Wearing the green jerseys in Norman, the Tulane Green Wave will be the home team despite playing in the Palace on the Prairie. As the program collides with the Oklahoma Sooners, the biggest matchup appears to be in the trenches. Still, there are others on the field who must produce on the defensive side of the equation. Here’s my take on Key Defensive Players in the season opener for crimson and cream…
D.J. Graham // Cornerback
At the end of last season, D.J. Graham earned the first start of his career in the Cotton Bowl. It signaled a changing of the guard at the cornerback position with youngsters eager to take on a much larger role. Once again looking to take the reigns, the backend of the defense will count on the sophomore come Saturday. Facing the Green Wave who lost their leading rusher from last year, many believe Tulane will lean into the passing game. Possessing six experienced receivers, this poses a good test for a younger player like Graham. However, the corner has size to combat everything throw his way.
Jalen Redmond // Defensive Lineman
After missing the entirety of the 2020 season, Jalen Redmond is once again available for use in the trenches. A player with nearly limitless potential and the ability to wreak havoc, all eyes will be on the lineman during the early going. Why? Well, Ronnie Perkins departed for the NFL and Isaiah Thomas’ status remains questionable due to a summer incident off the field. It leaves Redmond to shut down one side of the field and likely Nik Bonitto on the other. Still, Tulane has a worthy offensive group up front. Headlined by Corey Dublin, an Outland Preseason Watchlist player, and Sincere Haynesworth, a Remington Preseason Watchlist player. This is anything but a cake walk for the Sooners defensive line.
Nik Bonitto // Linebacker
More of a hybrid player on the field in usage, Nik Bonitto put up impressive number throughout the duration of last year. With the hype growing around the linebacker, all the attention will undoubtedly center around stopping the pass rush. Recording 10.5 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hurries in 2020, Bonitto made a living in the backfield. It has the country thinking All-American status once again in the upcoming season. Nonetheless, as an impact type player, one must deliver on a consistent basis. That’s the expectation for the linebacker. However, Bonitto has the ability to drop back in pass coverage as well and not look the part of a liability. As mentioned above, Tulane has a full set of experienced receivers. This linebacker may very well be key in slowing them down.