Hired to reverse Tulane’s fortunes on the field, new football coach Willie Fritz has started by dramatically altering the recruiting approach of predecessor Curtis Johnson.
Barring a signing day surprise, the Green Wave will not have a single player in its 2016 class from Orleans Parish, its focal point for the past four years. Only one commitment since Fritz was fully on board is from Louisiana: three-star defensive back/wide receiver Tre Jackson of University Lab in Baton Rouge.
Johnson’s philosophy was to recruit locally almost exclusively, with all but three of his 2015 signees coming from Louisiana, and a huge majority of that group coming from no farther than Baton Rouge. It was 19 out of 24 from Louisiana in 2014 and 17 out of 23 in 2013. His four-year haul from New Orleans was 24 players.
With little time to build connections to local coaches, Fritz and his staff worked their familiar territory from stints at Georgia Southern and Sam Houston State to get commitments from six players out of Georgia, five from Alabama, two from Florida and two from Texas. They retained only four of Johnson’s commitments, allowing the rest to go elsewhere in a clear break from the past.
Johnson had zero signees from Alabama or Texas in his tenure other than two commitments he inherited when he took the job in December 2011.
While Johnson sold a “State of Tulane” approach based on the University Miami’s South Florida model when he was an assistant there, Fritz is selling his winning history at Georgia Southern, where he went 17-7 in two years, and Sam Houston State, which he guided to back-to-back FCS championship games.
“I just love how coach Fritz is notorious for turning those programs around,” said Madison (Alabama) Bob Jones running back Miles Strickland, whose words were similar to most of Fritz’s commitments. “They came straight from Division 1-AA and tore up the Sun Belt Conference. I just want to be a part of that, and also I’m getting a great education.”
The Wave is hoping for at least one more out-of-state import. Clay-Chalkville (Alabama) High quarterback Ty Pigrome, the Gatorade Alabama football player of the year, will choose among Tulane, Virginia Tech and Maryland on Wednesday.
Pigrome, a three-star recruit according to Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, threw for 3,080 yards and 44 touchdowns while rushing for 1,349 yards and 18 scores as Clay-Chalkville advanced to the Class 6A state championship game before losing 31-28 to undefeated Spanish Fort. Pigrome also accounted for 61 touchdowns and led his team to the state title as a junior.
After visiting Tulane the weekend of Jan. 15, he doubled up on Maryland and Virginia Tech last week because of weather issues the week before. Virginia Tech is recruiting him as an athlete, and Maryland already has a commitment from pro-style quarterback Max Bortenschlager.
Regardless of what school Pigrome picks, Fritz already has molded the class in his image. He wants dual-threat quarterbacks for his shotgun-based, spread-option offense, and the Wave received commitments from two quarterbacks who can run as well as throw: Tallahassee (Florida) Godby’s Darius Bradwell and Houston C.E. King’s Jonathan Brantley.
Bradwell, who enrolled in January, will compete with holdovers Glen Cuillette and Devin Powell for the No. 1 role in spring practice.
Another difference in recruiting approach is on the offensive line. Johnson signed seven linemen who weighed more than 300 pounds. The average weight of Tulane’s three offensive-line commitments through Tuesday was a little less than 275 pounds, fitting Fritz’s philosophy that values mobility for run blocking.
Three Tulane commitments are three-star recruits according to Rivals.com: Jackson, Hoover (Alabama) cornerback P.J. Hall and College Park (Georgia) Woodward Academy wide receiver Jacob Robertson. … Rivals.com ranked the class No. 83 nationally, but it would move up several notches if Pigrome signed.