As the Tulane Green Wave make the transition into the AAC in 2014, they must do so without a number of key contributors from their 2013 squad who finished 7-6. The team will need to find some impact players in a hurry if they hope to make some noise in their new conference home and will be looking to some young breakout stars from last season to get it done. Chief among them, defensive end Royce LaFrance who will have to take on a larger leadership role this season if the Tulane defense hopes to succeed.
LaFrance had a strong sophomore season in which he led the defensive line in sacks with 6.5 as the leader of the pass rush. He finished the year with 27 total tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, as he broke out as a disruptive force on the front lines for the Wave. He will be asked to do even more in 2014 as his counterpart at the other end position, Julius Warmsley, moved on this offseason after finishing 2013 with six sacks. In all, Tulane will lose five seniors from their front seven who accounted for 12.5 sacks last season.
That lost production will have to be made up somewhere and LaFrance will have to lead the charge. He showed himself capable of consistently pressuring the quarterback last season but will have to take his game to a whole new level in 2014 if Tulane hopes to make a smooth transition into their new conference. Senior Tyler Gilbert has flashed some ability at getting after the passer, recording three sacks last season, but will be stretched as a starter this season. If LaFrance can lead by example, it will open up things for Gilbert on the other side and boost the pass rush as a whole.
There’s no denying that there will be some transition pains for Tulane as they leave Conference USA for the AAC this fall. But if Royce LaFrance elevates his game to the next level in 2014, the Green Wave have a chance of making a splash in their new conference right away.