For Tulane to improve upon last year's 4-8 (1-7 American Athletic Conference) mark, the offense will have to get better.
Tulane ranked 104th nationally in scoring (24.1 points per game), 126th in passing (113.3 yards per game), 118th in total offense (341.4 ypg) and dead last among 128 FBS teams in third down conversions (27.2 percent). On a bright note, the Green Wave were 26th nationally in rushing with 228.1 ypg, while leading the American with a plus-9 turnover margin.
Tulane's offensive struggles could be attributed in part to a new system. Junior college transfer Jonathan Banks, a dual-threat quarterback who beat out sophomore Johnathan Brantley and incumbent Glenn Cuiellette for the starting job, appears to be a better fit for second-year coach Willie Fritz's option-based scheme.
The well-traveled Banks began his career at Contra Costa (Texas) Community College, redshirted at Kansas State in 2015 after contracting mononucleosis and spent last season at Independence (Kansas) CC where he threw for 1,338 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for 615 yards and seven scores.
Brantley was 8-of-21 for 51 yards in eight appearances (2 starts).
Cuiellette is listed No. 3 on the depth chart after connecting on 101-of-237 passes for 1,309 yards with 10 TDs and eight interceptions in 10 starts.
Seniors Dontrell Hilliard (135 carries, 759 yards, 9 TDs; 9 receptions, 114 yards) and Sherman Badie (43 carries, 169 yards, 1 TD in 8 games) are the running backs.
Tulane returns its top two receivers in junior Terren Encalade (36 receptions, 500 yards, 6 TDs) and Darnell Mooney (24-267-2). Grossmont (Calif.) CC transfer Jabril Clewis has won the other starting receiver spot, with redshirt freshman Jacob Robertson Jr. providing depth.
Juniors Charles Jones II and Kendall Ardoin are the tight ends.
All five offensive linemen have starting experience. Junior center Junior Diaz returns after missing nine games with an injury. Rounding out the starting group are junior left tackle John Leglue, sophomore left guard Corey Dublin, junior right tackle Dominique Briggs and sophomore right tackle Keyshawn McLeod.
Defensively, the Green Wave are missing a pair of two-time first-team All-Conference selections in tackle Tanzel Smart and Nico Marley. Seven starters return from a unit which ranked 60th in scoring (27.7 ppg), 52nd in rushing (159.3 ypg), 33rd in passing (205.3 ypg) and 31st in total defense (364.6 ypg).
Seniors Ada Aruna (43 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 5 sacks) and Sean Wilson (26 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks) return to the interior with seniors Quinlan Carroll (21 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 sacks) and Eldrick Washington (20 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) taking over at the ends. Robert Kennedy (27 tackles, 2 TFL), who started seven games last season, will also figure into the rotation on the edge.
Slated to start at linebacker are senior Rae Juan Marbley (36 tackles, 1 TFL) and junior Luke Jackson (20 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack), with junior Zachery Harris (45 tackles, 4 TFL) in reserve.
A pair of veterans, senior right cornerback Parry Nickerson (33 career starts) and senior nickelback Jarrod Franklin (26 career starts) head up a veteran secondary. Nickerson recorded 29 tackles with 4 INTs and 9 pass breakups. Franklin is the team's top returning tackler after logging 79 stops and a pick.
Junior strong safety Roderic Teamer Jr. (58 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT) was fourth on the team in tackles. Rounding out the starting lineup are a pair of juniors, left corner Donnie Lewis Jr. (39 tackles, 2 TFL) and junior free safety Taris Shenall (24 tackles, 1 INT).
Junior Zachary Block (68 punts, 40.8 avg.) returns with redshirt freshman Coby Neenan carrying out the place kicking assignments.
Badie returned 15 kickoffs for a 27.8-yard average, punctuated by an 86-yard touchdown vs. Southern. Robertson has won the punt return job.
Tulane opens the season Saturday at home vs. Grambling. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Yulman Stadium.
2017 TULANE SCHEDULE
(All times Central and subject to change)
DATE OPPONENT TIME
Sept. 2 Grambling 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Navy* 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Oklahoma 5 p.m.
Sept. 23 Army TBA
Oct. 7 Tulsa* TBA
Oct. 14 at Florida International TBA
Oct. 21 South Florida* TBA
Oct. 27 (Fri.) at Memphis* 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 Cincinnati* TBA
Nov. 11 at East Carolina* TBA
Nov. 18 Houston* TBA
NOV. 25 at SMU* TBA