Wave of momentum carries into early signing day for Tulane

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Willie Fritz
The Tulane football program is on a roll.

Head coach Willie Fritz visited with the media on Wednesday morning inside Yulman Stadium.

There were two topics on the agenda – the Green Wave’s 41-24 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette in the Cure Bowl last Saturday in Orlando, Fla., and the high-school players who signed national letters of intent with Tulane on the first day of the Early Signing Period.

The two topics are related.

“I think it helped us, I really do,” Fritz said of the Wave’s strong finish, which included a 4-1 record heading into the bowl game.

Tulane released the names of 17 players who had signed. Fritz said he expected to have 21 by the end of the day, but as of Wednesday evening the number was still at 17.

Of those 17, only four were from Louisiana even though recruiting in state is a high priority for Fritz.

“I’ll be honest with you. I wish we had more local kids if we can get ’em,” he said. “I’m not going to try to get thirds and fourths. We were up there slugging against a lot of schools for some of these guys, and there’s a few of them that we did not get. We want to sign Division I football players. When I say “Division I football players,” I’m talking about guys who can help you win at the Division I level. …

“We want to highlight the state of Louisiana because of all the great football in the state. One of the things we’re going to do is make sure that when we sign a guy from Louisiana, he’s going to be a Division I football player. This is a really heavily recruited state. People come from all over the country to recruit not only New Orleans but the whole state of Louisiana.”

Fritz said he expects wide receiver Jha’Quan Jackson of Hahnville “to be a dynamic receiver for us.”

Jackson played some quarterback with the Tigers.

“We like running some Wildcat,” Fritz said. “He can do some of those things. Obviously, he can throw the ball.”

Fritz said safety Tyler Judson of Zachary has a chance to play right away.

“We have an immediate need for some guys to walk in and play for us at the safety position,” Fritz said. “We feel like he’s going to have the opportunity to be able to do that. We lose a couple really good safeties, and he’s a guy who can play for us.”

Colby Orgeron played on the defensive line at John Curtis as a senior, but he’ll play on the offensive line for the Green Wave.

“We need to get taller, we need to get longer up there at the offensive line, and Colby is a big fella (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) and a hard worker,” Fritz said.

Running back Tyjae Spears “caught the ball a bunch” this past season at Ponchatoula.

“He had a bunch of Power 6 offers besides Tulane,” Fritz said. “We feel like he’s going to be a dynamic player. He’s a great running back. He’s one of the leading receivers in the Greater New Orleans area.”

If Tulane winds up with the 21 early signees that Fritz projected it will have four scholarships left for the signing period in February. Fritz said the Green Wave might still add a quarterback in this class.

TULANE 2019 SIGNING CLASS (as of Dec. 19)

Tyjae Spears, RB, Ponchatoula
Jha’Quan Jackson, WR, Hahnville
Colby Orgeron, OL, John Curtis
Tyler Judson, DB, Zachary
Ton’Quez Ball, DB, South Doyle (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Kanyon Walker, DB, Wildwood (Fla.)
Dorian Williams, LB, Indian Land (S.C.)
Kiland Harrison, DB, Saint Joseph (Maidson, Miss.)
Armoni Dixon, LB, Loyola Academy (Wilmette, Ill.)
Keshon Williams, TE, Pine Tree (Longview, Texas)
Sincere Haynesworth, OL, Pearland (Texas)
Jackson Fort, OL, College Park (The Woodlands, Texas)
Eric Harris Jr., DL, Benedictine Military (Savannah, Ga.)
Levi Williams, DB, Bloomingdale (Fla.)
Tyrek Presley, WR, Charles Drew (Riverdale, Ga.)
Conner Richardson, TE, Germantown (Tenn.)
Nick Anderson, LB, Jones County JC/Vicksburg (Miss.)

