Defense at Tulane looks to build on impressive 2018 campaign with youth, experience

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Green Wave to take part in 15 practices throughout spring camp

NEW ORLEANS – Nick Anderson remembers the semester in high school when he got his first-ever B on a report card. His mother promptly pulled him out of spring practice.

It’s that sort of dedication to academics that has helped Anderson find his way to the Green Wave football team.

A rising sophomore linebacker who played his freshman year of college at Jones County Junior College in Mississippi, Anderson is one of the few junior college transfers to join a Division I football team after just one semester in junior college.

“I stayed in my books so I could be a qualifier to be able to leave in a semester, and I produced on the field,” Anderson said after Thursday’s second day of Tulane spring practice.

Anderson graduated high school with a 4.6 GPA – third in his class of more than 250 – and took the right classes at Jones in his one semester there to ensure they would transfer over to Tulane. His team-high 74 tackles – including 58 solo tackles that ranked 11th in the country – helped with recruiting, too.

Now he’s looking to make an impact with the Green Wave defense and was even taking reps with the first team during Thursday’s practice after studying the playbook since Tuesday.

“My strengths on the field are me being coachable, me paying attention to detail, my high motor, my physicality and being an overall team player,” Anderson said. “I like to have fun on the field, keep up the intensity. I’m always going to be the guy running around, jumping and hollering.”

Another Mississippian ready to make an even bigger impact this year on the defensive side is cornerback Thakarius Keyes. The rising senior played in 11 games last season and started 10, racking up 38 tackles, 11 passes defended and one interception.

Since the season ended, Keyes has been working hard to improve his weaknesses and hoping to step up to help replace departed senior Donnie Lewis Jr. Keyes said the cornerbacks learned a ton from Lewis and safety Roderic Teamer Jr. and will be confident heading into 2019.

Keyes himself has bulked up significantly since he joined the team and should play a huge role on the defense this year.

“When I came in, I was real skinny like a stick,” Keyes said. “But I’ve gained 20-25 pounds over the years. I just always wanted to get bigger so I can be physical with receivers at the line. I’m already a big corner, so me being more physical gives me better leeway.”

Coach Willie Fritz spoke to the media Thursday as well and commented on the team’s fast pace in practice right now. The team continues to add more wrinkles to its play calling as spring practice continues, and Fritz knows his players can handle it.

“We’re teaching the highest common denominator here, not the lowest common denominator,” Fritz said. “If a guy can’t learn it, he’s what they call a ‘rep guy.’ Luckily we don’t have many guys like that.”

Fritz singled out rising sophomore tight end Tyrick James as having a particularly strong practice Thursday. James made four or five catches during practice and is playing with confidence, Fritz said.

“He’s only about 6-2, but he’s 250 [pounds], he runs well, he’s a really good athlete,” Fritz said of James. “He’s got excellent movement. He played quarterback in high school, he played back, he played wide receiver. He didn’t really play tight end, so he’s still learning.”

Tulane’s spring practice continues Saturday at the Saints Practice Facility and concludes Saturday, April 13 with the annual spring game at Yulman Stadium.

Tulane opens the 2019 season on Thursday, August 29 at home against FIU with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

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Remaining Spring Football Practice Schedule
Date: Practice # – Time
Saturday, March 16: Practice #3 – 9-11 a.m. (will be held at the New Orleans Saints Indoor Facility)
Tuesday, March 19: Practice #4 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Thursday, March 21: Practice #5 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Thursday, March 21: Pro Day – Noon (will be held at the New Orleans Saints Indoor Facility)
Saturday, March 23: Practice #6 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Tuesday, March 26: Practice #7 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Thursday, March 28: Practice #8 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Saturday, March 30: Practice #9 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Monday, April 2: Practice #10 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Thursday, April 4: Practice #11 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Saturday, April 6: Practice #12 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Tuesday, April 9: Practice #13 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Thursday, April 11: Practice #14 – 8:30-10 a.m.
Saturday, April 13: Spring Game – 8:30-10 a.m.

*** – Please keep in mind that practice dates/times and location are subject to change – ***

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