Q&A with Frank Helps You Think It All Out

Friday, October 8, 2010

I've agreed to do a guest post/Q&A with the Tulane Blog Frank Helps You Think It All Out. This post features his answers to my questions while my answers to his questions can be found here.

TUL: The perception is that Tulane is an improved team from the squad they brought up to West
Point in 2009. Last year's 3-9 team found wins against McNeese, Army and UTEP. This year the Green Wave stands at 2-2 and played well in a loss against Houston. Is this an improved Tulane team, and if so - what do you think the bowl chances are this year for the Green Wave?

Frank: First, thanks for inviting me. Tulane is improved (I’ll address why below). Unfortunately, so has C-USA.
The Wave figures to beat Rice at home and plays a pair of stone toss-ups with Army and at Marshall.
Hard to imagine sweeping that slate. That gets them to four wins. Where do that fifth and sixth win come from? Tulane could do it, but needs help. Thus, unlikely.

TUL: Tulane hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard on offense – even operating out of the spread formation. I know OC Dan Dodd adds some West Coast/Pro Set offense into the mix- do you think Tulane’s offense is close to turning the corner to where they can outscore opponents in the spread – or do you think they should commit to the pro set with a fullback/RB combo to root out yards and set up play action?

Frank: I am going to answer this question indirectly. Quick Army fans, what college football position does talent dry up quickest? Where is it hardest to find players once the BCS teams have recruited?

Many would answer “quarterback”- but that is not true (that is the NFL answer). There are a ton of competent quarterbacks in college football. The top 40 teams in college football are loaded with QBs that have no future in the NFL- but are solid college players.

I would say that the answer is defensive backs, cornerbacks in particular. First, athletes with the physical capacity to play corner are almost always shifted to offense. Second, while raw speed without size can play as a wide out, it is a real problem at corner. Most mid-major teams can’t dress good nickel and dime corners. Many of you are now shaking your head- Army’s third and fourth CBs are always problematic. C-USA teams can find four receivers, but can’t find the guys to cover them.

The spread is the natural outgrowth of this phenomenon. C-USA might not get the QB with the rocket arm. But the League gets the decent arm, high game intelligence “alternative”- Chase Clement, Kevin Kolb, Case Keenum- perfect for torturing teams that lack multiple coverage assets. So Tulane, like most of C-USA, is going to run the spread.

TUL: Four years into Bob Toledo's tenure, he seems to be getting the Green Wave back on track (albeit slowly). Rebuilding Tulane football is no small task considering how the program was ravaged after hurricane Katrina. What's your take on what Toledo is doing with the Tulane football program?

Frank: Toledo is largely irrelevant to the larger issues. Tulane almost has to get better. Their natural state in the pecking order is just not rock bottom. Damn, even third-tier recruits in Louisiana, Mississippi and East Texas should be enough to play with Marshall and UAB?

Tulane’s run through 1997-2004 was not too shabby: a top ten national ranking, a pair of Bowl victories, cheery crowds from 20-40K. The baseball team went to the CWS twice. Then Katrina gobsmacked New Orleans.

Tulane lost three recruiting classes. Coaches were not recruiting. Louisiana high schools we recruit were closed. The population dispersed. There was no money for sports and facilities. Other schools poached our recruits. And our programs simply collapsed. Army fans who remember Tulane getting drilled in 2008 can vouch to the utter lack of talent Tulane possessed.

Before Katrina, Tulane was a C-USA team that could get to a small Bowl game every few years. They could get top skill player: Shaun King, Patrick Ramsey, JP Losman, Mwelde Moore, Matt Forte. As normal reasserts itself, they’ll get back to something like that.

Programs seek their level- Coach Toledo just isn’t real relevant to the larger community recovering. If Tulane is getting better, it is because the environment is moving from “disastrous” to “ordinary”. Tulane is starting to get a few three-star recruits and good transfers from BCS schools. Since Matt Forte graduated a few years ago, they’ve had one all C-USA player. They might have six (two whom were transfers) this year.

TUL: Any thoughts on a prediction for the Army/Tulane game?

Frank: I put my full game pick up on Thursday- but briefly, I like Tulane here.

Last year, Army won most of the battles all over the field, except one. One of Tulane’s better players is DT Ponce de Leon, and he dominated the interior. It is hard to run an option offense if your guards can’t even get close to blocking the DTs- and I don’t see how Army fixes that. OG Reed and C Peterson were the same guys abused last year. Army’s offensive line splits got tighter and tighter to deal with Ponce de Leon (without effect), the Green Wave cheated more and more to the perimeter- and the running game stalled. Nothing else mattered except Army’s utter inability to block the interior.

It is just a good match-up for Tulane. I imagine you’ll have readers who will point to this or that- but nothing else matters if Army simply can’t block the area five yards from where the football is spotted.
Army probably can’t- Tulane’s DTs and MLB are the best part of the team- and Reed (okay), Peterson (not okay) and Merzi (pretty okay at guard, problematic at tackle) just aren’t a very good unit. So, the Cadets have to show me first. So they won’t score more than 21, and consequently will probably lose.




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