WILLIE FRITZ TRANSCRIPT
Opening Statement:
“We’ve really got 21 guys that we feel like we’re going to have signed, sealed and delivered here in the next few hours. There’s 17 on the sheet. I can’t talk about grad transfer guys, but we feel like we’ve got a couple good ones that will be coming in and then we’ve got a couple more that will be coming in here later today. They represent eight states. And like I told you, we want to highlight the state of Louisiana because of all the great football in the state. One of the things we’re going to do is make sure that when we sign a guy from Louisiana, he’s going to be a Division I football player. This is a really heavily recruited state. People come from all over the country to recruit not only New Orleans but the whole state of Louisiana. We’ve got some excellent football players here. I’m going to highlight those guys first.

“Jha’Quan Jackson, we think he’s going to be a dynamic receiver for us from over at Hahnville High School. I don’t know how many times he’s been over here to camp, watching us play. He came to I think two, three, four of our summer camps. Originally was going someplace else, but he just kept coming over and seeing what we have going on here at Tulane. We were fortunate enough to get him flipped, and he’s going to be a great player for us.

“Tyler Judson, is a state champion at Zachary High School. We have an immediate need for some guys to walk in and play for us at the safety position. We feel like he’s going to have the opportunity to be able to do that. We lose a couple really good safeties, and he’s a guy who can play for us.

“Colby Orgeron, another state champ from John Curtis high school. We’re going to play him on the offensive line. We need to get taller, we need to get longer up there at the offensive line, and Colby is a big fella and a hard worker. We had him at camp in the summer. We worked him out at offensive line and saw that he could do it. We were happy that he played defensive line all season for John Curtis. He knows how to do all those different things, and he’s going to be a great, great addition to our program.

“Tyjae Spears, we just got him signed here a couple minutes ago. He had a bunch of Power 6 offers besides Tulane. We feel like he’s going to be a dynamic player in the American Athletic Conference. He’s a great running back. He caught the ball a bunch this year. He’s one of the leading receivers in the greater New Orleans area. He’s another guy that we’ve been around 15-20 times and we are very, very excited about him.

“We’re excited about those guys, and I feel like the more we win, the more we’re going to get guys to stay at home, particularly these big-time Division I football players.”

On the benefit of seeing local players in person:
“They’ve really limited how much the head coach can go out. I’m allowed to go see a guy one time and talk to him and visit him and stuff. So I have to be really selective when I go out. I’ll do a whole bunch of that in January when we’re looking at 2020 kids being able to visit with the coaches at that time. Certainly seeing them play in the state championships is big-time. [TE] Coach [Slade] Nagle knows Zachary High very well because his dad is one of the coaches there. So he got to see all the state championship games. I think some of my other coaches went over and watched those. And then having the camps is a big deal. We had a camp – we watched some camp tape this morning. There’s still two or three guys we’re going to end up signing in this late signing period, but that’s a huge advantage for us. When they get to see our facilities, they get to be on campus – some of the guys even from New Orleans have never really been on campus at Tulane before – and then we get to establish a relationship. And then we get to see them do the drills that we feel are valuable for us to be able to tell if they’re a Division I football player who can take this program to the next level. So the camps are big, going to regular season games are big and the state championship games are icing on the cake.”

On how Tulane’s late-season success has helped recruiting:
“I think it helped us, I really do. One of the great things about us, too, is that I believe every one of our games was on TV. ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, CBS Sports Network. So they have an opportunity to watch us every single weekend. That helps us. Where we’re at, like I said when I first got here, there’s no reason why we can’t win. We’ve got great academics to sell, a great city to sell, and we’re in the middle of all these great players. So a lot of them can drive in and watch us play. There’s some of these guys who might have been to every home game we had. It’s a long time going. [My assistant coaches] may have talked to these guys 250-500 times and seen them in person either at our game or their game another 15-20 times. Or them just coming for an unofficial visit, coming on campus. It’s easy for us to get a lot of kids to come unofficially in the summer because their parents want to come to New Orleans.”

