The Opponents: Tulane

It hasn't been easy being Tulane's head football coach since Hurricane Katrina. Not that it ever was, if winning is the barometer.

Back in 1998, Tulane football achieved a perfect season and won the Liberty Bowl against BYU with a final ranking of No. 7 in the national polls. Times like those are rare for the Green Wave.

Bob Toledo, the former UCLA head coach, enters his fourth season with Tulane and knows that all too well. He's averaged three wins a season since arriving in 2007.

Last season Tulane was 3-9 with a 1-7 Conference USA mark. The outlook for doing much better this season isn't really there.

The Green Wave returns seven offensive starters but only four defensive starters. Not a single Tulane player made the All-Conference USA preseason first team.

Offensively, it's the line that returns the most players with four back to anchor the front. Senior offensive tackle Pete Hendrickson and offensive guard/center Andrew Nierman are potential all-star candidates who lead the way.

Also sophomore guards Harris Howard and Zach Morgan are returnees who help give Tulane a formidable front.

That should bode well for the Greenies in the scoring department, having the offensive line as a true team strength. Trying to take advantage of what the up-front guys do to help, redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Griffin returns after a successful first year to play.

Ryan Griffin>

The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder completed 141 of his 222 pass attempts last season for 1,382 yards, nine touchdowns, and six interceptions.

Griffin has played in nine career games with six starts, the last six of last season. His completions, attempts, passing yardage and touchdown totals are the most by a Tulane freshman in school history

Griffin's favorite target last season was current senior Casey Robottom, who had 50 receptions for 584 yards and two touchdowns. The three-year letterman has played in 36 career games with 25 starts, catching 78 passes for 969 yards (12.42 avg.) and three touchdowns. He started all 12 games in 2009, ranking second on the team in receptions, receiving yards, yard-per-catch average (11.7) and touchdown receptions.

Running back is a different situation. The lone experienced returnee is sophomore Payten Jason, who rushed the football just 19 times last season for 85 total yards and no scores. Several newcomers could figure into the mix in the offensive backfield and likely will have to do so.

On defense senior cornerback Phillip Davis is the leader on that side of the ball. He's a three-year letterman who has played in 34 career games with 19 starts, tallying 94 tackles (72 solo, 22 assists), three tackles for loss totaling six yards, one sack for two yards lost, two interceptions and eight pass break-ups. He started all 12 games in 2009, leading the team in interceptions (2) and pass break-ups (5) while ranking fifth with 41 tackles (26 solo,15 assists).

Bob Toledo>

Sophomore safety Shankiel Smith returns after a solid first season of Division I football. As a true freshman, he played in all 12 games with 10 starts, ranking second on the team in tackles for loss (5.5 for 24 yards lost), fourth with 71 tackles (49 solo, 22 assists) and tied for fourth in pass break-ups (3), and sacks (1.0-15).

In 2009 Tulane was shut out twice and was held to three points once and six points once. Defensively, the Greenies held Army to 16 points in a one-point Tulane win on the road. In the other 11 games, the Wave defense allowed at least 26 points per contest.

The squad arrived on campus Tuesday and practice begins today.

"We are very anxious to get started and find out a lot about our football team," said Toledo, who was head coach at UCLA from 1996-2002. "We had 95 percent of our team here for the summer, and I'm looking forward to seeing how in shape we are and the overall gains we made over the summer in the weight room. I am excited about the upcoming season. I hope our fans will come out to our practices and watch us get better every day of preseason camp."

On Tuesday, 59 scholarship players and seven returning walk-ons joined Tulane's 31 newcomers. Although everyone has reported to campus for fall camp, as Toledo said, the majority of the team was at Tulane the entire summer taking classes and working out both individually and in 7-on-7 drills.

"I'm excited for the upcoming season," said the senior cornerback Davis. "We worked hard over the summer, and I'm excited for it to start. Now it all begins."

This year the Green Wave opens its season on Sept. 2 at home in the Louisiana Superdome against Southeastern Louisiana on a Thursday night. Nine days later they host Ole Miss in an ESPN2 game at 8 o'clock on the night of Saturday, September 11.

It's the first time the Rebels and Tulane have met in football since 2000, and the first time they've played in New Orleans since 1997.

But they've played often through the years. Ole Miss leads the series 41-28 dating back to the late 1800s.


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