Riptide’s Reflections | Unsung heroes

Mark Keplinger and Jeremy Rosen

Riptide’s Reflections is The Tulane Hullabaloo’s weekly column talking all things Tulane football. Join us every Wednesday for in-depth coverage, analysis and opinion of the Green Wave. 

With Tulane football now ranked No. 19 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll, a lot of attention is focused on a small group of high profile players that have propelled Tulane to where they are right now. And rightly so — Tulane would not be here if not for players such as Michael Pratt, Duece Watts, Tyjae Spears, Dorian Williams and Nick Anderson

However, it is important to look at some of the other key pieces to the team and take a look at how they have contributed to the Green Wave. Today, let us examine a few of the large group of the unsung heroes:

Iverson Celestine, Running back 

Celestine is playing better than his stats would suggest as he continues to impress as the number two option in the backfield behind Spears. He has 210 yards on 52 carries this season and is a valuable asset in the blocking game as well. He has good speed, runs hard and is a physical presence in the backfield. He was particularly impressive against Kansas State and Houston, both of which were games where Tulane heavily relied on the run.

Celestine is a local kid from Mandeville, Louisiana and was a three star recruit out of high school. He attended Fontainebleau High School and holds the school record for rushing yards.

Celestine has slowed down in recent weeks and did not play against Memphis due to a leg injury. However, head coach Willie Fritz is hopeful that he will return soon.

Jarius Monroe, Cornerback

Monroe has been outstanding this season in pass coverage for the Green Wave. The Nicholls State University transfer has five passes defended and two interceptions this season along with 19 tackles. One of those interceptions was the game sealing pick in the endzone on Homecoming against Memphis. Monroe has also brought some physicality to the secondary, always a welcome trait as well. 

Monroe’s good play, however, sometimes does not translate well into a stat sheet. For example, against University South Florida, his sticky coverage on a receiver in the endzone forced an overthrow. While this play does not appear on the stats, his coverage is undoubtedly the reason for the missed pass. 

Monroe spent three years at Nicholls State where he was an all-conference player before he transferred to Tulane. His older brother Darion also wore the Olive and Blue as a cornerback from 2012-15. It is safe to say he has lived up to the family legacy nicely.

Tyrick James, Tight End

As Tulane marches closer to the endzone, James becomes more and more of a threat. He has 16 receptions this season, but four of them are touchdowns. James does well to make himself open in the endzone, giving Pratt an easy option of where to throw the ball to. Probably his most important touchdown of the season was against Houston, where he took an inside shovel pass for a touchdown to tie the game with seconds remaining.

When talking about James, Pratt said, “He’s super consistent. He does a great job blocking, running routes, catching the ball. Just a really reliable target and he’s fun to throw the ball to.”

James has been with the team since 2018 but really broke out in 2019. Last season, he was second on the team in receptions but led the Green Wave in receiving yards and touchdowns.

Macon Clark, Defensive back

Clark is a versatile player who can play a number of different positions well. This versatility has seen him contribute at both safety and as the nickelback. He is a factor in stopping the run and is currently fourth on the team in tackles with 41. He also has forced three fumbles, which is tied for second best in the nation. Clark won the Louisiana Sports Writers Association College Football Player of the Week award twice this season, which honors the best college players in the state.

In the passing game, he has two passes defended and two interceptions. Last season, he had four picks, including picks against Cincinnati and Oklahoma. 

With starting cornerback Jadon Canady out with an injury and no timeline yet on his return, Tulane will need strong play from Clark and Monroe in his absence.