As this college football season ends, all gridiron eyes turn to next year – where hope and new blood spur dreams of championships and glory. While some programs are lucky enough to “reload” for another run at the title, other programs will make changes to jump-start the club, and set it along a new – and hopefully more prosperous – direction. The Tulane Green Wave is in the latter category, as the brand-spanking new AD, Troy Dannen, brought in his first hire – head football coach, Willie Fritz.
However, with new AD’s and coaching staffs come other changes, as well. This week, the Green Wave’s starting quarterback, Tanner Lee, and its two top receivers, Teddy Veal and Devon Breaux, announced that they would not be returning to the football team for the 2016 campaign.
Football-wise, their choice makes a lot of sense. Coach Fritz historically has favored a run-first attack, to a heavy degree. His Georgia Southern team last year had five players rush for more than 500 yards each. His quarterback, Kevin Ellison, has rushed for over 1,700 yards the past two years. So, it’s no surprise that the Eagles only attempted 127 passes last year.
Tanner Lee, a pure pocket passer who can make all of the throws, is the polar opposite type of quarterback. He has a big arm, and, while he can make some plays if the pass protection breaks down, he just isn’t a “running quarterback.” So, Lee will take his show on the road. He hasn’t made up his mind as to where he will end up, but with his 3,601 yards passing and 23 touchdowns, Lee is a quality catch for any school. Especially at the FCS level, where NCAA transfer rules would allow him to play immediately. If Lee, who will be a redshirt junior next year, transfers to another FBS-level school, he would have to sit out a year – and only have one more year of eligibility. I would suggest Lee to consider North Dakota State, who just won their fifth straight FCS championship, but, my God, it gets really, really cold in Fargo.
It doesn’t take a football swami to figure out that a quarterback and wide receiver’s success sort of go hand-in-hand, if you will. Wide receivers love getting deep, and getting on those Sportscenter highlight reels. So, when you’re looking at the prospect of your team only throwing the ball 10 times a game, it’s no surprise that Teddy Veal is also opting to finish his college career elsewhere. The Advocate reports Veal is expected to end up at Southern Miss, who recruited him out of West Jefferson High. Wherever he ends up on the field, Veal will be a threat. Veal was the Green Wave’s leading receiver the past two seasons. He leaves the program with 88 catches, 1,025 yards and 7 touchdowns to his credit.
Breaux is a different kind of story. Many high school athletes play multiple sports, but as they move on to college – especially at the FBS level – they become a one-sport athlete. Not Devon Breaux. Breaux is leaving the football team, not to transfer to another school, but to focus on his last year with the Green Wave Track and Field team. Breaux, out of Donaldson High School, was the second-leading receiver last year (25 catches, 431 yards, 3 TD’s), but his greatest athletic accomplishment is winning the Long Jump at the 2015 AAC Outdoor Track and Field Championship. You’re going to have to wait a while to see Lee and Veal play again, but you can catch Breaux and the Outdoor Track and Field team beginning March 4, at the venerable Tad Gormley Stadium, for the Tulane Invitational.
Earlier I said, “football-wise” this decision makes sense. You have to do what’s best for you, and these guys want to be seen playing at the highest level, and to the best of their ability, in a system that fits their style. But, just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean it’s easy. So, tough choices had to be made.
Not enough is said about what college athletes have to go through on the day-to-day. To some, these kids materialize onto their TV screens, to be heroes or goats, however it may turn out. Then, the channel changes to another game, another season and other heroes to be worshipped.
In a way, the public just sees them as actors – playing a role, with an adoring public cheering them on. That is, if things are going well. If not, Joe Football Fan feels free to take his or her best shot at the student-athlete. Calling them names, cursing at them from the stands, or dissing them on message boards. You know how it goes.
These young men, and their teammates, have been through two consecutive 3-9 football campaigns, so they’ve taken their fair share of shots…with class. Now, a new coach is coming to town, with a system that doesn’t match their skillset. All of a sudden, up is down, and left is right. So, three local kids have made the decision to leave their hometown football team – Lee and Veal to different campuses, and Breaux to focus on another sport.
Breaux is 22 years old. Lee is 20. Veal is 19.
Tough decisions, folks.
Make no mistake, these young men will be missed on Saturdays.
And like a good drink with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Drink Pairing – Big Shot’s “Red Cream Soda”
Playlist Recommendation – Simian – “We Are Your Friends”
Around the Way
Speaking of some other youngsters (I’m old) – the Green Wave Women’s basketball team remained undefeated at home, after whipping the University of Central Florida 75-54. Freshman Kolby Morgan lit up the Knights with 19 points, going 9-for-15 from the field. Leslie Vorpahl put up 11 points, and dished out 11 assists, for her third double-double of the year. The Green Wave head into a rough stretch – playing five games in 14 days – which kicks off on Jan. 13, against the No. 19 South Florida Bulls, at Devlin Fieldhouse. GET TO THE GAMES, FOLKS. After that stretch, the Wave will have a week off, before playing the eternal-No. 1 UConn Huskies, aka the Death Star.