Another season has begun, and opponent Q&A's are back. For this week, The Times-Picayune was nice enough to once again fill our needs for opponent information with some great analysis from NOLA.com reporter, Andrew Lopez.
FTRS: What were three takeaways you had from Tulane's opener against Duke? The team seemed to hang around fairly well, and it may have been a case of the final score not reflecting how close the game was for the most part.
AL: Tulane got tired on defense and special teams and that's the biggest takeaway for me. Duke ran 93 plays and a lot of Tulane's missed tackling issues began in the late third quarter. Safety Darion Monroe told me this week you could see the defense moving slower on the game film in the fourth. Second, Tulane's offense has to get the run game going. Last year's leading rusher - Sherman Badie - only had three carries against the Blue Devils. And finally, special teams has to be fixed. Coach Curtis Johnson didn't trust his kicker to make a 42-yard field goal, there was a botched snap and Tulane allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown. He said he's going to make changes on the kickoff personnel, so we'll see how that goes.
FTRS: How would you describe Tanner Lee's performance so far this season through off-season workouts and the first game? This time last season, he seemed to be a very raw quarterback who showed potential but had a long way to go.
AL: Lee has shown the flashes that have made him the starting quarterback but you probably wanted to see more of a progressive heading into the Duke game. He also seems like he needs probably a second or two more in the pocket to make decisions - and that falls on the offensive line. He has all the right tools - it's just a matter of if he's going to be able to put them all together especially with such a young receiving corps.
FTRS: What should Tech fans be expecting in terms of turnover from last season's Tulane team and this one? Who were the key departures? Will the schemes and tendencies be the same for the most part?
AL: Offensively, Tech fans can probably pull out the stat book from last year and just copy that over. Tulane brought back 10 starters on offense and added running back Rob Kelley, a former starter who missed last season. Only three players made the first starts of their careers last week and all three were on defense - cornerback Richard Allen, free safety Donnie Lewis and defensive end Ade Aruna. Allen was picked on a lot last week against Duke but came away with three pass breakups. Offensively, the only scheme change may be the Green Wave playing a little faster than usual - something the coaches have been talking about throughout the offseason.
FTRS: Would Tulane fans take this game as a moral victory if the Green Wave competed as well against the Jackets as they did last season? Georgia Tech went on to have a very strong season and opened up 2015 in the same rhythm last week. A close game against the Jackets this year would figure to look pretty good for Tulane.
AL: The moral victory idea seemed to be good heading into the season with the ACC-ACC start, but I think the Wave need to do more than keep this one "closer than what the experts think." Tulane has to show improvement from last week. I had a fan mention to me on Twitter this week that fans have already bought the propane for Johnson's hot seat. Another dismal showing won't keep fans happy at all.
FTRS: Give me three players for Tech fans to look out for on offense for Tulane.
AL: Quarterback Tanner Lee, running back Sherman Badie and wide receiver Devon Breaux. As Lee goes, so goes the offense. He had times last week where he made some better decisions but needs to do it consistently. Badie, a redshirt sophomore, will get more than three carries this week. He has to make the most of them to keep Tech's defense honest. And Breaux, while he may not lead the team in catches this week, he is the top nominee to make an outstanding catch that will have even the Tech fans applauding. He did it last week against Duke and did it several times throughout fall camp.
FTRS: Give me three players for Tech fans to look out for on defense for Tulane.
AL: Linebacker Nico Marley, linebacker Eric Thomas and safety Darion Monroe. Marley, generously listed at 5-foot-10, is the grandson of musical legend Bob Marley and finished with a career-high 15 tackles last week. He was everywhere on the field and fought off cramps late in the game to stay on the field. Thomas played at John Curtis High School and went against the option every day for years. He knows what he needs to do to stop it and will be barking out calls to his teammates all game. Finally, Monroe is excellent at coming down and playing the run and will be key to trying to limit the big runs by the Tech offense.
FTRS: Finally, give me your prediction for the game as Tulane travels to Atlanta to take on the Jackets on Saturday at 3:30 EST.
AL: Initially, I wanted to say 34-10 but since Johnson doesn't trust any of his kickers out of 40 or more yards, I'll push that to 34-14. Tulane's offense has to do a better job converting on third downs (2-of-14 last week) and the defense can stay disciplined but if Tech gets two or three quick scores early... this one may turn ugly.