When junior safety Roderic Teamer looks around during Tulane football practice, he does not see many fellow members of his recruiting Class of 2015.
If Tulane exceeds expectations this season and becomes bowl-eligible, it will have to overcome a signing class that disintegrated in the final year of former coach Curtis Johnson’s tenure.
Teamer is one of nine guys left from that low-rated (91st by 247Sports.com, not in the Rivals.com top 100), 18-player group, and he's the only one considered a candidate for postseason honors. Contrast their output with the potential of coach Willie Fritz’s February signing class, which was rated in the same range as the 2015 class, and the issue becomes even more striking.
“I think we really hit on a bunch of guys,” Fritz said after Tulane’s Thursday morning practice at the Saints' indoor facility in Metairie. “More than half of them I’m pretty certain will be starting for us within the next year or two. All are going to be competitive and play.”
That never happened with Teamer’s class, and he admitted signs of trouble were there immediately.
“Not to say anybody’s a bad person or anything, but you could judge people’s level of focus and what their goals were,” he said. “You try to have a brotherhood, but different guys had different visions for themselves. It wasn’t a good fit for everybody.”
Tulane has four projected starters from the 2015 class. Teamer, who made 58 tackles a year ago, and guard Leeward Brown are returning starters. Free safety Taris Shenall started three games at nickelback in 2016. Offensive tackle Keyshawn McLeod impressed the coaches in the spring despite playing in only two games as a redshirt freshman.
After first-team punter Zach Block, the list of contributors thins quickly.
John Washington, recruited as a defensive tackle, is pushing for time as a backup guard. Pint-sized receiver Devin Glenn, the fastest player on the team, expects to make an impact after two years of primarily watching.
Andrew Hicks likely already would have made an impact at receiver, but back-to-back ACL injuries have relegated him to a reserve tight end. Offensive lineman Brian Webb, never a factor, is recovering from his own knee injury.
The rest of the class is long gone, with poor academic analysis from Tulane’s former staff a significant factor. Athlete Douglas Henry never qualified. Wide receiver Darius Williams and safety Darius Black had NCAA clearinghouse issues, which also delayed running back Nigel Anderson’s arrival. (He departed quickly.)
Offensive tackle Keeyon Smart, former Tulane star Tanzel Smart’s younger brother, lasted one semester before resurfacing at Kilgore Junior College and moving on to Texas-San Antonio this season.
Defensive back Dedrick Shy, who played six games as a freshman, decided not to return last fall under Fritz. Safety Malik Eugene and wide receiver Rickey Preston did not make it to their second seasons. Cornerback Jeremie Francis lasted into his second year but never played.
A 50-percent washout rate usually spells trouble on the field and off, lowering the Academic Progress Report score the NCAA uses to evaluate schools on their players’ classroom performance. Fritz and his staff intend to make darn sure they don’t repeat their predecessors' mistakes.
“One good thing is we are going to be able to sign 20 next year, and the following year we’ll have a bunch of seniors and we’ll be able to sign another big class,” Fritz said. “The big thing is you’ve got to keep guys here with the APR stuff because, once you get them, they are yours.”
The last 30 minutes of Tulane’s Saturday morning practice at Yulman Stadium will be open to season-ticket holders in an RSVP event at the Glazer Club, with about 600 expected to attend. Food will be provided, and Fritz will speak to fans after the workout, which is set to begin at 8 a.m. and run until 10. … First-team linebacker Zach Harris missed his third consecutive practice to protect a sore knee. Fritz said trainers determined rest was the best option to get the knee healthy.