Tulane coach Willie Fritz says he plans to recruit more local players in coming years _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- New Tulane football coach Willie Fritz

Tulane football coach Willie Fritz has a plan in place to recruit New Orleans in the future. He just didn’t get to execute it as he rushed to put together his first signing class.

Although the Green Wave signed two players from the New Orleans metro area, it had zero from Orleans Parish for the first time since 2008 and none from Orleans or Jefferson parishes for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

“We’re going to establish great relationships with the high school coaches,” Fritz said. “We tried on quite a few kids and had quite a few in to visit. You treat people fair and do it over a long period of time and you can be a great recruiter in New York City and Los Angeles and certainly New Orleans.”

Fritz added all nine of his assistants would be responsible for recruiting New Orleans, with each one being assigned specific schools.

Tulane’s local recruiting took off with the hiring of assistant coach Jason Rollins in 2008. Rollins served under Bob Toledo and Curtis Johnson and was initially retained by Fritz. But Rollins left earlier this month for the assistant head coaching position at Texas-San Antonio under former LSU assistant Frank Wilson.

For varying reasons, Tulane’s local commitments for the 2016 class departed after Johnson’s firing. St. Augustine linebacker Giovanni LaFrance signed with Arkansas, while Holy Cross linebacker Kenny Hebert picked Vanderbilt and McDonogh 35 running back Darius May chose Colorado State.

Fritz said he will continue to recruit the six-state area of Louisiana (six signees), Georgia (six), Alabama (five) Florida (two), Texas (two) and Mississippi (one) that comprised his first class, but with a heavier emphasis on Louisiana and New Orleans.

“I’d like it to be quite a bit more in the future,” he said. “Obviously in recruiting, a lot has to do with relationships. and trying to build relationships in a short period of time is difficult to do. I’ve been very impressed with the talent level in Louisiana and particularly in New Orleans. Obviously this is going to be our recruiting base.”

Fritz said he’ll conduct a coach clinic April 8-9 during spring drills, giving area coaches a chance to see what his staff is about.

Early entrants

Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby quarterback Darius Bradwell and Will Harper of Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek already are enrolled at Tulane and will participate in spring drills.

Look for that trend to increase in the next few years at Tulane, which usually had one or two January enrollers under Johnson.

“It’s a big benefit,” Fritz said. “If you look at some schools nowadays, they are almost doing it with their whole class. It takes identification. You look at a guy as a sophomore and a junior and make sure he has a plan in place and has the ability to graduate and jump in early.

“Both of these guys, Will and Darius, really wanted to come in early. If you talk to them in some point in time, they will say, yeah, this was a huge benefit.”

Spring practice will start March 14 and end April 16 in conjunction with a home baseball game against Cincinnati.

Small senior class

With just 10 seniors on the 2016 roster, Fritz did not want to make his first signing class too large and leave little room for players next year, when he his assistants will have enjoyed a full recruiting cycle.

In addition to having a short time to put this class together, Fritz said the staff fought the biases of recruits who looked at Georgia Southern leading the nation in rushing the past two years and assumed Tulane would be a one-dimensional team.

“(It will make a difference) once we get in here and show exactly what we are going to do offensively,” he said. “Sometimes kids say that’s all you are going to do is run the football. No, that’s what our team was built for. Other schools I’ve been at, we’ve thrown the ball very effectively.

“If you’re too much of a pass team or too much of a run team, sooner or later you’re going to get stopped.”

Barring more attrition or additions, Tulane will have 81 players on scholarship at the beginning of the fall — four less than the NCAA maximum.