chances to start turning short-term success into something more.
The commitment of head coach Willie Fritz
En route to coaching a team to the most remarkable turnaround in college football history, there’s no question that Fritz made an impression across the country. Georgia Tech definitely noticed.
However, the AAC Coach of the Year has made it clear that New Orleans is his home and that he plans to remain at Tulane for the remainder of his coaching career. The level of continuity that is maintained here has a huge impact on the players returning as well as limiting roster turnover in the era of the transfer portal and recruiting in the years to come.
Of course, the biggest story is that the man in charge who build it up will stay to try and maintain what Tulane has accomplished.
The return of QB Michael Pratt
Pratt rewrote his narrative in 2022, statistically speaking, by posting a 63.6% completion rate, 3,010 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. In 2021, he was good for connecting on 57.6% of his passing attempts for 2,381 yards with 21 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
Having the proper supporting cast and improved playcalling played a role in Pratt reaching his ceiling. Now a quarterback who is receiving national attention and potentially even becoming a darkhorse Heisman candidate, he continues to project as a true dual-threat quarterback with rising NFL draft stock.
If Pratt succeeed despite a fourth offensive coordinator in as many seasons and roster turnover including the departure of dynamic runner Tyjae Spears, life will be good in 2023 for both Pratt and the Wave in another chase for greatness.
Tulane’s recruiting tear
Fritz and his staff have put together one of the best recruiting classes in recent Tulane history with its latest for 2023, signing 24 newcomers to date includng19 incoming freshmen and five transfers. The group includes five offensive linemen, one quarterback, one wide receiver, one tight end, two running backs, five defensive backs, one safety, four linebackers and three edge rushers.
Among the biggest highlights are LSU offensive guard transfer Cameron Wire, who started 11 games for the Tigers, 2021 All Big 10 Honorable Mention cornerback AJ Hampton out of Northwestern and Neville High School product edge rusher Matthew Fobbs-White, who totaled some 19 sacks in his final season.
With the amount of success Tulane has had both on the field and on the recruiting trail as of late, this is an area that has the program poised to compete for the title of the best among the group of five leagues.
Improvement in the wide receiving corps
The Green Wave have not been a team particularly recognized for their pass-catchers over recent years but perhaps that is changing. Several options for Pratt have genuine NFL upside.
Duece Watts and Shae Wyatt were among the biggest standouts, with Watts catching 33 passes for 657 yards with 8 touchdowns and Wyatt reeling in 35 receptions for 692 yards and 7 touchdowns. While Tulane loses that pair to the draft, it does still have several promising names who could break out or take another step this coming season.
Jha’Quan Jackson finished out the 2022 campaign with 33 receptions for 554 yards with 3 touchdowns. The former Hahnville standout capped it off on a high note with a Cotton Bowl record’s 87-yard touchdown catch-and-run when Tulane was down by 14 points, setting up one of the best comebacks in bowl season.
One of the other players to watch in the receivers roomis former Notre Dame transfer Lawrence Keys, who showcased his versatility last season. The McDonogh 35 product who can be used in a number of creative ways, playing a role on special teams and finishing the season with 30 receptions for 296 yards and three touchdowns.
Tulane held the top passing defense in the nation for several weeks of the 2022 season and did a solid job of limiting explosive plays in most cases. Correcting mistakes for the better part of the season made the Green Wave a tough nut to crack on that side of the ball in most games. Linebackers Dorian Williams and Nick Anderson led the charge so both will require quality replacements now that they are pursuing pro dreams.
For the heights reached on that side of the ball look to continue, defensive back Jarius Monroe – still in the fold as one of the biggest figures to watch in a secondary – will need to keep ascending. The backend of the defense also returns the likes of Jadon Canady, Lance Robinson Jr, and Rayshawn Pleasant.
Monroe is a player who should be expected to garner even more attention heading into his fourth season with the Wave, riding the momentum his game-changing interception off of Heisman-winning quarterback Caleb Williams in Arlington.
Like the offense, a new coordinator will bring changes that challenge the notion of continuity for Tulane but the remaining leadership in key areas as well as the improved overall talent at hand make the program one that is not ready to fade into obscurity any time soon.
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Crissy Froyd is a sports reporter of roughly nine years who graduated from LSU and has spent time at USA TODAY SMG, NBC Sports and the Fan Nation network on Sports Illustrated. She specializes in quarterback analysis and covers the SEC and college football across the state of Louisiana in addition to working with several college quarterbacks across the nation.