Equipped with nine returning offensive starters, Tulane takes aim on its first bowl bid since 2013.
Tulane (5-7, 3-5 American Athletic Conference) is looking for appreciable improvement from a veteran offense after ranking 74th nationally in scoring (27.5 points per game), 20th in rushing (231.5 yards per game), 117th in passing (160 ypg) and 75th in total offense (391.5 ypg).
Third-year coach Willie Fritz is counting on senior quarterback Jonathan Banks to build off of last year's strong finish. Making 11 starts, Banks completed 124-of-219 passes for 1,797 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He is also the team's leading holdover rusher (148 carries, 592 yards, 7 touchdowns).
Tulane lost its top two running backs in Dontrell Hilliard (210 carries, 1,119 yards, 12 TDs; 33 career starts) and Sherman Badie (148-592-7).
Junior Darius Bradwell (66-411-4) and Texas Tech transfer Corey Dauphine are among those competing for carries.
All three starting wide receivers are back, along with senior tight end Charles Jones II (13 receptions, 84 yards 2 TDs).
Senior Terren Encalade (39-730-4) heads the wide receiver crew after averaging 18.7 yards per catch. Junior Darnell Mooney (34-599-4) and senior Jabril Clewis (16-174) round out the starting group. In addition, the Green Wave have added well-traveled graduate transfer Freddy Canteen, who has made stops at Michigan and Notre Dame over the course of an injury-marred career.
Despite the loss of center Junior Diaz (18 career starts), who left for Florida Atlantic as a graduate transfer, the Green Wave return four starters up front. Jesuit product Corey Dublin, who started all 12 games on the line as a true freshman, will fill the center slot. Senior right guard Dominique Briggs and senior right tackle John Leglue were also in the starting lineup for every game.
Graduate transfer Noah Fisher, who started all 12 games at left tackle for South Alabama last season, and juniors Tyler Johnson (12 games, 8 starts) and Keyshawn McLeod (7 games, 3 starts) are in the mix at left tackle. Redshirt freshmanCameron Jackel is the leading contender at left guard.
Only four starters remain from a defense which ranked 84th in the nation in scoring (29.2 ppg), 112th against the run (210.4 ypg), 68th against the pass (225.7 ypg) and 99th in total defense (436.1 ypg).
Experience is especially scarce on the front four. Senior end Robert Kennedy (15 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack), who missed the first seven games with an injury, is the lone upperclassman projected to start. Patrick Johnson will start at the opposite end with fellow sophomore Cameron Sample (26 tackles, 2 TFL) at tackle. True freshmen Jeffery Johnson of Brookhaven (Miss.) and Davon Wright of Donaldsonville are the nose guards.
Senior linebacker Zachery Harris (69 tackles, 3 TFL) ranked third on the team in tackles. Junior Lawrence Graham (12 tackles) takes over at the other linebacker spot vacated by leading tackler Rae Juan Marbley (96 tackles, 9 TFL, 2 sacks).
All-AAC cornerback Parry Nickerson (55 tackles, 6 INTs) leaves a huge vacuum in the secondary.
Sophomore nickel back Trisie Barge, senior cornerback Donnie Lewis Jr. (36 tackles, 3 INTs, 11 pass breakups), sophomore corner Jaylon Monroe, junior strong safety PJ Hall and senior free safety Roderick Teamer Jr. are the likely starters in the secondary.
Both kickers are back. Junior Merek Glover made 8-of-9 field goal attempts with a long of 37 while senior Zach Block averaged 39.5 yards on 52 puts.
Dauphine will return kickoffs with Jacob Robertson Jr. running back punts.
Tulane opens the season with a nationally televised against Wake Forest on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Yulman Stadium.
DATE OPPONENT TIME
Aug. 30 (Thurs.) Wake Forest 7:00
Sept. 8 Nicholls State 7:00
Sept. 15 at UAB Noon
Sept. 22 at Ohio State TBA
Sept. 28 (Fri.) Memphis* 7:00
Oct. 6 at Cincinnati* TBA
Oct. 20 SMU* TBA
Oct. 27 at Tulsa* TBA
Nov. 3 at South Florida* TBA
Nov. 10 East Carolina* TBA
Nov. 15 (Thurs.) at Houston* 7:00
Nov. 24 Navy* TBA