The uncertainty in Tulane’s passing game and the strength of its running backs were reflected when new coach Willie Fritz released his post-spring depth chart on Thursday.
A month after practice ended, redshirt sophomore Glen Cuiellette and freshman Darius Bradwell were listed as co-No. 1s at quarterback. Working with a very thin, inexperienced group of receivers while learning the scheme, neither separated himself during 15 spring sessions.
The two-deep at wide receiver is even more telling. Junior Tristan Cooper, a career backup who practiced at safety all spring, is projected as a starter at one receiver spot along with sophomore Terren Encalade and former walk-on Larry Dace, a senior. The top backups are incoming freshmen Chris Johnson and Darnell Mooney and 5-foot-8 sophomore Devin Glenn, a converted running back.
A pair of notable names are not on the depth chart at receiver.
Sophomore Rickey Preston, a Hahnville High product who caught eight passes for 82 yards and a touchdown last year, has been granted a release to transfer, an athletic department official confirmed. Preston participated in spring drills before getting injured and missing the spring game.
His departure leaves the Green Wave with two available recruited scholarship receivers entering the fall — Encalade and senior Devon Breaux, who skipped spring practice but rejoined the team last month. Breaux caught 25 passes last year, and Encalade had four receptions before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury after two games.
Trey Scott, a converted tight end who caught 18 passes in 2015, is still on the roster but was left off the two-deep.
Sophomore wideout Andrew Hicks, from Belle Chasse, is out for the year with a torn ACL.
The competition is completely different at running back. Juniors Dontrell Hilliard and Sherman Badie and seniors Josh Rounds and Lazedrick Thompson all earned praise from Fritz in the spring and are listed as co-No. 1s.
The quartet combined for 1,325 yards a year ago, with Hilliard gaining a team-high 646 on 115 carries (5.6 average). Fritz presided over the nation’s leading rushing attack the past two years at Georgia Southern.
“We’ve got really good backs,” Fritz said after the spring game. “With this type of offense, we need to have those kind of backs.”
The rest of the two-deep depth chart provided only a few minor surprises.
Quinlan Carroll will enter preseason drills as a first-team defensive end ahead of fellow junior Daren Williams, who missed the tail end of spring drills with an injury. Williams had 18 tackles last season, while the seldom-used Carroll finished with one stop.
Nickelback replaces a third linebacker spot. Senior Richard Allen, who started five games at cornerback a year ago, is listed on the first team there.
The projected punt returners are pivotal starters — Hilliard and junior cornerback Parry Nickerson. Neither returned a punt under former coach Curtis Johnson, whose special teams were near the bottom of the country in multiple categories. The Wave’s longest punt return in 2015 was 15 yards.
The remaining starters are the same as for most of spring drills. The offensive line has left tackle Todd Jacquet, left guard Chris Brown, center Junior Diaz, right guard Kenneth Santa Marina and right tackle John Leglue, along with tight end Charles Jones.
End Ade Aruna and tackles Tanzel Smart and Sean Wilson are the other starters on the defensive line. Seniors Nico Marley and Eric Thomas are on top at linebacker. Nickerson and Donnie Lewis are the first-team cornerbacks, with JarrodFranklin and Leonard Davis the starting safeties.
Wake Forest kickoff set
The Wave’s Thursday, Sept. 1 opener at Wake Forest will start at 6 p.m., Tulane announced Thursday, and Fritz’ debut will be available on ESPN3.
Tulane is 2-0 against Wake Forest, but this will be their first game outside of New Orleans. They last met in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 1995. It also will be the fourth consecutive year the Wave has started its season on a Thursday.
The full post-spring depth chart can be accessed on the football page at TulaneGreenWave.com. … The news is mixed for two players who were ruled ineligible for spring practice. Redshirt freshman running back Nigel Anderson, an East St. John alum, is on the official roster. Offensive lineman Keeyon Smart, the younger brother of Tanzel Smart, is not. … Tulane has 59 scholarship players returning for the fall and 22 incoming freshmen, leaving the Wave four short of the NCAA maximum of 85.