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Willie Fritz, Tulane Green Wave Head Football Coach

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb
The Truth Network Radio
June 9, 2023 6:33 pm

Willie Fritz, Tulane Green Wave Head Football Coach

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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June 9, 2023 6:33 pm

Willie Fritz joined Zach to discuss the Cotton Bowl victory and Michael Pratt's development heading into 2023. 

The Drive with Josh Graham
Josh Graham

We miss college football. Bennett takes the snap and the shotgun, throws for the corner.

Brock Bowers one on one. Caught. Touchdown.

He ate him alive. Falls down into the end zone. Six more for Georgia.

We can't wait for the 2023 season. Caleb Williams throws the fade in the corner. Oh, caught.

Touchdown Trojans. And we're counting down the days to kick off. Are we there yet?

Oh. Are we there yet? We said no. Are we there yet?

What's wrong with your ears? Here is your college football fix. Only on the Zach Gelb show. 85 days away from the Tulane Green Wave kicking off their football season up against South Alabama. Tulane last year had a remarkable year where they went from two wins to 12 wins. Won the American Athletic Conference. Had that wild comeback against USC in the final four minutes in the Cotton Bowl. And now joining us is the head coach of the Tulane Green Wave.

And that, of course, is Willie Fritz. Coach, appreciate the time as always. How are you?

I'm doing great. Thanks for having me on, Jack. Well, I love the video that I saw right after you guys won the Cotton Bowl up against USC and you guys were having a parade. And when you were addressing the crowd, you jumped into the crowd and you started to do a little crowd surfing. That had to be a fun time for you, coach. Yeah, that was a great time. You know, I became a head coach in 1993 at Blinn Junior College down in Brenham, Texas. And, you know, I always had kind of done this little victory song. I was standing up high when I was doing it and the kids wanted me to jump out and land in them.

So I've done that ever since. So it was a lot of fun doing it after a Cotton Bowl victory, though. How do you relive all these months later looking back at those final four minutes? Because, Coach, between us, I had money on you that day and I was very happy when you guys had that crazy comeback.

Well, Jack, I can't talk about all that stuff, you know that. But, you know, it was just, you know, everything went well and all that kind of stuff. It was just, you know, we had a big special teams play, we had a big play on offense, we had a big play on defense.

You know, just a complimentary type victory with all three phases being involved in it. And, you know, so we needed a little bit of luck. We had a drive before we fumbled the ball and I think we would have gone in and scored on that. So we needed some good fortune and luckily we got it. What did Tulane coach Willie Fritz show the world last year with what you guys were able to accomplish? Well, I think we've done a really nice job of developing players. You know, we take pride in, you know, kicking guys that are good football players, but maybe they need a little time to get a little taller, a little longer, a little faster. You know, maybe guys that are under the radar a little bit who are dynamite Division I football players. We've also got some guys that were recruited by a lot of people, but, you know, we've got quite a few. Heck, I got a lot of guys in the NFL that were the only Division I offer. Tarnell Mooney, great receiver of Chicago Bears. Cam Sample, great defensive lineman with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Patrick Johnson, he's over with the Philadelphia Eagles, a great linebacker. So we've been able to find some guys. I feel like our staff has a tremendous job at developing guys.

It's one thing to develop players, but to see a turnaround from two wins to ten wins, how do you kind of just further explain how your staff was able to accomplish that? Well, we had a lot of misfortune the year before. You know, we played in three bowl games in a row, and we, you know, had a bad... One year we lost four games on the last play of the game.

That's almost impossible to do, but I did it. And, you know, we almost had a turn there, but didn't quite get it done. And then in 21, you know, everybody dealt with COVID in 20. We had a Hurricane Ida. And so we all had to go to Birmingham, Alabama. I told the guys to pack for three nights, and instead we were there for 27 nights. And just, you know, had no place to work out, lift weights, practice. Half the time we were able to practice and didn't have really meeting rooms. So we just didn't have a very good season.

And that's on me. I didn't do a good enough job leading the kids. But we knew we had good players, and we lost very few guys to the transfer portal after that year. And had a great offseason, great summer, and led to us having a great season. Coach Willie Fritz from Tulane here with us. Coach, I followed your program from afar.

I did go to Temple University, so I know the American Athletic Conference. Actually, someone that I know, Andrew Zuckerman, played for you guys as well. So I've seen your quarterback, Michael Pratt, before.

But for people that are just tuning in, I know he's been there for a few years and haven't been able to watch Michael Pratt. How would you describe your quarterback? Oh, I think he's just really tough. He's got a lot bigger. I think he's 175, 180 pounds when he got here. He's 215, great straight-line speed, sometimes a little too tough. I've got to remind him about first down, touchdown, get down.

But he's great arm strength, great accuracy. I think he's a definite draft pick. We're just looking forward to him having another fantastic year for us. In just the nature of the sport right now at the transfer portal, I know that his sister transferred over to play for the basketball team, so that probably helped.

Did you expect to lose in this offseason, or did you always know that Michael was going to be back? No, he's become a loyal guy. He's a servant leader. He's best friends. He's going to have the rest of his life. He's going to be the guys you played with here too late.

