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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Tulane Football is back: Here’s everything to know

Tulane Football achieved one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history last season. Can the Green Wave do it again? (Courtesy of Parker Waters)

Nine months later, there is still only one word to describe the madness that occurred on the football field for the Tulane University Green Wave: remarkable. A team lacking five-star athletes coming out of high school and certainly not the hotspot for elite transfers, the Wave achieved one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history. After two wins and ten losses in the 2021-22 season, the Wave flipped the script with twelve wins and two losses in 2022-23. The program garnered national recognition, a feat that seemed impossible a year ago. 

Tulane forced the world to turn their heads and acknowledge the team’s greatness. The Wave entered the AP College Football Top 25 rankings for the first time since 1998 and went on to win the American Athletic Conference Championship over the University of Central Florida. The team also achieved a come-from-behind victory over the University of Southern California in the final seconds to take home the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

Excellence on the field also resulted in National Football League teams taking notice. Tulane’s star running back and 2022 AAC Offensive Player of the Year, Tyjae Spears, received plenty of NFL attention during and after the season. His versatility and athleticism impressed the Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in the third round at the 2023 NFL Draft in April. 

Dorian Williams and Nick Anderson, two AAC All-American linebackers and the leaders on defense for the Wave last season, both joined NFL rosters as well. Williams was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, just ten picks after Spears. Anderson received a contract as an undrafted free agent from the New Orleans Saints.

With so many familiar faces gone, many might assume that Tulane’s success on the field will not continue. However, reigning AAC Coach of the Year, Willie Fritz, is returning as head coach for another season after turning down other coaching opportunities. In addition, 2022 All-Conference Second Team quarterback Michael Pratt and All-Conference First Team center Sincere Haynesworth both decided to return for another season, turning down the transfer portal and NFL Draft. With Fritz, Pratt and Haynesworth all back in the fold, the Wave returns three key pieces to propel them towards another season of success.

Fritz was not shy about reloading his roster with more talent. With the departure of star running back Tyjae Spears, Fritz quickly found his potential replacement in lightning-fast running back Shedro Louis who transferred to Tulane from Liberty University. Louis is on the smaller side at just 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, but his speed and ability to make defenders miss will immediately be noticed on the field. He finished his senior season at Liberty University with 529 yards on 122 carries. Louis will be teaming up with returning redshirt sophomore running backs Shaadie Clayton-Johnson and Iverson Celestine to try and recreate Spears’ success out of the backfield this season.

Key pass-catchers Shae Wyatt, Deuce Watts and Tyrick James are going to be missed this season, as they finished their last seasons being three of Pratt’s top five receivers. However, Tulane has plenty of depth to work with, as wide receivers Jha’Quan Jackson and Lawrence Keys III are returning and Phat Watts, twin brother of Deuce Watts, is healthy again following an ACL injury that cut his season short in 2022. Jackson and Keys were large contributors for Tulane in 2022, as they both posted at least 30 catches and combined for 850 yards. They will need to step into even bigger roles this season if Tulane wants to continue its success. 

Tulane also has a new starting tight end in Alex Bauman, who only tallied eight catches as a freshman. However, he has already become a household name to Tulane fans everywhere for his legendary game-winning touchdown catch with just nine seconds remaining against the University of Southern California in the Cotton Bowl. His grab is likely the most iconic moment in Tulane athletics history, but Bauman is still writing his story. As a sophomore this season, Bauman will be asked to make lots more big-time plays.

The offensive line is also expected to remain among the elite groups across the country. Led by Sincere Haynesworth, Tulane has two other Reese’s Senior Bowl Watchlist nominee offensive linemen in Prince Pines and Cameron Wire. Last season, Pines was an outstanding offensive guard for the Green Wave. His massive frame at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds, along with his impressive athleticism make him an intriguing player to watch. Wire spent five years with the Louisiana State University Tigers, playing guard and tackle, before transferring to Tulane this season. Another massive lineman at 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, Wire hopes to use his experience at LSU to help solidify Tulane’s offensive line. 

Tulane’s linebacking core will look a little bit different this season with two new starters in Jesus Machado and Corey Platt Jr. Machado has spent his first three seasons with Tulane, but his role grew last season as he recorded 40 tackles and one pass defended. Platt Jr. also spent last season with the Wave, where he recorded 25 tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery and one interception.

Tulane is returning almost all of their key defensive linemen from last season, led by Patrick Jenkins and Darius Hodges. Jenkins, a New Orleans native, had an impressive season last year, with 39 tackles and three sacks. Hodges also helped anchor the defensive line last season with 37 tackles and five sacks. Another defensive lineman to look out for this season is Adonis Friloux, who is returning from a torn ACL that occurred during practice right before the 2022 season began. Frilouz is expected to regain a starting spot on the defensive line this season and might be in for a breakout year.

The Wave lost secondary key contributors from last season but it returned cornerback Jarius Monroe, who was awarded All-Conference First Team last season. Monroe is a senior who finished last season with 50 tackles, eight passes defended and three interceptions. He will lead a revamped secondary with high expectations this season. Opposite of Monroe is expected to be Lance Robinson. Robinson saw time on the field last season, recording 34 tackles and five passes defended.

Tulane also looks to replace their elite safety production from a year ago with Kam Pedescleaux and DJ Douglas. Pedescleaux transferred to Tulane this offseason from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Pedescleaux is undersized at 5-foot-9 inches, but he was productive this past season for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, as he recorded 72 tackles, six passes defended, two forced fumbles and one interception. At the other safety position, Tulane hopes DJ Douglas will make a big jump as a redshirt junior. Douglas was a small contributor for the Wave last season, as he finished with 21 tackles, one pass defended and one interception, but there is optimism he will thrive in a larger role this season. 

Michael Pratt should only improve as he enters his fourth season as Tulane’s starting quarterback. The defense will look different, and it will be difficult to replicate last season’s success with so many talented starters gone, but this team is no stranger when it comes to turning unheralded players into stars. There will be some hiccups along the way with so many new pieces, but after seeing what Fritz has done so far at Tulane, it should come as no surprise if the Wave keep riding high this season. 

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