Tulane coach Willie Fritz seemed to steal a coaching philosophy from the movie Forest Gump this week as he prepared quarterback Jonathan Banks for the challenge of the Ohio State defense.
Not that Fritz said “Run, Jonathan. Run!” But looking over the first three games for the Green Wave (1-2) — in each of those losses, a play or two more made by his talented quarterback could have been the difference — he reminded Banks he always has the green light to take off.
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“Sometimes if it doesn’t look good, find an opening and go,” said Fritz, who rose to prominence coaching a wide-open offense at FCS Sam Houston State and then Georgia Southern before taking the Tulane job three years ago. “When he takes off running, that’s a good run play for us.
“He runs with a lot of power and has a good change of direction. He crosses a lot of people and makes them lose leverage. It doesn’t hurt us when he does that at all.”
Ohio State safety and co-captain Jordan Fuller could see that as he studied Tulane and the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Banks.
“He’s big, he can run,” Fuller said. “I know their offense, they’ve got a whole bunch of yards per game. So we’ve got a challenge coming up.”
Tulane is averaging just 416.3 total yards, 71st in the nation. But another 40 or 50 yards rushing by Banks, instead of settling for minus-yardage or no-gain downs when a passing play breaks down, could vault the Green Wave into the top 50.
He is second on the team in rushing attempts (33) but averaging just 9.67 yards rushing. Waiting for pass plays to develop hasn’t helped, since he has completed just 48 percent of his throws, averaging 217.0 yards.
Not that Fritz wants him to just tuck and run all the time.
“Those plays are not scripted. They happen,” Fritz said. But “Sometimes you overcoach and say, ‘Hey let the (pass) route develop.’ If he holds onto the ball a little longer, he might see an opening. They’re plays you have to react to very quickly. But you can’t live and die on that.”