James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Five players to watch: SMU vs. Tulane

PonyStampede breaks down five Tulane players to watch when SMU plays the Green Wave on Saturday in New Orleans.

Senior defensive tackle Tanzel Smart

In 2016, Smart is third on the team with 40 total tackles and has 8.5 tackles for a loss with three sacks and a forced fumble in seven starts. Smart was an All-American Athletic Conference first teamer last season after totaling 62 tackles, 15 for a loss, and two sacks.

Senior linebacker Nico Marley

The 5-8, 200 pound linebacker is in his fourth season for Tulane and has made 36 starts in 37 career games. He is fourth in school history with 36.5 tackles for a loss over his career. In 2016, Marley leads the team with 52 total tackles and has recorded 6.5 tackles for a loss with three sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles in seven starts.

Junior cornerback Parry Nickerson

The best coverage guy for the Green Wave this season, Nickerson has two interceptions and nine pass breakups and a forced fumble in seven starts. He came into his junior season with six career interceptions and 14 pass break-ups. He's played well this year after struggling a bit in 2015.

Junior running back Dontrell Hilliard

Hilliard has been the most effective weapon for the Green Wave this season, averaging 5.8 yards a carry and totaling 529 yards over his seven starts and has caught five passes for 64 yards. His seven rushing touchdowns lead the team.  This is Hilliard’s third season with the Green Wave, but his first as the featured back. Coming into this season he made just 10 starts—he’s already added seven starts to his total this season and he is averaging 0.6 more yards per carry with an increased workload.

Junior defensive end Ade Aruna

Tulane’s greatest strength on defense is its pass rush and Aruna is a big part of that. Aruna has 23 total tackles with four tackles for a loss and two sacks and a forced fumble in his seven starts this season. He made 11 starts last season and recorded three sacks for the whole year. He is close to equaling his sack total from a year ago and there are still plenty of opportunities for him to do so. 

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