Trench Warfare

If battles are won in the trenches, Tulane's offensive line should give the Green Wave a chance for success this fall. The Green Wave return three of five starters and seven players with a combined 80 career starts making Coach Toledo's front five one of the more experienced offensive lines in the NCAA. Besides, somebody had to open those holes for Matt Forte last season.

In 2007, Tulane quarterbacks were sacked 19 times, the fewest since 1997 and left tackle Troy Kropog (6-6, 296, Sr.) played a large part in the Green Wave's success in pass protection. Kropog has matured into one of the strongest players on the team and is entering his third season as a starter for the Green Wave. He has 24 career starts and has appeared in 30 games. Kropog will be backed up by redshirt junior Travis Olexa (6-4, 304). Olexa has one career start and has appeared in seven games over the past two years.

Michael Parenton (6-2, 295, Sr.) has been a fixture on the Green Wave offensive line since he was a redshirt freshman. In 2005, Parenton started 11 games at right tackle and was named to the All-CUSA freshman team. In 2006, he logged 11 starts and 12 appearances en route to Honorable Mention All-CUSA recognition at center. In 2007, Parenton was named to the Lombardi watch list and started all 12 games at left guard. Parenton is a rarity, entering his fourth season as a starter with 34 career starts on his resume. This will be the first time that he starts at the same position in consecutive seasons and he should be one of the best interior offensive linemen in Conference USA. Parenton will be backed up by redshirt sophomore Oscar Ponce de Leon (6-3, 315). In 2006, the John Curtis product saw action in 10 games at defensive tackle, recording 3 tackles and one quarterback hurry.

Andrew Nierman (6-1, 293, Fr.) exceeded expectations as a true freshman, starting all 12 games at right guard and earning All-CUSA freshman team recognition. Nierman is slated to take over at center for the departed Aryan Barto. Nierman's backup will be redshirt freshman Joey Ray (6-2, 298). Ray began the spring battling with Tyler Rice (6-4, 296, Jr.) for the starting center position; however, Ray's inconsistencies opened the door for Nierman and it's doubtful that Nierman will relinquish the starting position.

With Nierman taking the reigns at center, it seems that Tyler Rice has found a home at right guard. Rice may have been the Green Waves' most improved offensive lineman last fall. Injuries at right tackle allowed Rice to gain valuable experience, as he logged playing time in all 12 games, including five starts. Rice will be backed up by John Landa (6-3, 318, Jr.) who has made 16 career appearances, but has yet to start a game.

Right tackle Nick Landry (6-7, 296, Jr.) missed the last two weeks of spring practice with a knee sprain, but Coach Toledo must have seen enough during that first week of practice to place Landry at the top of the depth chart entering the fall. Landry has yet to realize his considerable potential that he flashed as a true freshman when he received All-CUSA freshman team honors. In his first two seasons with the Green Wave, Landry has three career starts at three different positions on the offensive line: center, right tackle, and left tackle. Redshirt sophomore Pete Hendrickson (6-7, 285) was Landry's main competition at right tackle this spring, but Hendrickson had trouble blocking left defensive end Reggie Scott. That opened the door for redshirt freshman Andrew Higgins (6-3, 285), but Higgins had similar success attempting to contain Scott.

Several returning players will continue to battle for a spot on the two-deep depth chart this fall: Higgins, offensive tackle Duke Krause (6-5, 309, Fr.), offensive guard Kevin Leary (6-2, 292, So.), and offensive guard Dhamari Thomas (6-2, 294, Fr.). Colorado transfer Ian Assell (6-1, 286, Fr.) was able to participate in practice this spring. Adding to the excellent depth on the offensive line will be three incoming freshmen arriving this fall: Harris Howard (6-4, 281) of Blessed Trinity in Alpharetta, Georgia; Eric Jones (6-6, 290) of Spain Park in Hoover, Alabama; and massive Rafael Vazquez (6-5, 321) of Orlando-Edgewater.

Friday, we'll take a look at the defensive line.

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