Get ready for Tulane-Georgia Tech: Guerry Smith goes Next Level with Wave DE Ade Aruna and plays Four Downs _lowres

Associated Press photo by GERALD HERBERT -- Tulane defensive end Ade Aruna celebrates as Duke tight end Braxton Deaver walks off the field after Tulane recovered a fumble in the first half Sept. 3 at Yulman Stadium.

Next Level: Tulane wants to tap into DE Aruna’s potential for big plays

Tulane sophomore defensive end Ade Aruna spent some time on the sideline in the first half against Duke after having the breath knocked out of him. Teammate Darion Monroe insists Aruna, when healthy, will take everyone else’s breath away.

In one year, he has gone from curiosity factor to ‘X’ factor, emerging as a talented but raw big-play specialist.

When Tulane faced Georgia Tech last September, everyone wanted to see if Aruna would serve as a 6-foot-5, 247-pound kickoff specialist as he had the previous week at Tulsa. He didn’t, and he also did not play a down on defense.

This time, he will start at end, playing a pivotal role in the Green Wave’s ability to slow down the Yellow Jackets’ prolific triple-option offense. He arrived in New Orleans with an impressive physique but little body of work, having played only one year of high school football.

More comfortable as a pass rusher than a run-stopper, he will be tested early and often Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“All we have to do is play our assignments, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Aruna said. “Last year (against Georgia Tech), I did not get any reps on defense, but I watched what happened.

“We just have to do everything exactly like the coaches tell us to do.”

Aruna made Monroe’s preseason prediction look good almost immediately in his first career start last Thursday, forcing a fumble on the opening possession. He was less of a factor the rest of the way.

Against Georgia Tech, when one mistake can turn a 5-yard run into a 50-yard romp, he needs to be steady rather than trying to be spectacular.

Four Downs

1. Defending the run

The only way to hang with Georgia Tech is to win first downs on defense, eliminate big gains and force the Yellow Jackets to drive the length of the field. Tulane cannot stop the triple option, but it can make Tech work for its points and hope for mistakes.

2. Fast start

It took only a couple of three-and-outs at the beginning of the Duke game for Tulane’s self-belief to deflate. The game was over right there. Coming off a horrific year offensively, the Green Wave needs to move the ball early to regain some of the confidence it had exiting preseason drills.

3. Avoiding a gaffe

Georgia Tech is a tough assignment for anyone, but the Wave will have zero chance to be competitive if it has the special teams breakdowns that plagued it since the start of 2014. The Jackets clinched last year’s 38-21 win with a blocked punt. No bad snaps and no missed kicks are vital.

4. Big passing plays

Georgia Tech finished 85th nationally in pass efficiency defense and in the bottom 20 in passing yards allowed per play last year. Its all-senior secondary is nowhere near as good as Duke’s despite its experience. Tulane QB Tanner Lee and his receivers need to capitalize on that weakness.