Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Top 25 Players: #9-#8

Today’s top 25 entries take Frank Helps You Think It All Out back to the last semi-successful gasp of regional independence- some of the good-to-decent teams that surrounded Tulane’s 1987 Independence Bowl appearance. That was an era where a minor bowl bid meant something. Washington did fly across the country to play Tulane. Grand Marshall Chuck Yeager was there too.
Nowadays, those Mack Brown teams are remembered as an offense friendly group led by the dazzling Terrence Jones and high quality minions Zeno, Pierce and McIntosh. But really, there were also a number of quality defenders. The 1987 Tulane team was a very credible SEC foe: winning three, losing one. In the three SEC games Tulane won, they allowed respectable point totals (Vanderbilt-17, Ole Miss-24, Mississippi State-19)- so it wasn’t all offense.

9. Richard Harvey, LB 1985-1988

Richard Harvey holds the middle spot of a great era of Tulane linebacking: Burrell Dent, Harvey, Pat Stant- and these guys were the anchor of said mini-renaissance of the Tulane defense during the Mack Brown era.

I’ve made this point on here before: that the overall talent level of Tulane and their opponents was much greater in the regional independent days. And Harvey personifies that. Harvey brought an NFL level of physical skill to match up with a high motor. He would have been a three year starter just about anywhere in college football.

Again, the most important linebacker skill is tackling- getting to the ball and ending the play. After a season as the top ‘backer reserve, he promptly led the team in tackles the next three years. Only Mike Staid and Anthony Cannon have more solo tackles on this list. His career tackle totals lag a bit because, unlike Staid and Cannon, he wasn’t all alone out there. Guys like Pat Stant, Tookie Spann, Eric Thomas, Burrell Dent, Mitchell Price took tackles away, and some playing time as a freshman, from Harvey.

So he was a very good player surrounded by other good players- and is still one of the all-time great guys associated with the Tulane football team. Inducted into the Tulane Hall of Fame in 1999, he is still a regular at fund raising and football related programs.

He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills- and although he was a journeyman in his pro career, he was in the League an amazing eleven years.

8. Mitchell Price, DB 1987-1989

Mitchell Price arrived in New Orleans under odd circumstances. A talented transfer from SMU, Price was the one bit of big loot Tulane scarfed up from the 1987 Death Penalty applied to Mustang football. Reports suggested that eighty schools came to try and scoop up Mustang players- but arguably Tulane emerged with the best.

Prior to the penalty, mid-1980s SMU was a scuffling, probation laden program- but still had remnants of the type of recruiting classes that had propelled Bobby Collins’ and Ron Meyer’s oufits to national status. SMU posted a record of 45-5-1 from 1980-1984, which was the highest win percentage in Division 1-A over that span.

Price was one of the prospects. A true lockdown corner, fast and strong, could jam and run with any one.

He played 35 games at Tulane, 23 of those games were versus college football teams in today’s BCS- a whole step up in class from today’s C-USA. Nevertheless, he was a routine big play producer. He had two career punt returns for touchdowns- including a 44-yard return that kept the moribund Tulane offense in the Independence Bowl for three quarters. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns as well.

Price led the team all three years he played in interceptions, his thirteen career picks breaking Ellsworth Kingery (1949-51) and Don Zimmerman’s (1930-32) Tulane career record. He was the rare Tulane player of national importance- making some down roster national all-American teams (along with QB Terrence Jones) in 1988, the last Tulane position player to be so honored until Bernard Robertson in 2000.

Drafted by the Cincinnati, he stuck around in the NFL for a few years, played 41 games with a few starts, and returned two punts in the NFL for scores.