Putting on the Fritz
Steady improvement leads to contract extension for Tulane Football’s head coach
Tulane announced this week it extended head football coach Willie Fritz's contract through the 2023 season.
Tulane head football coach Willie Fritz was athletic director Troy Dannen’s first hire as when he took over the Green Wave’s program in December 2015. Fritz took over a team that went 3-9 the year before he arrived in New Orleans. In his first season, Fritz improved the Wave’s record to 4-8. Last year, they went 5-7, but seven of their 12 games were decided by one possession, and they were literally an inch away from going 6-6 and reaching bowl eligibility. This offseason, the coach had his third player drafted by an NFL team in the past two years and was able to pull in an “immaculate” class of recruits, according to Bill Connelly of sbnation.com, which ranked the group of incoming players as the third best in the American Athletic Conference.
As a result of the upward mobility Fritz has brought Uptown, Dannen announced Tuesday he extended the coach’s contract through the 2023 season.
“Great programs start with great leadership,” the AD said in a press release on the extension. “Willie has provided that great leadership during his first two years. As a result, our students and our program are poised to achieve at a high level in the American Athletic Conference.”
While some may scoff at the deal, considering Tulane football is 9-15 – a .346 winning percentage – under Fritz, it was a smart move by Dannen to lock him in for the near future. Fritz has shown a knack for building winners with steady improvement and accomplishment in every stop he’s made. He has coached in two NJCAA National Championships, three FCS National Championships, and one bowl game on his way to setting a career record of 202-89-1. That doesn’t mean Tulane will be playing in the College Football National Championship Game this season or even next, but the Green Wave’s football program is moving in the right direction. Fans are interested. Maybe more importantly, recruits are, too.
“I couldn't be more excited with the direction in which our football program is headed,” Fritz said in the release announcing the extension. “It is an absolute joy to coach at this institution. We have total buy-in from everyone on our staff to our administration, and I know we have a bright future.”
Fritz incorporates a unique, run-heavy offense that is high scoring and fun to watch. Tulane averaged 27.5 points per game last year. The offense averaged 391.5 yards per game– 5.8 yards per attempt – with average yards of 231.5 rushing and 160 passing. These numbers are expected to improve with returning dual-threat starting quarterback Jonathan Banks, who started 11 games and finished last season 124-of-219 passing for 1,797 yards, 12 touchdowns, and five interceptions while rushing for 592 yards and seven touchdowns. He’ll be joined in the backfield by junior running backs Darius Bradwell, who averaged 6.2 yards per carry last year, and Corey Dauphine, a Texas Tech transfer and former four-star prospect, sophomore Stephon Huderson, and freshmen Amare Jones and Ygenio Booker, both rated as three-star prospects. Banks also gets back his top five receiving targets, including senior Terren Encalade and junior Darnell Mooney. Most of the O-line is back as well, and will be the fulcrum of Tulane’s output.
Question marks for this team fall on the defensive side of the ball where half of last year’s starters will be replaced. The Green Wave D gave up an average of 29.17 points, 436.1 total yards, 225.67 passing yards and 210.4 rushing yards per game in 2017. Expect several incoming freshman to see playing time, including safety Dorian Camel, tackles Jeffrey Johnson and Alfred Thomas, end Juan Monjarres and linebacker La’Dedric Jackson, who were all rated as three-star prospects.
The future does seem bright for Tulane and its 40th head coach. Continued improvement will lead to continued success. Hopefully that means football futility might be becoming a thing of the past for the Green Wave and its loyal fans. Lord knows they deserve it.