Nov. 6, 2007
NEW ORLEANS, La. - The Tulane University football team's depth chart will have a noticeably different look to it this week as the Green Wave prepare for its final home game of the 2007 season.
In preparation for Saturday's Conference USA showdown with UTEP, head coach Bob Toledo decided to start all 11 healthy scholarship seniors into the starting lineup. While he said it would not become an annual tradition and it is something he had never done before in three previous head coaching stints, Toledo said he felt he owed it to this year's senior class to give them one last shot to play in front of the home fans one final time.
"It's the last home game and it's the last home game for our seniors," Toledo said. "I'm going to give them all a chance to start. How long they stay in the game will depend on how well they do.
"For the scholarship players who are healthy, I will let them start because I think they're very deserving. They've been through a lot for this program. It's me showing respect to them. I think I owe it to them because they've done a good job of hanging in there and going through a lot of adverse times."
Six of Tulane's 14 seniors have been regular starters throughout the 2007 season: center Aryan Barto, tight end Gabe Ratcliff, running back Matt Forté, defensive tackles Antonio Harris and Avery Williams and strong safety Joe Goosby. Senior cornerback Carlis Jackson, who missed most of the last four games with a leg injury, will return to the starting lineup for the first time since Oct. 6 on Saturday.
Offensive lineman Scott Holt and wide receiver Fred Smith will not play on Saturday due to injury. Holt has missed the last four games after suffering a knee injury on the third play of the Army game, and Smith has been hampered with a quad pull since preseason drills. Walk-on Evan Smith is the team's final senior, but is not slated to start Saturday's ballgame.
"For the most part, I feel that we've got some really good senior leadership," Toledo said of his first Tulane team. "We've got some really good kids in the program that I'm really going to miss. But on the other hand, we've got a young team. We've got 13 seniors on scholarship, but we need to continue to grow and try to improve for the future. As I told them, if you're playing and you're playing well, then you're going to play. And if you're not, we're going to play some younger guys. For the most part, the seniors have played as well as can be expected."
While the Green Wave are no longer in contention for a C-USA championship or a bowl bid, Toledo still expects his team to be ready for a challenging UTEP team on Saturday. The Miners enter the weekend as one of the league's highest scoring programs and have two of the conference's premier players in quarterback Trevor Vittatoe and running back Marcus Thomas.
"The thing we have to do in this football game is play for pride and respect," Toledo said. "As I mentioned to our team after the (Tulsa) game, we're playing for individual pride and individual respect, team pride and team respect. We're not playing for a bowl game. We're not playing for a championship. We're playing for self respect. The thing I want from our football team is no quit. I'm going to find out who has pride, who has respect or at least who wants respect."
Tickets for Tulane's home finale are on sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. Tickets can be purchased in person, over the telephone at (504) 861-WAVE or via the internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com. Following Saturday's game against the Miners, the Green Wave return to action on Nov 17 with a 2 p.m. showdown against Rice in Houston before closing out the season on Nov. 24 at East Carolina.