Wave turns to young quarterback to bring success
Tanner Lee, you’re up.
In college football, it is difficult to win without outstanding play at the quarterback position. At Tulane University, that is especially true.
While he didn’t play at a high level in 2013, Nick Montana was the perfect fit. He was an experienced, somewhat mobile quarterback who started 11 games behind in an inexperienced offensive line. Montana threw 14 touchdown passes as the Green Wave played in its first bowl game in 11 seasons. Montana was the bridge quarterback, after Ryan Griffin, and before Lee, who was redshirted.
Years of history tell us that outstanding linemen don’t often find their way uptown. The last two Tulane linemen to earn first-team All-America honors were defensive tackle Charlie Hall in 1973 and guard Tony Sardisco in 1955.
It is rare when Tulane wins with a game manager at quarterback. The man behind center has to produce excellence. Bobby Duhon did in 1966. He was second in the South in rushing with 748 yards. The Green Wave went from two wins to a 5-4-1 record.
In 1973, Steve Foley’s leadership abilities were a big part of a nine-win season, including a 14-0 victory over LSU. He led Tulane with 601 rushing yards and six touchdowns. One year later, Tulane was off to a 5-0 start when the Wave visited Georgia Tech. Foley suffered a broken leg in the game. Tulane lost its last six.
In 1979, the Green Wave earned a Liberty Bowl berth as senior Roch Hontas tossed 21 touchdown passes. In 1980, Nickie Hall threw 21 touchdown passes as the Green Wave won seven and reached the Hall of Fame Bowl.
Seven years later, Terrence Jones threw 20 touchdown passes, and rushed for eight more as Tulane reached the Independence Bowl.
In 1998, Shaun King produced the greatest single season by any player in the history of the school. He threw 38 touchdown passes and only six interceptions as Tulane won all 12 of its games. King’s passer rating was a sizzling 178.7. He also rushed for 11 touchdowns.
In 2002, quarterback J.P. Losman threw 19 touchdown passes and rushed for six more as the Green Wave won the Hawaii Bowl.
Only in 1970 and in 2013 did defense carry the squad to winning seasons and bowl games. Lee is the prototype pocket passer. In fall camp, he showed an ability to stretch the defense sideline to sideline to defend his throws. With game experience, he will only get better. But he needs protection and production from those around him.
Tulane’s leading rusher, Orleans Darkwa (863 rush yards), and leading receiver, Ryan Grant (77 catches), were seniors. Lee also is leaving the quarterback haven of the Superdome (just ask Drew Brees) for an outdoor stadium uptown.
It is a lot to of ask of the young quarterback from Jesuit who is scheduled to throw his first college pass Thursday night at Tulsa. But without a solid year from Lee, Tulane will be hard-pressed to be a winner in its first season in the American Athletic Conference.