Preview 2009 - Offense
- 2009 CFN Tulane Preview | 2009 CFN Tulane Offense
- 2009 CFN Tulane Defense | 2009 Tulane Depth Chart
- 2008 Tulane Preview | 2007 Tulane Preview | 2006 Tulane Preview
What you need to know: Head coach Bob Toledo’s on-going quest for balance and big plays on offense continues to come up short. The Green Wave had one of the nation’s feeblest offenses a year ago, averaging below 17 points a game and regressing as the season wore on. Of course, it didn’t help losing RB Andre Anderson and WR Jeremy Williams, a couple of all-star-caliber players, to injuries midway through the campaign. Without its best playmakers, Tulane had no answers, lacking the depth to dent even sub par defenses, like Rice or Tulsa. Well, the good news around New Orleans is that both seniors are healthy again, eyeing 2009 as one final chance to impress NFL scouts. Seeking a spark at quarterback, Toledo has given a tacit nod to sophomore Joe Kemp, the best combination of passing and running skills on the roster.
Star of the
Junior WR Jeremy Williams
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Kevin Moore or redshirt freshman Joe Kemp
Unsung star on the rise: Junior RB Andre Anderson
Best pro prospect: Williams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Williams, 2), Senior G Michael Parenton 3) Senior T Troy Kropog
Strength of the offense: The receivers, the left side of the line
Weakness of the offense: The passing game, inexperience in the backfield
Projected Starter: The heated spring battle at quarterback has produced a front-runner heading into the summer. Sophomore Joe Kemp nudged ahead of the incumbent with his performance, despite playing sparingly a year ago. A 6-4, 215-pound playmaker, he brings more athleticism and foot speed to the position, providing a jolt of energy that this offense has been lacking. He was actually headed in the right direction a year ago before a late hit and broken collarbone ended his season. He finished 26-of-46 for 344 yards, two touchdowns and a pick in five appearances.
Projected Top Reserves: If 6-5, 239-pound junior Kevin Moore is going to regain the job he had throughout all of 2008, he’ll have to come from behind to get it. Now No. 2 on the depth chart behind Kemp, he’s struggled to excel in the West Coast offense. Despite having good arm strength and surprising agility, when given the ball a year ago, he could only manage to go 187-of-334 for 2,194 yards, eight touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
Pulling up the rear in the pecking order is 6-5, 215-pound redshirt freshman Ryan Griffin, who benefited by being a part of the competition in the spring. He has the natural ability and good pocket presence to someday pilot this offense, but he has a lot of learning to do before closing the gap on Kemp and Moore.
Watch Out For… Kemp to maintain his view atop the depth chart. Had it not been for the injury against Houston, all signs pointed to him unseating Moore at some point in the second half of the year. He played this spring with the confidence and the poise of a quarterback, who plans on being under center when Tulsa visits Sept. 4.
Strength: Downfield passers. With Kemp, Moore, and Griffin filling the slots on the depth chart, the Green Wave has three strong-armed hurlers, who can reach the team’s fastest receivers. Their ability to stretch a defense should open things up for the short and underneath routes.
Weakness: Consistency. There’s a reason why Tulane was 10th in Conference USA and 96th nationally in passing efficiency a year ago. Moore was simply unable to string together back-to-back crisp performances, posting just two multiple-touchdown games against defensively-challenged SMU and Rice.
Outlook: In a recurring theme since J.P. Losman graduated, Tulane is hunting for a quarterback to build the offense—and the program—around. Kemp gets first dibs at being that guy, but he’ll have a short leash, especially with a veteran and former starter looking over his shoulder. Ideally, head coach Bob Toledo won’t have to hold auditions at quarterback for another three years.
Projected Starters: Had it not been for dislocated shoulder suffered in October, you might know the name Andre Anderson. In his first year as a starter, the 6-0, 212-pound senior was among the nation’s leading rushers, having racked up 864 yards and seven touchdowns on 174 carries and adding. Before getting hurt, he had two 200-yard efforts in his previous three games, getting recognized as a Doak Walker Award candidate. A powerful downhill runner, he’ll shed arm tackles and rarely get taken down for minus yards. If he stays healthy and gets some support from the line, an opportunity in the NFL could follow in 2010.
