The only thing quicker than Willie Fritz’s search for a new offensive coordinator may be the pace Tulane plays with next season — at least when a hurry-up mode is beneficial.
Former Memphis tight ends coach Will Hall — the lone candidate Fritz interviewed after firing predecessor Doug Ruse — said Friday he was a big believer in up-tempo offense. If he follows through, it would be a stark contrast to the deliberate pace in Fritz’s first three years.
Only 43 teams averaged fewer plays than Tulane’s 68.2 this season, placing the Green Wave in the bottom third of the FBS, right where it was a year ago (68.0) and a little lower than 2016 (70.8).
“We want to be able to play really, really fast,” Hall said Friday in his first interview since taking the job. “We'll build it with tempo. We will always have the ability to slow down, but it's easy to slow down. It's not easy to speed up. So we'll build this thing from day one on going as fast as you can possibly go."
Hall, who met the team Friday and attended its morning practice, will be merely an observer before the Dec. 15 Cure Bowl against UL-Lafayette. He will take over after that game ends.
“(The offense) is definitely going to be primarily what he's done,” Fritz said of Hall. “We’ll add some things that we’ve done as well. I’ve done a lot more of the triple option stuff and we’ll try to engrain that into what he’s doing.”
Tulane’s run-first philosophy will remain because Hall and Fritz share the same view there. All other aspects could be dramatically different.
Hall described his core beliefs simply.
“No. 1 is, get the ball to the good players, the guys that can do something with it, and give it to them in multiple ways,” he said. “Then after that, you’ve got to be able to run. Nobody’s putting a ring on their finger without running, and then being very efficient in the passing game. Being efficient is not throwing 80 times a game. It is completing passes for yardage. We want to go over the top of people’s heads.”
Tulane’s offense appeared stodgy and predictable in the past few years, never ranking higher than eighth in the American Athletic Conference in yards or points. Hall plans to diversify it.
“We want to be very multiple with what I call hybrid-type athletes — tight ends that can line up in a lot of different spots, and then running backs that can line up in a lot of different spots,” he said. “Those guys allow you to give the defense a lot of different pictures and not know exactly what you’re going to be in.”
Fritz knew exactly who he wanted soon after he decided to change coordinators, emphasizing a long admiration. He said he first became familiar with Hall in 2006 when Fritz was the coach at Division II Central Missouri and Hall was offensive coordinator at Southwest Baptist.
Southwest Baptist, which both coaches described as bereft of talent, scored three touchdowns in a 49-24 loss.
“He came up to me after the game and told me what a good job he thought that we had done, and from that, just really kept the relationship going,” Hall said. “I've got a lot of respect for coach Fritz. He's actually kind of been one of my heroes, because he's a guy that rose through the smaller college ranks like I've had to do.”
Hall, 38, said he called the plays in every year of his career until becoming Memphis associate head coach and tight ends coach this season. He spent five seasons as an offensive coordinator in Division II, was a head coach for three years each at Division II West Alabama and West Georgia and was offensive coordinator at UL-Lafayette in 2017.
Fritz kept coming back to Hall’s understanding of the complementary nature of football. He is not a coordinator who will value yards and points over wins.
“As a head coach, I always called the plays and ran the offense, but we led the league in defense all six years,” Hall said. “I've always believed in playing good, winning football, and I think the similar beliefs is another thing that drew me and coach Fritz together."
Senior safety Roderic Teamer practiced Friday after leaving the final two games of the regular season, saying he had a concussion against Houston and still did not feel right after playing in the first quarter against Navy. After informing the coaches, he left for the locker room and did not return to the sideline until the fourth quarter. … Safety P.J. Hall, who sat out against Navy with an ankle injury, practiced Friday with the second unit. Said Fritz: “We should be pretty healthy.”