Tulane looks for 'special' players to run option

Mark Znidar
Tulane quarterback Jonathan Banks throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Wake Forest in New Orleans on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Veronica Dominach)

There are times when Tulane offensive coordinator Doug Ruse must feel like an automobile salesman at the end of the month as he tries to get high school players interested in playing option football at the college level.

That plain-looking car over there, the salesman in Ruse might say, looks like it doesn’t have much horsepower or torque, but it can get you from Point A to Point B pretty quickly.

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“We tell them that we’re not like an Army — an academy-type team — and we do spread the ball around,” Ruse said. “We keep all the guys involved. We’ve added a lot of things to the option.”

Ruse, though, has to fess up.

“Our offense starts with the option, and we make no bones about it,” he said. “We say to high school quarterbacks that if you want to throw the ball 60 times a game, this isn’t the place for you. I’ve never coached a receiver who didn’t want to touch the ball every play. We’ve got to recruit team-oriented guys who aren’t afraid to stick their noses in there. It takes a special player to play for us.”

Ohio State will see plenty of Tulane senior quarterback Jonathan Banks getting his 230 pounds moving toward the line of scrimmage and performing his sleight of hand when the teams meet Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

Banks is not solely a runner. He has completed 37 of 77 passes for 651 yards and five touchdowns. Last season, he threw for 1,797 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Tulane’s ground game is led by junior Corey Dauphine (240 yards, three touchdowns) and junior Darius Bradwell (218 yards).

The Green Wave gave Wake Forest fits before losing 23-17 in overtime on opening day when Banks threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns.

Right guard John Leglue, a senior, has seen the transformation of Tulane from pass-heavy to run-oriented.

“When I got recruited by the previous staff it was a pro-style offense and we had the same playbook as the New Orleans Saints,” Leglue said. “Coach Ruse always says that with the option it’s essential for us to remain on top of things all the time. You have to be consistent in everything you do. You have to have good hands and feet and know your personnel.”

The option is the backbone of coach Willie Fritz’s plan to bring back a team that has not been a power since the late 1940s. The Green Wave was 4-8 in 2016 and 5-7 last season. Four losses last season were by 10 points or fewer.

“We’re in a great location and a lot of great football players are within five or six hours of us,” Fritz said. “We can win here.”

Leglue said the players believe in the coaches.

“Without a doubt, this staff can do it,” he said. “It will take a lot, but coach Fritz is leading us in the right direction. We’re right there.”

Tulane opened 30,000-seat Yulman Stadium in 2016, but the team will continue to run an offense that was born decades ago.

“My first job was a D2 school, Northwest Missouri State, and we were old-school wishbone,” Ruse said. “I cut my teeth on the option game. Then I got with coach Fritz (at Sam Houston State) and got back into the option game. We do enjoy running the football. I do think the option is an equalizer. The option gives us some advantage. We hope we’re hard to prepare for.”


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