Thursday, August 27, 2009

Closing In On Mediocrity

I spent a good deal of the off-season cautiously optimistic about Tulane’s potential for on-field improvement. Obviously, for me, the ship has sort of sailed on Coach Toledo. But if I used to bleat that Scelfo proved, prior to Katrina and the review, that an average coach doing an average job could generate 4-8 wins- perhaps an indifferent coach could then generate 2-6 victories? particularly as the review and hurricane recede from recent history? Certainly, there is reason for optimism for a move from the bottom to the top of that 2-6 win range.

Sure, there is no reason why the defense will be better once the same wears and tears of the season set upon them like last year. But this League is about quarterback and skill position play- can you regularly get to five, six touchdowns? The Wave won two games last year with no solid answers at quarterback and not a single skill position player on the pre-season all-conference team. That has to get better- the quarterback options have both at least seen the elephant and an entire camp to process the elephant under their belts and a healthy Andre Anderson in a certified C-USA cartoon numbers generator. That alone might get the Green Wave out of the bottom ten and the “two win level”.

And due to the restoration of normalcy around the university and team, the recruiting factually has gotten better. The level of Tulane’s talent almost had to improve without the city being featured under water, etc. It might not show up in the first 22 roster spots, but the next 22 should arguable improve- which should help the utter disaster our special teams have been for the last half-decade.

The schedule is not challenging- a mere move from the current ten worst teams in the country to the bottom 25 moves four games from “toss up to probable win” and another four from “probable loss to toss up”. The materials and schedule are there for six wins.

And again, I was right there in the spring: if Tulane gets quality quarterback play, the Green Wave would be better than 2008 outfits such as UAB, Marshall, UCF- all who won three League games. Four League wins… a .500 season…

I guess, in the end, I don’t think this staff can deliver that plus quarterback product. Even the most devoted Toledo-naut has to admit the regime’s worst on-field failing has been the preparation and development of the quarterback position. We are 24 games into this regime- and no one, for certain, can tell me who will start, say, the Army game. In fact, Tulane has played 24 games under Toledo, and at single kick-off, no one could tell you for sure who the quarterback would be in a month.

It is particularly frustrating, because C-USA is a League where you can coach up marginal physical prospects- see Irvin and Elliott- to run a dangerous distribution style offense. And Tulane hasn’t been able to do that for 24 games now- and I’m just doubtful this year will be any different. In our League, you can survive a mess on defense- but your quarterback has to be part and parcel of your plan to score 30+ points each week. I don’t think they will deliver.

I imagine the Green Wave will be better. Institutionally, Tulane is simply not one of the ten worst disasters in the country- the previous mess was more their best offensive player getting hurt coupled with Toledo’s second great on-field failure: an inability to get a coach, and thus players, to buy in to his defense plan.

I don’t think they can beat, short of a pretty substantial upset, Tulsa, LSU or BYU. Figure Tulane moves up said class notch- which moves Marshall, Army, UTEP, Rice, UCF, SMU and Houston into some sort of toss up category. Split those- get to three-ish, McNeese State is a tricky, but do-able fourth win. Southern Miss away is a hard one.

I guess Tulane could get four of the toss-ups- but the Green Wave could also lose to McNeese or lay down in one of the more winnable toss-ups. With this defense and uncertain quarterback projection, five/six wins seems aggressive. So I’m sitting on an improved team- particularly at RB and the second tier roster spots (particularly evident in special teams and some skill player depth)- but still 4-8.

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