Monday, August 09, 2010

Up From Disaster

From an off-season prediction standpoint, this off-season has been a hard one for the Tulane faithful. Forecasters have been brutal to the Green Wave. A bevy of national publications pick Tulane to be truly horrible. Sports Illustrated reportedly has them dead last- in the entire country! The Orlando Sentinal has them 116 out of 120 BCS Division outfits. Lindy, Athlon, TSN, USA Today and Phil Steele have Tulane picked for last in C-USA West:

It is an easy slur; Tulane is arguably a mess. The coach is a clear mistake. Recruiting is poor. But leaving my own season forecast aside (appearing on August 26th), I am pretty sure Tulane will be up from utter rock bottom this year.

Frankly, I think Ryan Griffin is a plus C-USA quarterback- and in the most quarterback friendly League going, that kind of insures you against utter disaster.

People who rave about Griffin’s physical size (6’5”, 210-ish) and very good arm are largely betraying their ignorance of how C-USA football works. Obviously, they are nice to have- but the traditional NFL-style "potential" metrics don’t mean as much here. I mean, Chase Clement was never an NFL prospect.

And neither were Richard Irvin and Scott Elliott- two guys with marginal physical skills. But they were “quarterbacky”. That means this League really rewards guys who can possess the ball via the air-put the ball up 45 times, complete 65%, minimal turnovers, hit tons of easy-to-moderate throws versus a few hard ones.

Throwing the ball a lot means two things. Your team generates more negative-to-zero yard plays on first down than peers and short-yardage situations become normally riskier. All things being equal, it is easier to pick up two yards as a good running team than as a good passing team.

The C-USA quarterback minimizes those two drawbacks by hitting a high percentage of throws (getting positive first down yards 70% of the time, picking up a lot of those third and 2’s). Who really cares if a C-USA quarterback can throw a 25 yard deep out? Who can protect that play in this League consistently?

Ryan Griffin is that sort of guy. I like him more than any Tulane quarterback prospect since JP Losman. Griffin’s numbers are here- and there is a lot to absolutely love. First, in the games where Tulane could even sort of block people (forget UCF), he has got the completion percentage up near 70%. He is throwing 30-ish times a game with few turnovers.

Improve those numbers just a shade, a mere shade, and you have a that All C-USA style quarterback- and Tulane fans know what sort of monster numbers flow from that designation. Even better, for once Bob Toledo sort of developed a quarterback, giving him a healthy view of the elephant, refusing to remove him even under duress and struggles. A red-shirt sophomore, three years in the program... that is a guy designed to move forward.

Looking at the Tulane schedule, put your hand in the air if you would be surprised if Griffin through up eight games of something like 28-40, 280-320 yards, 2-4 TDs? Maybe a game or two were he just goes C-USA style bonkers (400 yards, 4-5 TDs)?

Tulane ain’t going 1-11, bottom five in the country, with this guy at quarterback. They are going to score four touchdowns more often than not- and that is a lot of games to simply be in touch on the scoreboard to lose repeatedly and badly.

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