Sophomore Kasey Stelly is trying to hold on to the fullback job he held for half of his first season before injuring his foot. Mainly a lead blocker, who’ll catch the occasional pass, the 6-1, 244-pounder figures to be one of the selfless cogs in the running game.
Projected Top Reserves: Anderson’s caddy this season will be 5-9, 212-pound sophomore J.T. McDonald, who debuted with 124 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries. A punishing inside back, who runs with good pad level, he has the inside track to get a handful of carries when Anderson needs a blow.
Will 5-11, 178-pound sophomore Albert Williams be ready for the start of the season? The Green Wave certainly hopes so. He’s trying to come back from an MCL tear in the same knee that scared away a bunch of colleges when he was in high school. Before the injury, he’d run for 109 yards and a score on just 17 carries, showing some giddyup in the open field.
The man Stelly is trying to fend off at fullback is 6-2, 262-pound Antoine Duplessis. He brings the size, power, and road-grading skills as a blocker to pave the way for Anderson and the other tailbacks. A decent athlete for his size, he’ll be used in short yardage and as an occasional receiver.
Watch Out For… the rookies to get a chance for immediate reps. While the coaches would prefer to take it slow with top recruits Stephen Barnett and Payten Jason, they may have no choice but to burn at least one of their redshirts in order to bolster depth.
Strength: Anderson. He showed enough in seven games to be considered a workhorse type runner and one of the best backs in Conference USA. His injury was above the waist, rather than below it, so he should pick up where he left off a year ago.
Weakness: Depth. After Anderson got hurt last October, the Tulane running game simply disappeared. He better stay healthy for 12 games, or else a similar fate could strike a backfield that has few slam-dunk options down the depth chart.
Outlook: Some programs take years to replace a player like Matt Forte, who rushed for 2,000 yards in his Green Wave swan song. Tulane appears to have already done it with Anderson, a big-time runner with a chance to catch the attention of pro scouts as a senior. If the line does its job, he’s capable of going for 1,500 yards and catching 40 passes.
Projected Starters: Senior flanker Jeremy Williams is to the receiving corps what Andre Anderson is to the backfield, a dynamite talent making his way back from a season-ending injury. A force through the first five games, he’d caught 27 passes for 437 yards and five touchdowns before a hand injury proved to be the only thing that could stop him. A physical 6-1, 205-pounder, he’s shown a knack for making plays in traffic and picking up extra yards in traffic.
Williams’ partner at split end will be 5-11, 177-pound junior Casey Robottom, a part-time starter a year, who’s about to get a promotion. To stay atop the depth chart, however, he’ll have to make more plays than a year ago, when 12 games and six starts produced just 16 catches for 203 yards and a score. Doing a better job of breaking the jam off the line is one of his main priorities.
Tulane likes to make use of the tight end, but the primary player at the position has yet to be determined. Junior Cody Sparks enters the year with the most experience, having started three games in 2008 and finishing fourth on the team with 20 catches for 245 yards. At 6-4 and 239 pounds, he won’t level many defenders on run downs, but is effective as another pass-catching option.
Projected Top Reserves: If he can’t unseat Robottom at split end, 6-3, 168-pound junior Alan Mitchell will be the first man off the bench and a key player in three-wide sets. A tall, lanky target, he’s the most physically gifted receiver this side of Williams. In eight appearances a year ago, he caught 20 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown, numbers he should have no problem surpassing this fall.
The other half of the tight end battle is 6-5, 239-pound junior Tyler Helm. While still somewhat raw, he has the physical tools to be a genuine weapon once he gets more reps. Long and lean, he has improving ball skills and the ability to elevate above linebackers and pluck balls out of the air like a power forward.
