Reloaded and ready, No. 24 Tulane hosts S. Alabama

Field Level Media

August 29, 2023 at 11:32 pm.

Tulane had one of the best seasons in its more than 100 seasons of football in 2022.

At the same time, South Alabama had its first winning record in its 11 seasons as an FBS program.

Both programs have high hopes again as they meet in their season opener Saturday night in New Orleans.

The Green Wave finished 12-2 last season, winning the American Athletic Conference championship and defeating USC 46-45 in the Cotton Bowl.

“The standard is definitely set,” defensive back Jarius Monroe said. “We want to be better than the standard.”

Surpassing that standard will be difficult, but Tulane is ranked No. 24 and has been picked to repeat as AAC champion.

The Green Wave are trying to build on last season’s accomplishments while recognizing that they are starting over Saturday night.

“I think we’ve done a really good job of putting (2022) behind us,” quarterback Michael Pratt said. “I think the positive we can take from it is knowing what we can accomplish, what we’re capable of as a team.

“(But) we’re into a new year. We’ve got a totally different team. We’re excited to see what we can do and push forward.”

Tulane has to replace running back Tyjae Spears, the Cotton Bowl MVP who rushed for 1,581 yards and 19 touchdowns last season and was a third-round draft choice of the Tennessee Titans.

The Green Wave have a handful of candidates – Shaadie Clayton-Johnson, Shedro Louis, Arnold Barnes, Iverson Celestine and Makhi Hughes — to succeed Spears as the primary ball carrier, but head coach Willie Fritz said it will take a few games to figure out the pecking order.

Jaguars coach Kane Wommack won’t need any time to figure out his No. 1 ball carrier because 1,000-yard rusher La’Damian Webb returns.

He is one of 20 returning starters and USA also returns what Wommack called “the vast nucleus of our coaching staff.”

The coach said that “continuity” provides even higher expectations for a program that had never won more than six games in a season before finishing 10-3 and tying for the Sun Belt West title with a 7-1 mark.

“We’ve really challenged our team to crank the dial up in their respective areas,” Wommack said. “Great programs need great opportunities and for us to take steps forward we need opportunities like a game against Tulane.

Wommack called the opener, which comes in the same city where USA lost to Western Kentucky 44-23 in the New Orleans Bowl in its last game, “one of the best Group of Five matchups in all of college football this year.”

“I think both programs are moving in the right direction,” Wommack said. “You prepare and prepare and prepare and there comes a point where you get a chance to see where you’re at and what you can accomplish.”

– Field Level Media