Faced with the huge challenge of replacing mammoth Chris Davenport as Tulane’s nose guard, Corey Redwine decided to slim down.
Redwine, a redshirt junior from Atlanta, knew he could not be a space-eater like the 6-foot-4, 334-pound Davenport, but he also knew he could be quicker.
Out went the sodas, the diet loaded in carbohydrates and any food at all after 9 p.m. In came the extra workouts and dedication to live up to his potential.
The payoff arrived this preseason. Redwine, who made only 10 tackles last year, has worked with the first-team defense from Day 1. He said he has lost 6 percent of his body fat.
Listed at 6-foot, 316 pounds in 2013, he is a relatively svelte 6-1, 309 now. He became taller and stronger while still shedding a few pounds.
“I just decided to change my body and turn it on,” he said. “Really ever since the bowl game (in December against Louisiana-Lafayette) I told myself I was just going to play harder. I wanted to take it to another level. Now I have better quickness, strength, explosiveness and versatility.”
The proof cannot come until the season starts — Tulane opens at Tulsa next Thursday — but the testimonials from teammates and coaches have been pouring in.
“He’s a bull,” defensive line coach Kwahn Drake said. “He’s a man. He’s strong. He has that great power and a great opportunity to push that center back.”
Safety Sam Scofield considers Redwine a Davenport with dexterity.
“He’s faster and quicker than he’s ever been,” Scofield said. “He’s a force inside. This year he’s going to be a huge part of our defense.”
The difference is opportunity. Redwine showed promise as a redshirt freshman, starting four times and registering 24 tackles, but he was stuck behind Davenport and Julius Warmsley last season. While that dominant duo helped Tulane limit opponents to 3.2 yards per carry — the sixth-lowest total in the nation — Redwine languished in a reserve role.
He felt like he deserved more playing time. The coaches used the guys who were producing. Kenny Welcome and then-true freshman Tanzel Smart put up better numbers than Redwine when they rotated in at tackle.
“I would say I wasn’t given my fair shot,” Redwine said. “If I had been given more chances, I definitely would have made more plays. I didn’t get a lot of reps. I didn’t see major playing time until the bowl game.”
Although he had no tackles against UL-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl, Redwine said he felt like he made an impact in the middle. Whatever the reason, he emerged from that game a different player.
Linebacker Nico Marley, whose work ethic is legendary, said Redwine was the first person in the weight room and the last one out for much of spring practice. Co-defensive coordinator Jon Sumrall, who worked with Redwine as the line coach the past two years before coaching the linebackers this season, always saw the potential.
“A lot of times when you see a window opening, you realize this is my time,” Sumrall said. “When you think how am I going to beat these guys out in front of you, it may be discouraging. He’s taken it upon himself to really grow and develop. I’m really excited to see what he does this fall because I think he’s really going to come out and surprise some people.”
He already has surprised safety Darion Monroe, who roomed with him in a four-player suite in 2012. The redshirt freshman Monroe knew then is not the same guy now.
Redwine, an only child, used to be headstrong.
“He’s a totally different person,” Monroe said. “Back then, he was kind of stubborn. You really couldn’t tell him too much. I told him just lighten up. You’re a great player. Just stop having the attitude all the time and let’s play ball. Now he’s rolling. He’s talking to the secondary, he’s talking to the linebackers. He’s making calls up front. He’s basically a leader. He’s stepped up into the Davenport role.”
Redwine has big plans for this season. Some of it is youthful exuberance — he wants 10 sacks, which no Tulane player has accomplished since 1981 — but his teammates corroborate the rest. They expect no drop-off from Warmsley and Davenport to him and Smart, his highly regarded partner on the interior.
Redwine goes even further.
“We’re better,” he said. “We’re younger, faster and just as strong. There’s no weakness in the chain.”