With New Expectations, Tulane Football’s Defense Faces Some Tough Questions

10:31 June 07, 2019
By: Justin Walton

This past week, the Tulane Football team began their intensive summer workout routine. From now until the beginning of fall camp in August, players will spend their mornings conditioning, lifting, and preparing their bodies for the upcoming football season.

Entering the fourth season of the Willie Fritz coaching era, the Green Wave has seen drastic improvement in recent years. In the 2018 season, Fritz's coaching ability and the team's work ethic finally yielded some results. Despite a seemingly disastrous start to the season, winning only two out of seven games, losing most games by only four to seven points, the team never lost faith in their coaching staff. After the tumultuous start, Tulane Football roared back winning four out of their final five games. During the impressive, late-season rally, the team was able to defeat tough opponents such as the offensively minded University of South Florida Bulls and the disciplined Navy Midshipmen. This resilience displayed the strength of the new culture Fritz has been able to implement. That final stretch of the season gave the team a much needed confidence boost and earned them a spot at the 2018 Autonation Cure Bowl, only their second bowl game in 15 years.

The Green Wave would continue to impress at the Cure Bowl, defeating the run-dominate Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns in one sided 41-24 win.

Entering the 2019 season, Tulane Football seems poised to continue this newly found habit of winning. Even so, facing a tough schedule, there are a number questions the team must address if their to be successful in 2019.

The Green Wave's defense, back bone and strength of the team, saw a number of key departures following 2018. Rod Teamer and Donnie Lewis, two team leaders and talented, ball-hawking players in the secondary, graduated and are on their way to the NFL. Zach Harris, leader of the defense's powerful front seven, played his final year of eligibility in 2018. And Robert Kennedy, senior stalwart on the defensive line, also ran out of college eligibility last season. These were a huge losses for Tulane Football. Each of these players were instrumental in the defense's success. Whether pressuring the other team's quarterback, crushing opposing running backs, or snagging key interceptions in late game situations, these players' impact was substantial and felt throughout every game.

Cornerbacks Thakarius Keyes and P.J. Hall must have big seasons to fill the hole left by Donnie Lewis and Rod Teamer. With the departure of Zach Harris, Linebackers Marvin Moody and Lawrence Graham will need to command the defense and become reliable playmakers. Up front, Tulane fans can expect to see more high-level defensive line play. This group is replete with talented, experienced players that, barring injury, will only get better as the season progresses. Pass rusher extraordinaire, Patrick Johnson, shocked opponents with his power, surprising burst off the ball, and relentless pursuit of the quarterback. During the offseason, Johnson will continue to grow as a player. 2019 will be a big year for the junior pass rusher.

Beside him will be junior defensive end Cam Sample. His mixture of strength, length, and athleticism makes him tough to block for any offensive linemen. Veteran De'andre Williams and sophomore Jeffery Johnson will be nose tackles this year, using their size to prevent teams from running into the heart of Tulane's defense. These players will be backed up by Alfred Thomas, Davon Wright, Carlos Hatcher, and Juan Monjarres, all of who received significant playing time last season.

Losing impactful players can be difficult for any team, no matter the circumstance. Under weaker leadership, the team would crumble, but Fritz and his coaching staff have developed "a next man up" mentality within the team. Players will develop and blossom into effective, ruthless competitors. Familiar faces, such as Patrick Johnson and Cam Sample, will anchor the defense while less experienced players, like Davon Wright and Carlos Hatcher, will have break out seasons. The team isn't satisfied with their 2018 bowl game win. When the 2019 season begins, fans can expect to watch a defense that is fast, physical, and hungry.

Click here to view the full 2019 Tulane Football Schedule.

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