On getting signings from all verbal commitments:
“That’s big for us. There’s some schools that were trying to get involved in these guys at the 11th hour. I think the relationships we established really helped us out. I told them, ‘you want to go someplace where you’re not quite sure who you’re going to play for – position coach, head coach, coordinator.’ You’ve already established a great relationship with our academic support people, you know our trainers, you know our strength and conditioning coaches. You’re pretty involved in the program and you want to risk going somewhere where you don’t know anybody. That’s one of the reasons why I like to try – I know we’ve got some kids from distance – but I like to try to get kids who are drivable distance if we can. I think it makes it easier for them in the transition from high school to college.”

On recruits coming from nine states:
“I’ll be honest with you. I wish we had more local kids if we can get ’em, Like I’ve said many times before, I’m not going to try to get thirds and fourths. We were up there slugging against a lot of schools for some of these guys, and there’s a few of them that we did not get. We want to sign Division I football players. When I say “Division I football players,” I’m talking about guys who can help you win at the Division I level. And then also when I got in here, I had a lot of time to study stuff because I wasn’t able to go out and recruit. When I look at the history of Tulane University when they’ve had great teams, they’ve had a lot of kids from distance. We signed a guy from Chicago, and he had a lot of offers. His dad wanted him to come here because he knew the value of a Tulane education. That was really the reason we got Armoni Dixon. They kind of recruited us. We don’t get into Chicago very much, but Tulane has had a lot of great players from Chicago.”

Clarifying the 21 players Fritz expects to have by the end of the day, whether graduate transfers are included in that total:
“They’re included in that too.”
What about high school kids?
“Two more.”

On the offensive line signees:
“You guys come to the games. We’re not the tallest team out there. We want to get taller and longer in the secondary, the receiver position and also at the offensive line. We need to get taller and longer and more mass. We feel like this is part of the Power 6. The American is a big jump I think from the Group of 4 up to the Power 6. I’ve been involved with one of the leagues, we played one of them, competed for a conference championship in the Sun Belt. I think there is a big difference between them. The top teams in those leagues are going to be able to compete in The American, no question about it. But from top to bottom, this is a very good league. We’ve got to get taller.”

On Jha’Quan Jackson’s dual-threat ability:
“We like running some Wildcat, he can do some of those things. Obviously, he can throw the ball. He’s a receiver. We had him in camp, I think he came to three different camps. He was college-ready then. He’s been doing all that kind of stuff. You didn’t have to teach him how to run a route or come in and out of his break or how to accelerate out of his stance. He understood all that stuff.”

On whether changing offensive coordinators changes the type of players he wants to recruit:
“Not really. Whatever you’re running, you want big, strong, fast. Football speed. There might be a little thing, ‘Hey we need a little more of this than this because of what we’re doing personnel wise.’”

On Kiland Harrison’s speed:
“We do a deal called ‘Fastest Man in NOLA.’ We had a camp with a bunch of the universities here in Louisiana. I think we had 700-800 kids. We get ’em all up there and we time everybody. We take the top 10 kids that have the best times. We get them on the goal line. I stand behind them, I get them in their stance, I blow the whistle. We call it the ‘Fastest Man in NOLA’ competition. And he [Harrison] won it by about three yards. So that day he was the fastest man in NOLA. I know everybody says, ‘I’ve got guys who run 4.3.’ I haven’t had a whole lot of guys who run a pure 4.3 before. When you run a 4.3, you should run a 10.2, 10.3 100 meters. There’s not a lot of guys walking this earth who run a 10.3, 10.4, 10.2 100 meters. He ran an legit 4.3 when we timed him. He can fly.”

On not getting a QB in this class:
“It’s still a possibility. What we’ll do with the remaining spots we have, we’ll look at where we may be a little bit short and really focus in on that in the month of January and try to get those guys.”

On how many spots will be left if Tulane signs 21 by the end of the day:
“Four left. The NCAA changed the rules here a couple years ago where you’ve got what they call a hard-cap 25. And that’s also based on how many players you have on your squad. You’re allowed to have a maximum of 85 scholarship guys. We’re under enough where we can sign a full class of 25. That probably won’t be the case next year. It’s like I’ve said, we only had 12 guys who were on the team when I got here who played for us this season.”

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Les East

Les East

CCS/Times-Picayune

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…

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