Tulane quarterback room may be the most underrated in the nation

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It had been many years that Tulane football received any level of national attention before 2022’s historic season in which the Green Wave capped their efforts to defeat USC in the Cotton Bowl, 46-45.

Keeping the nation’s eyes on the Wave may start with a talented group at football’s mos timportant position.

One of the biggest highlights of the year was the Green Wave’s quarterback play, between the rise of starting signal-caller Michael Pratt, the clutch play of Kai Horton off the bench in one of the most important games of the season and the flashes shown in the action when Justin Ibieta was healthy.

Tulane’s neightbors up Interstate 10, LSU, areheralded as having one of the best quarterback rooms in the nation between Jayden Daniels, Garrett Nussmeier and Rickie Collins. Looking at what the team in Uptown New Orleans brings to the table, most programs would trade their QB options for Tulane’s.

Here’s a look into the most prominent three players in the room and how they add value.

Michael Pratt

Pratt was ranked in the bottom 50 or so FBS quarterbacks by most analysts ahead of the 2022 season. His performance last year proved otherwise, earning him a spot in some top 10 rankings from national outlets these days.

According to NFL sources, the draft eligible Pratt is being talked about right behind the likes of a pair of likely top 10 overall picks – USC’s Caleb Williams and UNC’s Drake Maye. If that holds true, Pratt can play his way into first round consideration in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Pratt brings a strong mix of tangible talent and intangibles to the table as a prospect. Though he doesn’t have a Howitzer for an arm, he has more than enough strength to put adequate zip on the ball. Pratt continues to improve his mental processing ability as he enters a fourth college season as a starter. He’s accurate at all levels of the field with good timing, makes solid plays out of structure and knows both when and when not to use his legs to gain the edge.

“I’ve had guys that have had average arm strength, and you know, maybe not the greatest athlete in the world, but they’re really smart, and knew where to go with the ball… oftentimes before the ball is even snapped,” head coach Willie Fritz said ahead of last season. “He does an excellent job of that… Physically, he’s gotten a lot bigger. When he came to our place, he was about 180 pounds, now he’s 210-215, 6-foot-3. Runs well, a legit 4.6 [40-yard dash] guy. So physically, he’s got the tools. Then reading coverages and defenses, that’s something that you know, it takes a lot of reps.”

Pratt finished last season with a 63.6% completion rate, 3,010 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and just five interceptions on 338 passing attempts.

The stage is set for Pratt to become a household name among college football fans this year.

Kai Horton

Called upon after both Pratt and Ibieta were unavailable early in a road game at Houston, Horton calmly led the Green Wave to an overtime victory in a back-and-forth contest that ultimately ended in an 27-24 Tulane victory with his game-ending touchdown pass.

The 6-foot-4, 216-pounder out of Carthage, Tex. was originally a three-star prospect after posting a 30-0 career record with two Texas Class 4A state championships.

In terms of pure ceiling, it could be argued that Horton has the highest in the Wave QB room. He has already proven he’s a viable backup who can perform at short notice against upper-level competition.

Especially taking into consideration the limited amount of on-the-field experience in games at the college level, Horton sees the field well with constantly improving accuracy throughout practices. He brings a lot to the table between his arm strength and multi-sport athletic background. Horton confidently himself says he compares to Josh Allen. If he hits his maximum potential, who’s to say he cannot reach those heights.

Horton seems most likely as the starter in waiting after Pratt. However, there is competition on the roster to push him.

Justin Ibieta

In terms of physical tools, Ibieta checks more boxes than the two passers listed above. That’s high praise but warranted.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder showed playmaking potential as a passer who also sports special mobility. He is accurate throwing on the move and dangerous as a ball carrier.

Ibieta started the Houston game with Pratt sidelined by an AC joint sprain but soon joined him on the sideline with an injury of his own. The local out of Metairie Park Country Day High School finished 5-of-5 passing for 57 yards with nine rushing yards on one attempt on his only drive of the game.

When afforded the stage, he’s shown promise. Ibieta has only seen action in six games over the course of the past three years but has proven a reliable and functional backup with a reasonable ceiling. Whether or not he gets a chance to show his full potential remains to be seen. Injuries have slowed his progress and it’ll be a tough fight with the depth of Tulane’s quarterback room.

Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Carson Haggard is a well regarded former three-star signee out of Miami who will work behind and learn from talented players as he waits for his chance to shine.

For now, it’s clear than Fritz has three more than capable options behind center. It is a sign of the very good times enjoyed currently at Tulane.

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Crissy Froyd

CCS Columnist

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.

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