Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tulane Season Prediction

I have already written that I do not think Tulane figures as most national figures predict: one of the country’s biggest train wrecks.

Much of that is predicated on the offense, which I can see as being pretty okay (in the C-USA sense). There is a formula and players here to score. There is some experience and competence at the quarterback position. Ryan Griffin is not Case Keenum or G.J. Kinne- but you easily project him into the next tier of quaterbacks already (high completion percentage, good TD/INT ratio). Casey Robottom features an important skill set for C-USA- run the X-receiver route, get a sliver of separation in a few steps and catch the resultant ball in traffic. Should Ryan be able to get the ball consistently, Robottom is a credible all League candidate. Banks at least looks like a successful C-USA perimeter attack player (athletic, quick rather than fast)- and he too will be well served by having the accurate, pitch and catch C-USA quarterback.

Even better, the offensive line might be the best collective in Toledo’s tenure. The tackles are actual quality C-USA players (although there is zero depth). There might be a semi-serviceable mix of adequate inside too once Tulane figures out who is healthy. True, moving Joey Ray into the starting line-up removes the one competent guy providing interior depth-and that is a problem that bites Tulane every year. But this collective did block good portions of the second half of last season (UTEP, Rice, SMU)... figure largely the same cast can block the bottom seven, eight teams on the schedule this year.

I think LT Hendrickson is the best player on the team- but RB Payten Jason is arguably the most talented player. Yes, he can’t seem to get healthy. But add him into the mix at running back, and like the o-line, there is a whole lot of increasingly adequate there at RB too.

I just feel there is an average C-USA offensive team looking to break out here.

I’m not as sanguine about the defense. This switch to looking to play more nickel (that is my interpretation of an active move to a 4-2-5 on first down) is, in part, confidence in the big talent upgrade the kid from Duke (Trent Mackey) seems to be bringing at ILB.

It also just as much a failure to believe Tulane has “enough” linebackers to play it straight. That position is a real mess right now. Plus, there are simply doubts the existing base coverage personnel (the top four DBs) can handle the plethora of perimeter skill players that C-USA produces- so Tulane needs to get more corners out there.

On paper, the defensive backs look a little faster-and certainly the party line seems they are going to use the extra ration of on-field DBs to press the play a little more. This new defense might be a better utilization of talent- but it isn’t a move from a position of strength. And subtracting on field LBs probably does zero to stop the woes against the run (mitigated by the fact that C-USA really isn’t about keeping teams under 130 yards of rushing). The DL doesn't seem like a bunch of stuffers either.

Still, if there were a proven orchestrator of offensive talent, a regime with a history of developing quarterbacks and C-USA skill players, I might put Tulane down as a “surprise team”- a team that might win three, four games more than expected. Then add in a schedule that sort of insulates against utter disaster. Assuming offensive competence- Rice, Army and SE Louisiana on the home slate is almost a three game head start on .500. There are another four or five games where a Tulane point total of 28ish will keep them in position to steal a pair.

But I’m just not sure Coach Toledo is up to the challenge any more. I mean, will he commit the snaps to his best chance to score 35 points- the three dozen plus pass plays needed to score big in the League? The quarterback Griffin had development time last year, but who on staff is a proven converter of development into actual capacity at any skill position? Also, while I like the offense to be competent, but who is the breakout skill player, the Toledo recruit, who translates into first team C-USA that can make the offense actually good?

If Bowden were the coach, I’d put down six plus, Scelfo would get five. Toldeo... I’d be pretty indifferent with an over/under of 3.5 Let's say 4-8, with real upside potential if either Griffin or the defensive transfers improves quicker than expected.

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