Tulane starting center Junior Diaz was released from his scholarship to play his final season somewhere else as a graduate student.
Diaz, a double major who graduated in December with degrees in business management and marketing, announced his decision on Twitter Tuesday. After thanking coach Willie Fritz and his staff, his teammates and Tulane fans, he wrote “I felt that it was in my best interest to seek other opportunities for my education and career.”
Diaz, from Miami, started 11 games this year and was a significant factor in Tulane averaging 231.5 rushing yards, the second-highest total in school history. When he was unavailable against Memphis because of injury, the Green Wave rushed for a season-low 122 yards on 52 carries.
Redshirted in 2014, he started four times in 2015 and became a full-time starter at the beginning of 2016 before suffering a season-ending broken ankle against Navy in the third game. Tackle John Leglue moved to center to replace him for the rest of the year, but Fritz said Leglue, who will be back for his senior season in 2018, was more suited to tackle.
Until Diaz’s decision, Tulane’s starting offensive line appeared to be returning intact with Leglue at right tackle, Tyler Johnson (eight starts) or Keyshawn McLeod (three starts) at left tackle, Corey Dublin at left guard and Dominique Briggs at right guard. The Wave went 5-7 in Fritz’ second season after a controversial officiating spot left quarterback Jonathan Banks an inch short of a game-winning touchdown on the last play of the finale against SMU, depriving Tulane of its first bowl game since 2013.
Hunter Knighton, a graduate transfer from the University of Miami, started for Diaz against Memphis and has one year of eligibility left.