Although new Green Wave head coach Bob Toledo plans a balanced offense, and running the ball will be a key component of the 2007 Tulane offense, the success of the running game is very likely going to depend as much, if not more, on improvement in the offensive line as it will the talent of the running backs.
And there is talent at running back. Ray Boudreaux, Adeboye Tuyo, and Andre Anderson are capable runners, but when Matt Forte eventually returns from the knee injury that ended his 2006 season he'll be the key to the whole offense.
Forte's career numbers shape up as 2,138 career yards on 472 carries, for 16 rushing touchdowns, 683 career receiving yards on 71 catches and five receiving touchdowns.
He's a big, talented back who can run the ball inside and outside, catch the ball, and he's a solid blocker. Although he participated in spring practice sessions, Forte wore a brace and was held out of contact drills. Bad knee or not, Forte is the best player on the team regardless of position.
Given a credible performance by the offensive line next season, Forte could carry the offense, and the threat of a major running threat in the Green Wave backfield would go a long way towards easing the difficulty facing Lester Ricard's replacement at quarterback. That replacement is likely to be Scott Elliott, a redshirt junior, although Kevin Moore and Anthony Scelfo still have a chance to derail Scooter in August camp.
Ade Tuyo and Boudreaux are both seniors. Tuyo is the likely backup, although he's never redshirted and theoretically could sit out next season, giving the Wave two upperclassmen running backs in 2008 to complement the two freshmen who will join the squad in August.
Tuyo appears to be an extremely talented back who has been greatly underutilized in his first three seasons. While probably not at Forte's level, he's got some power and some speed and he has shown flashes in practice of being a capable receiver. Thus far in his career Tuyo has been a stalwart on special teams, but otherwise has seen considerably more action at fullback than running back. He's had 39 carries for 135 yards, a 3.45 yards per carry average.
In the past Boudreaux has seen considerably more action than Tuyo, both at running back and fullback. His career numbers shape up as 85 carries for 343 yards and two touchdowns. Boudreaux appears to run inside with somewhat less authority than Forte and Tuyo and to perhaps be a less capable receiver. He will have a struggle in August to ward off talented Andre Anderson, who played briefly but well as a true freshman.
Anderson ran 18 times in six games for a net of 38 yards and a touchdown. Forte's absence from contact drills during spring practice, gave Anderson the benefit of more practice reps, a situation that Tuyo and Boudreaux also benefitted from.
In 2006 the Wave averaged only 3.1 yards per rushing attempt, an average of 92 yards per game, and scoring but 10 rushing touchdowns. This will have to improve, as will the 18.7 points per game Tulane averaged in 2006.
For the backs to get it done, the holes are going to have to be there. So in the end it's going to come down to which group of linemen can smash the most mouths: those in green or those wearing the other color.