I think there might have been some schools that might have been possibly contacting him in one way or the other, I don't know. But he was always firm with being here at Tulane. Willie Fritz, what do you challenge your quarterback to do this year? You guys just won the American Athletic Conference. You just won a Cotton Bowl. You only lost two games last year. What did you really challenge him to do this offseason? Well, really good to know the offense, every single guy on the field, their responsibilities. This is going to be the first season that Michael has had the same coordinator two years in a row. There's going to be notes.

We're adding some things offensively, but we're not changing things. I think that's going to help him out big time. For your program, how do you go about replacing Tyjay Spears? We know he got drafted by Tennessee, and last year was just enormous for the success of your football team. It's going to be tough.

I just got done talking to him here about five minutes ago. He's a special player, a special young man. I'm so excited about his opportunity there with Tennessee. We feel like we've got some good backs, though. We've got really good depth. Like on the defensive line for us, we've got nine guys on the front forward who started at least two ball games for us in their career.

We've got a lot of good depth all the way around at all positions. That's a big deal for us this season. We want to be a consistent winner. We don't want to just go to bowl games. We want to go to meaningful bowl games, win conference championships. That's what we've been talking about with our guys, how we've got to improve offense, defense, kicking game in order to accomplish that.

I know every kid is different, and you never know how people are going to handle success. But no one's going to be sleeping on you guys this year with the season that you just had. And you guys are now viewed as the top dogs in the conference. Just how do you think your program will handle the success and build off of that? I think we're going to handle it well. I've got a bunch of mature guys, a lot of guys that have been in the program for a long period of time. They love the success we had, and they want to continue to have that type of success year after year.

I don't know. As a head coach, every game is its own season, and I worry about that. Irregardless of whether we're playing on a hot streak and won a bunch of games, or maybe they haven't, we want to improve every single league. One of the things we talk about in our program is we don't want to know every day. That's what it's going to take for us.

We've got to continue to keep doing that in order for us to have the sustained success that's eluded Tulane over the years. Coach, earlier you mentioned that you're 63. I don't know how much longer you planned to do this.

I know that you said that you want this to be your last stop. What made you want to stay? Because I saw your name was rumored, at least in that Georgia Tech job. So what made you want to continue to see things out with the Tulane Green Wave? Oh, we love it here. My wife loves it here. I love it here.

It's been a tough bill. It really has been. With the history of Tulane's had great players. They've had great teams.

They just haven't done it over a long period of time consecutively. So we just enjoy being here. It's good people to work with and for. Our kids really enjoy going to school here at Tulane. We're in a beautiful area of New Orleans. It's a great education.

Top academic schools in the country. So there's just a lot of great things about it. I'm very lucky to have this job. What's your favorite meal out of New Orleans? It's one of my favorite places to visit, but what does coach like to eat the most? Oh my goodness. I'm getting ready to meet my wife at a place here right now.

I've got so many good favorites. We did a commercial for a restaurant the other day. We had the char-grilled oysters, the roast beef pull-a-boy, shrimp pull-a-boy, red beans and rice.

Shrimp étouffée. Just everything. It's different. I had not spent a bunch of time in New Orleans prior to coming here to take this job. I probably put on 10, 20 pounds. There's been a lot of happy weight that I put on. Don't you worry. I probably put on 10, 15 pounds and I went to Mardi Gras all those years ago.

So it definitely happens and I was only there for three days. Wrapping up with the coach of Tulane. The Green Wave, of course, just won the American Athletic Conference last year. Defeated USC in the Cotton Bowl.

That, of course, is Willy Fritz. You lose some schools to the Big 12. Houston, Cincinnati, UCF welcoming in six new schools to the American Athletic Conference. What's your view of what the American Athletic Conference now offers with the changes?

Well, I think it should be very competitive. We just got back from our conference meetings the other day. We've added some really good teams. Great facilities.

Great academic institutions as well. Yeah, we lost UCF and Cincinnati, Houston. I think we replaced them with six fantastic schools. We've kind of gotten out of that distinction of Power Five, Group of Five. I think in the years that I've been here, this is going to be my eighth season. I think our conference has been ranked above one of the so-called Power Five schools six of the seven years.

So, if you haven't had a chance to watch the American, you're missing out. It's very, very competitive football. Coach, one last thing before we let you run. You guys win that Cotton Bowl 46 to 45. What a remarkable comeback it was. You did go up against the Heisman Trophy winner in Caleb Williams who had five touchdowns in the game.

So many people had tuned in. They just like to hear people's perspective about the Heisman Trophy winner in Caleb Williams, who is projected to be the number one pick in next year's draft. What was your observations looking back at it and what made it so difficult going up against Caleb? Well, he's got all the talent, the ability that you think about with the quarterback, arm strength, accuracy, being able to throw all the different type of balls that you want. The thing I was really impressed with was his strength. I don't know how many times he shook off tackles. We had him wrapped up.

It was a good job of anticipating glitches or someone attacking him with leverage and then beating the leverage and buying himself more time. I saw after the game I told some people I see why he won the Heisman Trophy. He's a guy to my quarterback. Coach, really appreciate the time. Thanks so much.

Eighty-five days away Tulane kicking off their A.C. title defense up against South Alabama. Good luck this year, Coach. Thank you. Good luck I said I. You got it. Will do. Thanks so much.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-09 20:25:03 / 2023-06-09 20:31:10 / 6

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