Spring will give hint of Tulane football under Fritz
Tulane spring football practice opens Monday. And, for a school that has lost a lot more football games than it has won, there’s a hint of anticipation in the air.
In a video posted on the Twitter page of new head coach Willie Fritz, players are shown in off-season workouts. The hashtag is #paythe price.
Early intel on Fritz is extremely positive. Last week, I spoke with a high school head coach who has a player on the Tulane football team.
“They are going to be very disciplined,” said the high school coach. “And, it is what those kids really want.”
Whatever Fritz is preaching has worked. Fritz has won as a head coach at four different schools. His first turnaround job, at Blinn Junior College, was epic. His team went from 5-24-1 before Willie to 39-5-1.
At Tulane, Fritz has his work cut out. He has to find a quarterback to run his spread option attack. Pocket passer Tanner Lee left the team for Nebraska, and Tulane’s best wide out, Teddy Veal, transferred to Louisiana Tech.
The offensive line, already subpar, was depleted by graduation and departures.
What Fritz does have is quality players on defense. Defensive tackle Tanzel Smart and linebacker Nico Marley, who were named to the American Athletic Conference first team in 2015, return.
This is a team that has some talent, and lacks depth. So, can Fritz and his staff get this group to overachieve?
You have to like Fritz’s approach. When he was hired, he sounded like a hard-working, grounded coach who had confidence in his approach.
“I’ve lined the fields. I’ve washed the jocks. I’ve done it all,” Fritz said. “I don’t have a bunch of gel in my hair; I have a little gray. ... I haven’t been the latest flavor of the week.”
My guess is that Fritz will win more games in his first season than the three games Curtis Johnson won in his last. Duke and Georgia Tech are off the schedule, and Southern University and Massachusetts are on. And, the American Athletic Conference, while still a solid football league, is due for a dip in 2016.
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who set an NCAA record with 88 rushing touchdowns, graduated. Memphis lost quarterback Patrick Lynch to the NFL draft and head coach Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech.
If Fritz does win, I think the ticket-buying public will respond. And, in football-crazy south Louisiana, there is, along with the Saints and LSU, room for Tulane to get back into the serious football conversation.
If Fritz can win here, his already solid resumé as a turnaround specialist will be gold-plated.