AAC commits to full cost of attendance for athletes _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND

Less than two weeks before National Signing Day, Tulane brought in two players at areas of need for official visits and a third the Green Wave would take despite being loaded at the position.

McDonogh 35 wide receiver Darius Williams, Clermont (Fla.) East Ridge punter Zachary Block and John Curtis safety Hunter Dale were on campus this weekend along with six players who already had committed: East St. John running back Nigel Anderson, Warren Easton running back Devin Glenn, Warren Easton defensive back Jeremie Francis, New Iberia Westgate defensive back Doug Henry, Brother Martin defensive back Roderick Teamer and Warren Easton defensive back/wide receiver Dedrick Shy.

Williams — a 6-foot-2, 175-pound prospect whose only other offer, according to Rivals.com, is from fellow American Athletic Conference member Temple — is listed as the No. 73 prospect in Louisiana by Dandy Don’s recruiting website. Tulane lost to Temple 10-3 on Dec. 6 at Yulman Stadium and also lost a 2014 commitment to the Owls last February when three-star Cocoa (Fla.) defensive tackle Freddie Booth-Lloyd switched loyalties late in the recruiting process.

The odds appear much better of winning this battle. Tulane has two players from McDonogh 35 on its roster—sophomore offensive tackle Kenneth Santa Marina and redshirt freshman linebacker Rene Fleury — and no depth at receiver.

With Texas Tech commitment Furquan Shorts reaffirming his decision to choose the Red Raiders after taking an official visit to Tulane last weekend, the Wave has only one definite wide receiver, Andrew Hicks of Belle Chasse, among its 16 commitments. If another one does not sign in this class, Hicks would join returning wideouts Devon Breaux and rising sophomores Teddy Veal, Terren Encalade and Leondre James in a perilously thin group.

Williams displayed excellent athletic ability as a senior, making an incredible one-handed touchdown catch against Landry-Walker when he jumped over two defenders. Still, he was inconsistent. After watching him play in October, Rivals.com analyst Jason Howell wrote, “When Williams is on his game, he can be one of the most dynamic playmakers in Louisiana. When he is not, he can be a drive killer for his team.”

Block won the punting competition last weekend at a Kohl’s Kicking Camp at Bishop Moore High School in Florida, beating out 49 other prospects. Kohl’s rates him the 11th best kicking specialist and 21st best punter nationally in the class of 2015.

Tulane returns sophomore placekicker Andrew DiRocco and senior punter Peter Picerelli, but both of them struggled this past year. DiRocco hooked a go-ahead, 21-yard field goal try in the final two minutes of regulation in an overtime loss to Tulsa in the season opener and finished 8 of 15 on field goals while missing two extra points.

Picerelli averaged 37.7 yards on punts — the worst figure in the AAC — after averaging 41.5 yards as a sophomore and 41.0 yards as a freshman.

Bentonville (Ark.) kicker Bennett Moehring, who took an official visit to Tulane last weekend, committed to Navy earlier this week.

Dale (5-11, 180) is rated higher by Rivals.com than any of Tulane’s 16 commitments, ranking 21st among Louisiana players and 32nd nationally among defensive backs. He has scholarship offers from more than 20 schools, including Miami, Arizona State, UCLA, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

Tulane already has as many as eight defensive backs who have committed but almost certainly would make room for Dale. After taking five players from John Curtis in 2013, the Wave has not gotten anyone from the powerhouse program since then.

With 65 players on scholarship entering spring drills, Tulane has room to sign 20, but a source told The Advocate the Wave probably would stop at 18. Tulane will have as few as nine seniors in 2015 and would like to add some spots to what is shaping up to be a small 2016 recruiting class.