Watch Out For… incoming freshman D.J. Banks. It was obvious last year, when Williams went down, and this spring, when he rested, that the Green Wave has serious depth issues at wide receiver. Banks is a speedy playmaker, who was not recruited to spend his first year looking on from the sidelines. He’s going to play right away.
Strength: Williams. Not just the centerpiece, he’s the heart and soul of the passing attack. Last fall was proof that when he was in the lineup, he’s one of the league’s most dangerous wideouts. And when he was out of the lineup, the Green Wave was eminently pedestrian.
Weakness: Beyond Williams. After Williams, there’s no one in this corps of receivers, who’s going to strike fear into opposing defensive backfields. Mitchell flashed some potential at the end of 2008, but he still has to prove he can excel when No. 20 is drawing most of the attention.
Outlook: For now, this is a one-man gang. Williams is going to get his grabs, but for the group to elevate together, it needs at least one other play to complement the star and deflect some attention. It’ll be worth keeping a pulse on Banks, who has the physical tools to be that guy very early in his Green Wave career.
Projected Starters: The offensive line didn’t just lose two starters from a year ago. It lost its two best blockers. Michael Parenton and Troy Kropog were all-stars, the latter landing on the first team and being selected in the fourth round by the Tennessee Titans. Taking Kropog place at left tackle will be 6-8, 306-pound junior Pete Hendrickson, who started all 12 games on the right side a year ago. Still an unfinished product, he has the size, reach, and agility to eventually grow into a capable backside pass protector.
Hendrickson’s old job is expected to be filled by 6-7, 295-pound senior Nick Landry, a veteran of 28 games and eight starts, including a half-dozen a year ago. While he doesn’t play with ideal leverage and can get knocked off his base, his experience in the system gives him an edge over the rising underclassmen.
Taking over for Parenton at center will be 6-1, 296-pound junior Andrew Nierman, who has started the last 24 games at right guard. Arguably the toughest and most talented of the Green Wave linemen, he’s technically sound, with the heavy hands and good leverage to stand up and push back opposing linemen. It’s about time he starts getting some all-conference recognition.
There’s less certainty at the guard spots. On the right side, 6-4, 292-pound senior Tyler Rice is clinging to the top spot on the depth chart. In and out of the lineup the last two years, he’s played multiple positions, but is better suited on the inside, where his limited range cannot be exposed. Also one of the smartest players on the line, he won’t hurt the offense with blown assignments.
The youngest member of the line is 6-4, 300-pound sophomore Harris Howard, who has the inside track at left guard and a high ceiling. Despite being young and inexperienced, he performed better than expected a year ago, earning starts in the final five games of the season.
Projected Top Reserves: The veteran among the guards is 6-3, 322-pound John Landa, a battle-tested senior providing insurance and guidance to the developing Howard. A north-south blocker, with limited range, he’s at his best when he can lock on to a lineman and drive him in reverse.
Coming out of spring, 6-6, 302-pound Eric Jones was listed as the backup tackle on the left and right side, meaning he’s going to be a part of the rotation. He earned a letter and valuable experience with six appearances in 2008, laying the groundwork for what could be a starting nod by 2010.
Watch Out For… Nierman to become the new leader of the line. While he took on more of a compliant role the last two years, he’s about to become more visible and vocal now that Kropog and Parenton have graduated. He has the type of personality that commands respect and gets the attention of his teammates.
Strength: Run blocking. When they’ve got a quality back to create holes for, these linemen have excelled at run blocking for the past two years. Remember, before getting injured and being lost for the year, Andre Anderson was getting all kinds of running room and was among the country’s leading rushers.
Weakness: The guards. Howard is still young and Rice has proven to be a journeyman throughout his career. The Green Wave desperately needs Howard to blossom in his second season because he has the greater upside of the pair.
Outlook: You don’t get better by losing your starting left tackle and center, something the Green Wave will realize this fall. Against average defensive fronts, this line will be fine, but against quick, ornery lines, it’s going to struggle holding blocks.