Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate breaks down the Tulane defense, as the Green Wave come to play the Deacs Thursday night at BB&T Field.
To help us get prepared for the season opener Thursday night against the Green Wave, Scott Kushner, Tulane reporter for the New Orleans Advocate, agreed to a Q&A breaking down what the Deacs are likely to see when they have the ball on offense.
What can the Deacs expect to see from the Tulane defense?
A lot more talent than you'd probably expect. The Green Wave had stretches of brilliance defensively last season, but its offense was so poor that the numbers don't match the ability. Tanzel Smart is a rare kind of disruptor at defensive tackle and was an All AAC selection. Nico Marley is excellent in the middle of the defense and has started for 35+ games. The secondary is the piece Tulane is quietly very confident in though. Parry Nickerson broke Tulane's record for interceptions by a freshman in 2013 and outperformed current Denver Broncos Lorenzo Doss and Taurean Nixon that whole season. However, he took a step back last year. Meanwhile, Jarrod Franklin came on the scene and is a safety Willie Fritz has raved about all spring.
The question revolves around the pieces other than those proven guys because many of them haven't been part of a successful unit. There is also extremely limited depth which will hurt TU over the course of the season, but I expect to see a return to one of the AAC's better defenses when those pieces are healthy.
What makes Nico Marley such a dangerous linebacker?
He can get from sideline to sideline remarkably well and lays a significant pop despite his small stature. He's also one of the better linebackers I've ever covered as far as forcing turnovers and recovering fumbles when they're on the ground. There's a reason he has started every game since he arrived on campus on 2013.
Wake has a stable of six young, talented and interchangeable receivers. What will they face from the Green Wave secondary?
Nickerson and Franklin are the most reliable guys and have NFL level talent. I'm sure Wake and most other opponents will try to throw at Donnie Lewis Jr and Richard Allen, two corners who have played a good bit and flashed some potential, but haven't proven to be consistent. Either are capable of giving up a big play. It still remains to be seen exactly what Tulane will get from Roderic Teamer as well, who starts at safety next to Franklin. He's a big hitter who can make plays but admitted he made mistakes last year chasing highlights over making tackles.
Who will the Green Wave rely upon to get pressure on the Wake quarterbacks?
Tanzel Smart is a force in the middle. He is very hard to block and is the defender most responsible for Tulane having so much success against Navy last season, in a year when Keenan Reynolds torched everyone else on Navy's schedule. The rest of Tulane's pass rushers are capable of getting pressure but aren't the threat that Smart is, which is why he's often double teamed. In passing obvious situations, defensive end Ade Aruna is particularly dangerous. The long, lean defensive end can get up the field as well as anyone but really struggles to keep the edge in run situations, which limits him a bit.
Tulane season expectations?
Hard to say. Willie Fritz is a winner and there's a reason he's turned four different schools into conference champions. However, the talent level on offense is still very iffy and there is zero experience from quarterbacks to help ease the transition. I believe a 4-8 season is the most likely result.
Wake Forest 20 Tulane 7