In back to back games against wildly different teams in Goergia Tech and Tulsa the Green Wave have been battered and bruised on defense. The defense that was the strength of the team a year ago has collapsed in on itself through two games. A regression was to be expected when you replace the spine of a defense as the Green Wave are doing this year.
The problem as I see it is that Tulane is fine on the perimeter. They have good ends against the run in Royce LaFrance and Tyler Gilbert. Nico Marley* was a great find as a freshman playing outside linebacker. Lorenzo Doss was one of the better corners in C-USA last season and is back. All positive things.
* Nico is the son of personal favorite Rohan Marley, AKA the Rat. Nico is also the grandson of Bob
The negative is that the Green Wave are rebuilding down the spine of the their defense, at defensive tackle and linebacker in particular. That has been a big problem in the running game. Georgia Tech is going to run the ball, and will have an inflationary effect on their numbers. But it wasn't like Tulsa was shut down in the running game, they just found the passing game to be more efficient.
The biggest problem as I see it now, as a unit Tulane is just not getting enough pressure on the passer. One sack and one hurry against a Tulsa team with a rebuilt offensive line is not going to get it done. Not at all. Unless they can find a way to get more consistent pressure on passers this year the defense will continue to give up points in bunches.
That's also a problem. While the offense is probably already better and more consistent than it was a year ago (when it was the albatross around the defense's neck). It's still not good enough where you feel that the offense alone can go win you a shootout. Through two games they have been playing nothing but catch up without catching anyone.
Tanner Lee is just a freshman, but I feel comfortable in calling him an upgrade over what they had a year ago. He has some rather noticeable issues with accuracy early on with a completion rate just barely below 50 percent which would have been really good in the 40's. His decision making is freshman like as well, but he has tools and ability. Its a matter of getting him reps. If you wanted to call him this year's Paxton Lynch I could see the argument.
Like Memphis if Tulane is going to get going this year they are going to have to do it with the running game, and there is good news there. They seem to have found a real weapon in freshman running back Sherman Badie*. He ran for 200 yards against Tulsa, but was knocked out of the GT game with a prior illness. Curtis Johnson needs Badie for his offense to keep up this year.
* I really love Louisiana, there are thousands of people down there answering to amazing names like this, whether given at birth or bestowed at a later date.
There is a lot of positive momentum with the Green Wave right now. They are back playing on their Uptown campus for the first time since the Old Tulane Stadium was abandoned for the Superdome and eventually demolished. Curtis Johnson is the right guy for the job, but he might have to wait a few years for another breakthrough like last year's turnover margin and special teams fueled binge to 7 wins.