On the Fritz: Green Wave head coach prepares for 2017 season

On the Fritz: Green Wave head coach prepares for 2017 season

The Grambling State Tigers will travel to Benson Field at Yulman Stadium on Sept. 2 and break in the 2017 season for Tulane. This date may have snuck up on some college football fans, but head coach Willie Fritz has been preparing for it since the end of last season.

The Green Wave football team has been on campus all summer, preparing, practicing and now scrimmaging.

“I thought it went OK for the first day, we’ll learn from it, you know, we will,” Fritz said following the team’s first full-pad scrimmage inside Yulman Stadium. “One thing we’ve gotta do as coaches is find exactly what we’re looking for  from everyone: the tempo, the speed.”

As the scrimmage went on, Fritz watched carefully for every positive and negative, focusing entirely on preparing his team for its next opponent.

“As I always say, you’re helping us win or you’re helping us lose,” Fritz said. “If you go down there and do a poor job, you’re helping us lose. We don’t want anyone to do that, obviously … Everyone’s got a role, so do your role to the best of your ability.”

While the college football season starts on Saturday, Tulane has an extra week to prepare. Fritz has planned on using this time to make sure his players are playing on fresh legs.

“We’re gonna take the weekend off and let the guys be fresh to get into a regular game week routine,” Fritz said. 

The extra week may prove a necessity for the Green Wave. While the team returns many starters from last year, it hopes to leave behind some of its struggles, specifically on special teams. Fritz has placed his faith in kicker/punter Coby Neenan to improve the team’s longstanding history of kicking woes which began when former kicker Cairo Santos departed for the NFL.

“Anything inside 40 yards, we gotta get points every time,” Fritz said. “And hopefully, [Neenan] can have a little bit of a better range than that. There were some times last year where I went for it that in the past, I would’ve kicked a field goal, just because we were out of our range.”

Kicking isn’t the only struggle plaguing Tulane in recent years. Since Ryan Griffin’s departure, Tulane has struggled to find consistency in its passing game, ranking last in the Football Bowl Subdivision in almost every passing category last season. With JUCO transfer Jonathan Banks now at the helm, however, Fritz is confident in the ability of his players, his staff and his team to produce a strong, multi-faceted offense this season, and according to him, that starts on the ground.

“A strong running attack does more for a passing attack than anything,” Fritz said. “It makes the defensive players play lateral, not rush the passer quite as effectively … we can get good matchups, so we always wanna have a strong running attack.”

With the Green Wave’s weaknesses shored up and accounted for, Fritz hopes to break Tulane’s streak of four straight losing seasons when he takes them into battle. When the Tigers arrive at Yulman, it will not just be a battle between two football teams. It will be a battle between a coach and a history of losing.

Bess Turner contributed reporting to this article.

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