Tulane has earned back-to-back bowl trips under coach Willie Fritz, and with the program on solid ground going into 2020, another postseason bid and a winning record should be within reach. The Green Wave are led by a deep stable of running backs, and a defense that should rank among the best in the American Athletic Conference. The development of new quarterback Keon Howard will determine just how high the Green Wave can climb in the AAC this fall.
Previewing Tulane's Offense for 2020
Despite inconsistency from Justin McMillan, Tulane averaged the third-most yards (449.3) and third-most points (33.1) in school history during new offensive coordinator Will Hall’s sterling debut. To build on those impressive numbers — or at least not go backward — the Green Wave need reliable play from returning quarterback Keon Howard or a graduate transfer. Howard, a senior, has the running skills to approach McMillan’s program-record 745 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns for a quarterback, but he must take care of the ball better than he did in two turnover-prone years at Southern Miss, where he was benched three times. His accuracy is unproven, too.
The Wave lost receivers Darnell Mooney (48 catches, 713 yards) and Jalen McCleskey (37 catches, 581 yards), but sophomore Jha’Quan Jackson emerged as a playmaker in five spring practices along with former four-star recruit Mykel Jones, a grad transfer from Oklahoma.
A loaded backfield, which has five legitimate candidates to be the leading rusher, appeared to be even deeper when breakaway threat Corey Dauphine (575 yards, 8.0 average per carry) was granted a sixth year of eligibility. However, Dauphine suffered a torn Achilles and won't return for 2020. Redshirt freshman Tyjae Spears may be the most complete back on the roster. Amare Jones (371 rushing yards, 367 receiving yards) could excel in a slotback role Hall designed specifically for him. Stephon Huderson, Ygenio Booker and Cameron Carroll will see a bigger role with Dauphine out for the year.
Four-year starter Corey Dublin leads a line that will have new starters at center and right tackle.
Previewing Tulane's Defense for 2020
A disappointing front that was supposed to be as good or better than any D-line in the AAC contributed to Tulane’s 1–5 slide after a 5–1 start. Outside linebacker Patrick Johnson, who had 10.5 sacks in 2018, managed just four while playing through a labrum tear. All of the line starters return along with some key backups as the Wave look to return to form. The all-upperclassman front of Johnson, fellow senior Cameron Sample, De’Andre Williams and big nose tackle Jeffery Johnson will be formidable if they play to their potential.
The linebackers go four deep with Oklahoma State grad transfer Kevin Henry and promising freshman Jesus Machado joining Marvin Moody and Nick Anderson, a force in the Wave’s bowl win.
Strong safety Larry Brooks, who had a team-high four interceptions despite starting only one game, is poised for a breakout year. He and free safety Chase Kuerschen have complementary skill sets.
Previewing Tulane's Specialists for 2020
The kicking game has improved in each of head coach Willie Fritz’s four years. Merek Glover hit 13-of-17 field goals in 2019. Punter Ryan Wright has the leg to improve on his 41.4-yard average. Jones is a threat on returns.
Although Tulane has won bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time, Fritz expected a better performance than a repeat of 2018’s 7–6 record. After tying for first in the AAC West a year earlier, the Wave slipped to 3–5, losing to all five bowl-bound teams they faced in league play. Penalties were a huge problem, with Tulane ranking 123rd out of 130 FBS teams in an un-Fritz-like performance.
Having lifted the program to respectability, Fritz wants to contend for conference championships. The talent for improvement is there. Still, the Wave could regress without the right quarterback.