2013 will mark the final season for the Tulane Green Wave as a member of Conference-USA before they depart off to the American Athletic Conference. With the chance to play in a bigger conference on the horizon, plus moving into their brand new on-campus stadium, second-year head coach Curtis Johnson is looking to improve on a lackluster 2-10 season in 2012 and move on to their new conference home with some momentum built up.
With those intentions being clear, as well as necessary, let’s take a look at the 2013 version of the No. 96 team on our countdown, the Tulane Green Wave.
With QB Ryan Griffin now gone, the Green Wave are going to have a little bit of name recognition under center. Nick Montana, the son of NFL Hall-of-Famer Joe, will be taking over the reins at quarterback for coach Johnson. After transferring away from the Washington Huskies, Montana will get his second chance at the Division I level with Tulane. With two years of JUCO experience under his belt now, we’ll finally get to see what the famous son has to offer.
Joining Montana in the backfield should be versatile, and now healthy, RB Orleans Darkwa. Juniors Rob Kelley and Dante Butler should also see time running the ball, giving coach Johnson a nice array of options to choose from at the running back position.
Four starters return on the offensive line, although they will certainly have to improve their performances from the 2012 season if they want to get this offense in a rhythm throughout the season. We’ve seen many times before that one year of experience can indeed make a difference. These guys improving together at a steady rate and gelling together during practices can make a world of difference in regards to the Green Wave’s offensive output in 2013.
Co-Defensive Coordinators Jon Sumrall and Lionel Washington need to make sure that some noticeable improvements are made on this side of the ball. The Wave gave up 38.4 points per game in 2012, which needs to be dropped in 2013. While this is no easy task, especially in the offensive shootout of a conference that is C-USA, it can be done. With a defensive unit that finished last in the conference against the run and second-to-last in total defense, they really have no choice.
LSU transfer DT Chris Davenport should provide some help up front in regards to improving that run defense. And, as far as stopping the passing game goes, dangerous safety Nico Marley, joined by speedy corners Richard Allen and Parry Nickerson, could make passing the ball on Tulane a little more difficult than it was last season.
Starting off the 2013 campaign against Jackson State and South Alabama, this squad should roll into a tough game against Louisiana Tech with a 2-0 record. From there, as I said before, in C-USA it’s a crap shoot every week. After a late September trip to the Carrier Dome to face off against the Syracuse Orange, they welcome the conference’s probable two toughest teams in East Carolina and Tulsa into the Superdome, which provides somewhat of an advantage.
This program has suffered through ten consecutive losing seasons. Even with that stat, they still have much to look forward to in the future. If Montana and the offense can click on all cylinders and the defense can get their act together, this team can plausibly go 6-6 before they head off to the bigger conference in 2014. A potential bowl berth could provide huge momentum going into 2014, and if any program needs it, it’s this group.