Making more history, Tulane football ranked in preseason coaches poll for first time ever
Contributing writer Aug 7, 2023 Updated 19 hrs ago The Tulane football team made history Monday, placing 23rd in the USA Today preseason coaches poll. This is the first time the Green Wave has been ranked before the year since the coaches began releasing a preseason tabulation in 1978. The honor comes two weeks after the Wave was picked on top of a conference for the first time ever, getting the media vote to repeat as American Athletic Conference champion.
Tulane received 225 points from a ballot of 66 voters — a list that includes Tulane coach Willie Fritz. The Wave is the only team outside of a current Power Five conference (plus Notre Dame) in this year’s Top 25. New AAC member Texas-San Antonio, which is coming off back-to-back Conference USA championships, is 29th with 59 points.
Tulane finished its fifth preseason practice Monday morning before the poll was released, so Fritz was unavailable for comment. The Wave’s Sept. 2 opener at Yulman Stadium is against South Alabama, which received eight points in the poll.
The following Saturday, Tulane hosts Ole Miss, which is one spot ahead of the Green Wave at No. 22. With senior quarterback Michael Pratt, four starting offensive linemen, the entire starting defensive front and first-team All-AAC cornerback Jarius Monroe returning off a team that finished ninth in the poll last season, Tulane is getting much more acclaim than the last time it came off a ranked season.
After going 12-0 in 1998 and finishing seventh in the coaches poll, the Wave got zero points in the preseason 1999 rankings after the departure of coach Tommy Bowden, offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez and record-setting quarterback Shaun King. The Associated Press preseason poll will be released Aug. 15.
Receiver praise Despite losing Shae Wyatt and Duece Watts, who finished 1-2 on the team in receiving yards, Fritz likes the Wave’s wideout group. Sure starters are senior Jha’Quan Jackson (33 catches, 554 yards) and Lawrence Keys, a Notre Dame transfer who enjoyed his two biggest games in the regular-season finale against Cincinnati and the AAC championship game against Central Florida. Second-year player Chris Brazzell, UL transfer Dontae Fleming, Texas A&M transfer Yulkeith Brown and Phat Watts are competing for significant roles, too.
Fritz, who coached Brazzell’s father at Blinn College in the 1990s, sees similarities in his son. “This guy has a ton of talent,” he said. “He’s tall, long, fast, and gets in and out of breaks.
We’ve just got to keep him healthy. " Brazzell was too raw and skinny to be a factor as a true freshman, catching one pass for 11 yards. Offensive coordinator Slade Nagle said Brazzell probably weighed 175 pounds when he arrived, but he is above 190 now.
“He worked hard in the offseason and changed his body,” Nagle said. “He’s doing really well. He’s got loads of ability, and he’s showing up every day.
I’m looking forward to him keeping on an upward trajectory and having a good season. ” Watts, who tore an ACL in September, has 36 career catches. “He looks good,” Nagle said.
“The (injury) doesn’t seem to be a problem. He’s played a lot of football. ” Lagniappe Tulane will practice at the Caesers Superdome on Tuesday, getting its first break from the unrelenting heat.
… Running back Shaadie Clayton-Johnson returned to practice Monday after cramping up on Saturday. … Fritz said he expected second-year defensive back Kentrell Webb back soon after he missed time with an unspecified injury. Webb ended spring drills on top of the depth chart at nickelback.