2010 Record: (4-8, 2-6 in C-USA)
Head Coach: Bob Toledo (91-103 All-Time, 7-25 at Tulane)
Last Bowl Game: 2002 Hawaii Bowl: beat Hawaii 36-28
9/3: at Southeatern Louisiana (2010 result: won 27-21)
9/10: Tulsa (2010 result: lost 52-24)
9/17: at UAB
9/24: at Duke
10/1: at Army (2009 result: lost 41-23)
10/15: UTEP (2010 result: won 34-24)
10/29: at East Carolina
11/5: at SMU (2010 result: lost 31-17)
11/10: Houston (2010 result: lost 42-23)
11/19: at Rice (2010 result: won 54-49)
11/26: at Hawaii
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 24.9 ppg (10th in C-USA, 80th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 127.5 yds/game (9th in C-USA, 91st in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 245.8 yds/game (7th in C-USA, 38th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 373.8 yds/game (9th in C-USA, 66th in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 37.2 ppg (9th in C-USA, 113th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 195.5 yds/game (10th in C-USA, 101st in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 194.6 yds/game (1st in C-USA, 28th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 390.1 yds/game (5th in C-USA, 74th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: -0.17 per game (4th in C-USA, 67th in Nation)
Penalties: 36.5 yds/game (1st in C-USA, 5th in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Ryan Griffin, Jr (223 of 372 for 2371 yds, 14 TD, 8 INT)
Rushing: RB Orleans Darkwa, Soph (184 for 925, 11 TD)
Receiving: WR Ryan Grant, Jr (33 rec for 515 yds, 4 TD)
Tackles: LB Trent Mackey, Jr 124)
Sacks: DE Dezman Moses, Sr (6)
Interceptions: S Shakiel Smith, Jr (3)
The Bob Toledo era has certainly not gone as expected at Tulane. After finishing 4-8 in his first season and 3-5 in the conference most fans probably expected an upward swing. Instead, the Green Wave went 2-10 and 3-9 before again achieving 4-8 last season. Time is running out for Toledo to get things headed in the right direction. One very positive spot last year was the emergence of freshman RB Orleans Darkwa. With a name like that it was like he was born to play at Tulane and he showed up big for the Green Wave as he averaged 125 yards per game over the last six games of the season. From a schedule perspective the Green Wave miss out on both UCF and Southern Miss out of the East so that should help their chances of posting a better record as they lost to both of those schools last year. To get a local perspective on the 2011 Green Wave we caught up with Ryan Jones of The Tulane Hullabaloo and their Fear the Wave sports blog.
Each of the past two years Tulane has improved by one win (2008 they went 2-10, 2009 they went 3-9 and last year they finished 4-8). Before last season you said fan patience was wearing thin with Toledo despite him being a popular guy. How hot is his seat going into this season?
Tulane has undeniably made positive strides through the last three seasons, but it’s hard for the fans to view four straight losing seasons as forward progress, even recorded in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina. Now that longtime friend and offensive coordinator Dan Dodd has left, Toledo will be calling every offensive play and has recruited every player currently on the Green Wave’s roster. Any success or failure that occurs in this pivotal season will be a result of his leadership, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. No one is fooled by the extension that Tulane gave Toledo during the offseason; if Tulane doesn’t go bowling this year, he’s very likely through.
Orleans Darkwa was a definite bright spot on last year’s team as he finished with over 900 yards rushing as a freshman. Are there any first year players that you think can come in and make an impact for the Green Wave this year?
There are several incoming freshmen on the offensive side of the ball that have a chance to come in and contribute immediately. Local product Evan Tatford, a 6-foot-5 tight end, has a shot to help fill the offensive void left by graduating senior Cody Sparks. Danté Butler, another Louisiana native, could earn carries at running back even with Darkwa’s emergence.
What might be just as impactful, however, are the players that don’t produce as expected. Even with the transfer of wide receivers Devin Figaro and D.J. Banks, the incoming group of receivers might struggle to make an immediate on-field impression. The top-rated receiver of the bunch, Marc Edwards, has not proved popular with the coaching staff so far. And though the Green Wave is thin behind starting quarterback Ryan Griffin, freshman Nick SanGiacomoisn’t ready to take on a backup role. The Wave’s lack of depth at quarterback and receiver, combined with Toledo’s run-first tendencies could mean the team will rely heavily on the ground attack this year, especially if injuries occur at either of those positions.
Tulane gave up 37.2 points per game last year and finished 10th in C-USA in rushing defense. What has been done to shore up the defense this off-season?
Tulane’s run defense started the 2010 season strong, holding Southeastern Louisiana to 64 yards and Ole Miss to 91 yards, but it fell apart as the season wore on. At no time was that more evident than in the Wave’s lopsided homecoming loss toNavy, which slashed Tulane’s defense up for 312 rushing yards. Opponents were clearly pounding the Green Wave right up the gut. Unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe that this 2011 squad will improve up the middle, especially after Honorable Mention All-Conference USA defensive tackle Justin Adams’ graduation. The secondary didn’t look particularly impressive in spring drills either.
One source of consolation might be the hiring of new special teams coordinator John Hendrick. The Tulane defense often started drives inside its own 50 yard line last year due to poor kick coverage and fumbled returns. Things got so bad that Toledo threw top defensive starters Dezman Moses and Trent Mackey on the coverage squad for several games. Hendrick is a veteran coach with NFL experience who should improve the unit immediately. One might even say that he appears overqualified for the job.
As terrible as last year’s defensive numbers were, the lack of scrutiny that has been applied to third-year defensive coordinator Steve Stanard is a little surprising. The Wave’s defensive struggles aren’t entirely his fault, but the buck has to stop somewhere.
Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?
After Tulane’s recent streak of homecoming catastrophes (no hyperbole there), a victory in this year’s edition against Memphis is crucial, especially considering the Tigers are a team that the Wave is projected to beat. Game two against Tulsa is another important contest. The Golden Hurricane perennially toy with the Green Wave but should be a much less formidable squad this year after losing head coach Todd Graham. An early home win against a conference power like Tulsa could set an encouraging tone for the rest of the season.
What is the biggest reason to be optimistic about Tulane football in the future?
University president Scott Cowen publically voiced his intentions to bring back the program to its former glory in the spring with his “Playbook” presentation through increased athletics funding, among other measures, and that intention carries weight. With the school’s strong academic emphasis, the athletic department will never be successful without the intentional support of the administration.
And despite what some fans might think, Cowen’s word means a lot. The Playbook presentation was his idea. Neither his legacy nor his job is tied to the football program’s success, and he doesn’t often make empty promises for the sake of pleasing a crowd. Whether or not Tulane football is successful down the road, it now has a fighting chance for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
The 2011 season is a much tougher season to predict than last year because the team is clearly improving and on the cusp of reaching the postseason. This year, however, will not be a success if Tulane doesn’t make a bowl game, and the Wave only made things tougher on itself by adding a thirteenth game at Hawaii.
My heart says 7-6, but my head says 6-7. Too many things have to go right for Tulane to get to the postseason. Griffin can’t get hurt, the wide receivers must avoid injury, the secondary still needs to improve by leaps and bounds, and the interior defensive line needs someone to come out of nowhere and plug the gaps. If the team finishes below .500, Toledo would likely be fired, and athletic director Rick Dickson could very well go down with him.
Next Preview: Kentucky
Coming in August: CFBZ Top 25 Countdown
2011 Team Previews
SEC- Ole Miss