Thursday, February 03, 2011

Top 25 Players: #11-#10

There have been a lot of bad football seasons at Tulane, but in some ways the 1996 season (2-9) was the most soul-sucking. Buddy Teevens was a rank incompetent- but 1996 was the real nadir of that experience.

As fans were to realize the following year, there was real offensive talent on that squad: a quarterback destined for greatness with obvious ability, quality receiving options. And yet they were chained to the Southern Miss power football model- annoiting Jamaican Dartez the harbinger of offensive success, rather than King, Dawson, Geason, Franklin.

Do you know much stupidness was required to limit Shaun King to 1574 yards passing? Or to not give JaJuan Dawson a start, after not letting him play at all in 1995?

Fortunately, that era was ending, a joyous exorcism coming- and the roster was loaded with quality offensive players that required a simple vision, a vision of utter destruction via the possession passing game, to flower. Today's list revisits that happy offensive transition.

11. Cory Geason, TE/OT (1994-1997)

I teased this selection yesterday- promising yet another high-level four year contributor who didn’t really register on the NFL radar. Cory Geason came to Tulane a decently recruited tight end. Four games into the season, he became a fixture upfront on the Tulane line.

He was a figure of some strategic consternation. He was a great tight end (needed) but also a very good tackle (really needed). He was a tweener: not an enormous, physical tackle and a bit slow for a skill player. But like the tweener 6’6” forward in college basketball, that flexibility can be an asset in the college game, even though it penalizes you as a pro prospect.

So, he changed position based on team need. Consequently, despite being named to the All-National Independent team on the OL, Teevens elected to slide him back to tight end in 1995 (he caught a pass in ten of eleven games) and 1996. He was a good pass catching threat and obviously, a real superior run blocker from the tight end position (a priority in the Teevens administration). He also scored a pair of odd special teams TDs: returning an on-side kick versus Cincinnati, catching a TD pass of a fake field goal versus Wake Forest. He was recognized both years as first team all C-USA at TE.

Obviously, Tommy Bowden had zero use for a run blocking tight end- so he moved him back to tackle in 1997. Geason became the best in the League at that too, accepting his third straight first team all C-USA award. A big part of the 1997 renaissance was that, despite a total change in offensive philosophy, the team’s best blocker could seamlessly adapt and continue to contribute at a first team all-League level. Geason bought them time, tactically on game day and then strategically- time to figure out just how to deploy all this talent in the wholesale philosophical upheaval.

I can’t think of any other Tulane player with three straight first team all C-USA team appearances (plus all independent as a freshman), let alone at two very distinct positions: skill and line.

Again, the same tweener body that made him such a weapon in the early days of C-USA hurt him in the NFL. Neither a hulking tackle nor a tight end who could stretch the field, he had no obvious NFL potential. But he did catch on a bit as an undrafted free agent, a tight end with Pittsburgh and Buffalo, appeared in 26 games, three career receptions.

10. JaJuan Dawson, WR (1996-1999)

Dawson was the real deal- sleek and fast, great frame. And he too flourished in the cartoon number offensive that Tommy Bowden was about to inflict cruelly on C-USA.

But Dawson is a story beyond numbers. Tommy Bowden brought a revolution to C-USA- a true ejection of tried and true. He moved away from the “little SEC” power model of USM- and into this high velocity offensive concept. Shaun King gave him the prototype high football IQ “distribution” quarterback. And JaJaun Dawson became the prototype for every C-USA #1 receiver since.

First, he was a fast, stretch the field, go to the house any and every play threat. The new C-USA offense saw the whole field as the red zone. With four or five receivers being chased by safeties recruited to stop the USM power run, any play could go the distance. Check this out: Dawson has three career 75-yard plus receptions for touchdowns. 31 career TD catches (second all-time at Tulane).

Second, he was the requisite pure numbers generator: catches, yards, scores. Get the numbers is the credo of every C-USA player. To score in the thirties and forties, your top wide out has got to stockpile contributions every week.

Dawson delivered. He amassed the needed totals- particularly impressive in light of the fact that Tulane had real surplus receiving assets from ’97-‘99. He gave up plays to real good wide outs like PJ Franklin and Adrian Burnette. Plus, he missed a good part of 1997 with injuries.

Still, he has the career mark for single season receptions (96 in 1999). His 234 career receptions is second all-time at Tulane- two behind Marc Zeno. Second most career TD receptions. Third most career receiving yardage. He would lead all these categories if not for said injury, Teevens’ dumb offense and utter inexplicable refusal to get him in to games.

Dependable? He had three streaks of 3+ 100-yard receiving games (only Marc Zeno can say the same). Twice first team all C-USA (1997, 1999). During the miracle year of 1998, he and Franklin both made the second team.

Consistent numbers, big play generator- JaJuan Dawson was a clear NFL prospect. Selected in the third round by Cleveland, he landed in the midst of a not so great situation- an expansion team with real quarterback woes (Tim Couch). He played a little as a fourth wide receiver there, than as a fifth wide out with the Colts. Wide receiver is a development position in the NFL- and he just never got a good situation to actually play.