Get Inside the Huddle with Coach Rollins and the Defensive Backs
By: Tommy Tomlinson, Sports On Earth
Eight new faces dot staff; Johnson retains Lichtenberger, Rollins
Jason Rollins, the longest tenured coach on the Tulane coaching staff, enters his eighth season as a secondary coach for the Wave in 2015, and begins his first season as a co-defensive coordinator.
Rollins has played a key role in helping four of his pupils to the NFL, including 2015 NFL Draft picks- Lorenzo Doss and Taurean Nixon- and free agent signees Derrick Strozier and Jordan Sullen.
During his seventh season, while also serving as the team’s special team’s coach, Rollins’ secondary group grabbed a combined 15 interceptions and forced two fumbles and recovered seven. The secondary contributed 22 of the team’s 28 total turnovers, which ranked 21st in the country, and the Green Wave ranked 13th in the country for interceptions.
Redshirt-freshman Parry Nickerson led the team and the nation’s freshmen with six interceptions and became the third defensive back under Rollins’ tutelage to earn All-America honors with his selection as a First-Team Freshman All-American.
In 2013, Rollins’ secondary was a big reason why the Green Wave made their first bowl appearance since the 2002 season. The team was second in the nation in turnovers created with 35 (16 fumble recoveries and 19 interceptions), thanks in large part to the individual success by second-team All-America honoree Lorenzo Doss. The cornerback picked off a team-high seven passes - returning two for touchdowns - while also forcing two fumbles. Five other members of his secondary tallied at least one interception, totalling 15 of the team’s 19. The 19 interceptions by the squad ranked sixth in the entire nation.
Additionally, the defensive unit allowed just 352.1 yards per game, ranking 22nd overall in the nation in total defense.
In addition to picking up the All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and Walter Camp Football Foundation, Doss earned first team All C-USA honors.
Rollins’ fifth season, and first under head coach Curtis Johnson, at Tulane featured a young secondary with three freshmen starters to go with one senior. However, the group responded with 11 of the team’s 15 interceptions, which tied for the ninth-best single season interception total in school history, and the secondary recovered seven of Tulane’s nine fumbles while forcing three and logged 28 pass break-ups.
Individually, freshman Darion Monroe earned honorable mention Freshman All-America honors and joined Doss on the Conference USA All-Freshman team. Freshman cornerback Jordan Batiste and Doss were honorable mention All C-USA selections. Doss also set a school record for interceptions by a freshman with five picks, which placed him second among C-USA defenders and 13th nationally. Monroe led the team in tackles with 97 and returned one fumble for a touchdown, while senior Ryan Travis returned one pick for a score.
During his fourth season, Tulane’s secondary accounted for nine of the team’s 12 interceptions, which were the most by a Green Wave squad since 2003, and his unit ranked sixth in pass defense and interceptions among Conference USA teams. Travis led Tulane with four interceptions and garnered honorable mention All C-USA honors.
In his third year, Rollins’ secondary was tough against the pass, ranking first among C-USA teams in pass defense, giving up just 194.6 yards per game, and ranking 28th in the nation. The secondary also grabbed eight interceptions, recorded 30 pass breakups, forced five fumbles and made five fumble recoveries. Senior Phillip Davis was a first team All C-USA selection and ranked eighth nationally in pass break-ups with 12.
Much like his rookie season at Tulane, Rollins’ group was very effective during his second year as well with the Green Wave. TU’s secondary ranked first among C-USA teams in pass defense, surrendering just 218.0 yards per game, and his cornerbacks contributed three interceptions on the season, and the group accounted for 11 pass breakups.
In his first season, Rollins was an instant hit with the TU secondary as the group accounted for 23 pass breakups, five interceptions, five forced fumbles, five recovered fumbles and recorded 10 stops for lost yardage. More impressively, the TU pass defense ranked 14th in the nation (172.83 ypg) and was top ranked unit among C-USA teams in 2008.
Rollins, 41, came to Tulane from McNeese State, where he served for three seasons as the Cowboy’s co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. He helped McNeese State to a three-year mark of 23-10 which included a pair of Southland Conference titles and back-to-back playoff appearances in 2006 and 2007.
During his final season with the Cowboys, Rollins’ defensive unit helped anchor an 11-1 campaign for the top 25 ranked Cowboys. McNeese State reeled off 11 straight victories before falling to Eastern Washington in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Prior to his return to McNeese State, Rollins spent two seasons as the defensive backfield coach at Northwestern State, helping lead the Demons to the Southland Conference title in 2004, and his defensive backs were part of a unit that led the nation in total defense that same season.
Before that, he had served as a graduate assistant coach at McNeese State as well as an assistant coach in the prep ranks for a pair of Texas schools, including Galveston’s (Texas) Ball High School from 1999-2003 and Lamarque (Texas) High School in 2003.
A native of Lake Charles, La., Rollins played high school football in Newton, Texas, and later played three seasons at McNeese State where he lettered as a safety. He earned his bachelor’s degree in health and human performance from MSU in 1996.
He and his wife, Danna, have one son: Tieler (9).