Despite his team's finishing 1-5 to end the regular season last year, coach Willie Fritz was able to guide Tulane to a second straight bowl victory for the first time in school history. Can Tulane make it three in a row?
It's a weird notion to comprehend, but in four years, Fritz has brought stability to a once-reeling college football program. The next step is battling for American Athletic Conference supremacy, but the Green Wave will need to look more reminiscent of the 2018 squad than did last year's team, which suffered an epic collapse after such a promising start.
With a keen mix of veterans, graduate transfers, and a little bit of Fritzian magic, Tulane has the makings of an interesting squad heading into the season. This regime has laid the foundation for a successful program, and as it nears a half decade, the chance for a history-making season awaits.
Offense: New Blood
When Tulane's offense was clicking last season, it was hard to stop. The Green Wave averaged at least seven yards per play in six games in 2019, and they were undefeated in those games. However, they were also 0-6 when they failed to hit that mark. The Green Wave lost several key members of its 2019 offense, including starting quarterback Justin McMillan and last year's top two receivers.
Former Southern Miss transfer Keon Howard seems poised to take the reins of Tulane's offense in offensive coordinator Will Hall's second season. As a backup last year, he appeared in four games, connecting on 13 of 18 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
Howard will be joined in the backfield by junior running back Amare Jones, who amassed 738 rushing and receiving yards last season and six total touchdowns. Sophomore Tyjae Spears will be a solid contributor as well, with several other backs waiting in the wings.
Receivers Jaetavian Toles, Jha'Quan Jackson, and Oklahoma graduate transfer Mykel Jones should be some of Howard's top targets, and the majority of the offensive line returns to protect Howard in his first season under center.
Defense: Something to Prove
Tulane's defense underperformed last season, most notably with the play of star outside linebacker Patrick Johnson, who battled injuries last season and produced six and a half less sacks than the 2018 season.
However, the Green Wave returns lots of defensive-line talent alongside Johnson, including Cameron Sample, De'Andre Williams, and Jeffery Johnson, as well as some important reserves. Elsewhere in the front seven, Oklahoma State graduate transfer Kevin Henry leads a hungry linebacking corps that includes freshman Jesus Machado, Marvin Moody, and Nick Anderson.
In the secondary, safety Larry Brooks has the potential for a big year after snagging four interceptions, while starting only one game, last season. Fellow safety Chase Kuerschen will join Brooks in wreaking havoc on opposing offenses this season after leading the team in tackles last year. New Orleans native Kyle Meyers returns to the Big Easy as a graduate transfer cornerback after spending four years at Florida State. He joins senior Jaylon Monroe to help solidify Tulane's defensive backend.
The Green Wave defense is veteran, feisty, and has something to prove this season.
Three straight bowls for the first time in school history is on the line for Fritz's squad this season. Six wins in 11 games will not be easy (back-to-back October dates against Southern Methodist and Central Florida could be tricky), but if Howard can deliver and Tulane avoids a second-half-season implosion like last year, the Green Wave has a chance to make history.
Tulane: 6-5, Frisco Bowl bid.