The Green Wave come into the season opener with plenty of uncertainty. Brand new head coach Willie Fritz and “The Fritz Era” starts on the road against Wake Forest in hostile ACC territory.
The Green Wave have a starting QB in third-year sophomore quarterback Glen Cuiellette who’s never thrown a college pass. Tulane will use a 2 QB attack with either freshman Darius Bradwell or Johnathan Brantley subbing series and not plays for Cuiellette. Coach Fritz has an option-based attack, and Tulane has a four player running back rotation. Tulane defense is led by Outland Trophy Candidate Tenzel Smart and undersized tackling machine Nico Marley.
"Broadcast InfoDate: Thursday, Sept 1, 2016Kickoff: 7:00 pm, ETVenue: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NCTelevision: ESPN 3"
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson enters his third season. Clawson after consecutive, 3-9 seasons will be looking to make significant strides offensively.
Nov 28, 2015; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive back Ryan Janvion (22) reacts after a third down stop during the first quarter against the Duke Blue Devils at BB&T Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Wake Forest’s depth chart the past 2 years was littered with underclassmen, which may explain allowing 88 sacks in those 2 years. Clawson will ironically start 2 QB’s John Wolford (23 career starts) will start while sophomore Kendall Hinton, a dual threat, will play a definite role. Wolford in 2015 was a 52% passer, with 9 TD’s and 11 int’s.
Additionally, the Green Wave will break all the all white uniforms tonight.
Both teams are coming off disappointing 3-9 seasons. In 2015, Tulane beat Maine, UCF, and Army, while Wake beat Elon, Army, and BC. In Tulane’s nine losses, the Green Wave were within 10 points in only one game.
Wake, on the other hand, lost four games by eight or fewer points. That was while playing the 41st most difficult schedule in the country, compared to Tulane’s 79th ranked strength of schedule.
Last year’s leading receiver, Teddy Veal (48 catches for 644 yards and 5 TDs), has since transferred to Louisiana Tech. Tulane returns four players who caught for over 200 yards each, including second-leading receiver Devon Breaux who is back after briefly leaving the team to focus on his successful track and field career.
One area where Tulane is returning experienced talent is at running back. Junior Dontrell Hilliard (5.6 ypc) and redshirt junior Sherman Badie (4.3 ypc) were the team’s two leading rushers last year, respectively. These RBs both also surpassed 250 yards receiving last year, making them all-around weapons (Hilliard, who is the starter on Tulane’s depth chart, had over 900 yards from scrimmage).
Tulane also returns a number of talented players on defense. Senior linebacker Nico Marley led the team as a junior with 82 tackles, including 13 tackles for loss ( an interception and forced fumble ). The defensive line features one of 17 DTs nationally on the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy with Tanzel Smart — who has earned mentions of NFL potential by being a consistently disruptive presence in the backfield.
The Green Wave enter their first season under head coach Willie Fritz, who coached Georgia Southern to a bowl game in 2015. Generally, his teams have emphasized running the ball using a form of an option attack, and the expectation is that trend will continue at Tulane.
Coach Fritz on why he feels like his team is ready:
"“Our guys may be surprised because before the game, I don’t go in there and give a Knute Rockne speech,” Fritz said. “I did that 24 years ago in my first head coaching game because I thought that was a big, important part of being a coach. My job isn’t to give an emotional pregame talk, it’s to prepare them throughout the week. These guys know I have high expectations.”"
“There are no moral victories. Our goal is to win.”
New Tulane head coach Willie Fritz (photo courtesy of sportsnola.com)
Wake Forest has gone the past 3 season has gone 4-8 and then consecutive 3-9 seasons. Tulane has 1 winning season since 2002, and has won 6 games in the American Athletic Conference since joining in 2014. Tulane will be going to a hostile environment and leaning on the run game. Coach Fritz will have some wrinkles and will be able to scheme offensively to give his young QB some success.
The Philosophy holds true here. Offense wins games, defense wins championships. Despite the uncertainties and unknowns, Wake Forest has the home field advantage and the better offense. The Green Wave will give the Demon Deacons a test, but the Deamon Deacons will outlast the wave. Wake Forest wins this match up, 27-17.