Tulane wide receiver room features quality depth, speedy options

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Jha'Quan Jackson
(Photo: Parker Waters)

Tulane football went from a program that largely flew under the radar and didn’t receive much recognition to one that gained national attention by the end of the 2022 season, defeating USC 46-45 in the Cotton Bowl to cap off a season that included the program’s first American Athletic Conference championship.

While the Green Wave have lost several standout pieces including running back Tyjae Spears along with linebackers Dorian Williams and Nick Anderson, the roster retained important players including a group of wide receivers that could be one of the best corps Tulane has had at the position in recent memory.

Head coach Willie Fritz spoke to the depth of the receiver room in mid-March.

“I’m really excited about the additions of Dontae Fleming and Yulkeith Brown,” he said. “They really fit in. Lawrence really came on at the end of the year. He was a very good contributor, but he’s got a chance to be an All-Conference first-team guy. We’ve got a good, deep group.”

Here’s a quick look at some of the names to know heading into preseason practices:

Jha’Quan Jackson

Jackson leads the way as the biggest name to watch in 2023 after making a strong impression in 2022. The Hahnville product has since put together a strong spring camp and is expected to continue building upon that momentum in the fall as a strong leadership figure.

Also a dynamic kick returner, Jackson finished out this past campaign with 33 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns. After being one of the biggest standouts in the victory over USC, expect Jackson to have first dibs on a bulk of the targets from veteran quarterback Michael Pratt in 2023.

Lawrence Keys

Keys was used in a number of ways in 2022. The Notre Dame transfer proved effective in some of unconventional instances, in addition to being a reliable player on special teams.

But the McDonogh 35 alum’s role as a traditional receiver may come to the forefront in his second Tulane season. Keys came on during the back half of the 2022 season, finishing with 30 receptions for 296 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Perhaps his biggest moment came in the Cotton Bowl when he scored 43-yard touchdown. In addition to that, his block 60 yards down the field that allowed Jackson to score on an 87-yard reception was vital as well.

“I’ve never done that,” Keys explained when he looked back on the moment this spring. “But I’m just a team player, you know. When it’s time to be there, I’ll be there. Whether I have the ball or not. It was amazing just blocking somebody. Especially after Jha’Quan (Jackson) caught the ball. I kind of just looked and I was like ‘I know this guy can’t beat me or Quan, so just take him out and Quan just did the rest.”

Chris Brazzell

A second-year player with plenty of potential, Brazzell is among those who could emerge as a top target. Pratt spoke to the potential he saw within Brazzell earlier this spring.

“Chris Brazzell, if he puts some more weight on, I think he’ll be unstoppable next year,” Pratt noted. “Having a target like him at X-receiver is gonna be really beneficial for us and having Bryce Bohanon has brought a lot of consistency.”

A native of Midland, Texas, Brazzell was rated as a three-star prospect coming out of high school where he finished with 1,596 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns on 104 receptions.

Jalen Rogers

Rogers is another young, developing player who will look to be more than just depth for the Wave.

Coming to New Orleans all the way from Miami, Florida, Rogers was a three-star recruit who had recorded a 10.9-second performance in the 100-meter dash and 4.32 in the 40 during the Tulane prospect camp this year.

Expect offensive coordinator Slade Nagle to find ways to Rogers’ game-breaking speed on the field.

Bryce Bohanon

The sophomore played in three games during Tulane’s storybook season last year, tallying four receptions for 65 yards.

Coming out of Conway, Arkansas, Bohanon was a three-star prospect ranked as the No. 16 wide receiver in the state of Arkansas in his class. He closed out his high school career with over 1,000 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns over three seasons.

Phat Watts
(Photo: Parker Waters)

Phat Watts

We didn’t get a chance to see Watts in spring practice due to a knee injury. Unfortunately, injury issues caused him to be a non-factor in 2022, when he made just one reception for five yards.

The transfer from Jones County Junior College played in all 24 games the previous two Green Wave seasons. How he factors into the group in 2023 will be interesting to watch.

Yulkeith Brown

Tulane snagged an SEC prospect with a lot of promise when it picked up the former Texas A&M pass-catcher.

Brown ended 2022 with a stat line of six receptions for 112 yards with one touchdown and a healthy 18.7 yards per catch for the Aggies. A talent like him could find his way to the field more in a different environment.

Last season started on a high note for Brown when he snared two passes for 68 yards and a touchdown in the opening game against Sam Houston State, but the did not record a catch after Oct. 22.

Brown was a part of the transfer swarm out of College Station that topped some 20 scholarship players after he was declared out for an indefinite period of time by head coach Jimbo Fisher for a non-injury related reason regarding which no further details were disclosed.

Dontae Fleming

The East St. John product is another one of those exciting transfers Fritz mentioned that contributes to the overall element of speed that could help make Tulane’s passing attack more explosive this fall.

Confident in what he brings to the table for the team in his first year at Tulane, the former Louisiana-Lafayette wideout ended out last season with 19 receptions for 181 yards with three touchdowns. He will join a stiff competition for snaps and look to build out a larger role for himself in New Orleans.

“I bring a lot to the table,” Fleming said this spring. “Route running, blocking, I can do it all, really. By those other guys leaving, I felt like I could come over and play right away. And I like the offense, so I felt like I could fit in well.”

A three-year college veteran with experience as a return man on special teams, Fleming caught 58 passes for 680 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 24.5 yards on six kick returns and 25.5 yards on four punt returns in three seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Competition at the receiver spots will be fierce Uptown when the Green Wave hits the field in August.

“The (wideouts have) looked great,” Pratt said. “I think (Jha’Quan Jackson and Lawrence Keys III) have continuously gotten better throughout the years and then the new guys that came in. I think Dontae (Fleming) had a really good spring. He showed a lot of really good stuff.”

Tulane opens the 2023 season at Yulman Stadium against South Alabama on Sept. 2.

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Crissy Froyd

CCS Columnist

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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.

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