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You can read the entire Tulane preview in Athlon Sports' 2013 College Football National Edition magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
C-USA West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Curtis Johnson, 2-10 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Eric Price | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jon Sumrall, Lionel Washington
The Green Wave should be better offensively, even though quarterback Ryan Griffin is gone. The reason for this is simple: They figure to be better up front than in 2012, when they allowed 34 sacks, because they are a year older and a year stronger. Tulane could field five offensive linemen with starting experience. Mike Henry, Rio Mares, Sean Donnelly and Adam Skidmore each started at least 11 times last fall, and Zach Morgan, a veteran with 27 starts, returns after missing last season because of a shoulder injury.
Who replaces Griffin is the big question, but the good news is that each of the candidates played well in the spring, and the rest of the skill positions are filled with talent.
Junior college transfer Nick Montana, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, arrived in time for spring practice and was impressive. Montana originally signed with Washington but transferred to Mount San Antonio (Calif.) College after one season with the Huskies. The quarterback competition also includes sophomore Devin Powell, who started twice as a true freshman when Griffin was injured. Both give Tulane a dual-threat option — which Griffin didn’t. But the most important thing for the quarterback to do is to get the football to a deep and talented group of receivers and to hand the ball off to standout running back Orleans Darkwa.
Senior Ryan Grant, who had 76 catches as a junior, is a returning All-C-USA selection and the top receiving threat. Darkwa is one of the premier running backs in the conference, provided he can remain healthy. The 6'0", 210-pound senior has more than 2,000 career yards but played in only nine games last season because of a variety of injuries.
It’s not hard to find the strength of a defense that struggled mightily in 2012. Tulane’s secondary is filled with experience and ability. Cornerback Lorenzo Doss was a Freshman All-America selection last season, while safety Darion Monroe was chosen to the C-USA All-Freshman team. Jordan Batiste also returns after starting as a true freshman. Monroe, the team leader with 96 tackles last season, could be the key player on the Green Wave defense.
Tulane also has potential to be very good up front with defensive end Julius Warmsley, who has All-C-USA ability, anchoring the line along with Kenny Welcome and Chris Davenport, a 6'4", 330-pound graduate transfer from LSU who is especially intriguing.
Tulane is small but fast at linebacker. Senior Dominique Robertson is a three-year letterman who was named the Defensive MVP of spring practice. He’ll lead the way from the middle linebacker spot and is flanked by veterans Matthew Bailey and Kyle Davis. Senior Zach Davis, who will back up Robertson, was second on the team with 78 tackles last season.
Kicker Cairo Santos returns after winning the 2012 Lou Groza Award. He made all 21 field goal attempts, including 12 from beyond 40 yards. The return game didn’t have much spark last season and needs improvement.
Curtis Johnson was 2–10 in his maiden season as a college head coach. It was a difficult year, even discounting the 10 losses, since the toughest thing he faced was the terrifying spinal cord injury suffered by senior safety Devon Walker. Johnson had to hold his team together while working through his own grief over Walker’s devastating injury.
Now Johnson prepares for his second season with a roster that should be improved. If Montana or Powell plays well at quarterback and Darkwa remains healthy, the Green Wave could double their win total from a year ago.