‘Miracle class’ going to Tulane

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Football players at John Curtis sign college letters of intent to attend Tulane at a ceremony at the River Ridge school Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. Brandon Godfrey, center, and Sherman Badie, right, sign. Godfrey's father, Jerry, is at left, and Badie's mother, Shandrica, is second from left. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Football players at John Curtis sign college letters of intent to attend Tulane at a ceremony at the River Ridge school Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. Brandon Godfrey, center, and Sherman Badie, right, sign. Godfrey's father, Jerry, is at left, and Badie's mother, Shandrica, is second from left.

NEW ORLEANS — The bottom of the news release announcing Tulane’s 2013 football recruiting class included information for purchasing season tickets.

If just the friends and families of the bulk of those who signed with the Green Wave on Wednesday choose to do so, then the phones should be ringing off the hook.

Of the 24 players signed, 14 are from the New Orleans metro area, with another three from the Baton Rouge area and transfer Chris Davenport from LSU. Maybe that’s why coach Curtis Johnson thanked, by name, the parents of his signees before talking about the players.

“We’ve said from the start we wanted to get local players,” said Johnson, whose first recruiting class a year ago had 13 in-state signees out of 20. “Louisiana is the best per-capita state for football in the country. The players are fabulous. That’s why we had to fight some battles to keep them.”

The Wave did lose two commitments — linebacker Lyn Clark and defensive end Corey Smith, both of O. Perry Walker, who switched to Louisville and Arizona State. But Johnson said that only reflected the quality of players the Wave was competing for, something that will be needed more than ever when Tulane joins the Big East in 2014 after one last season in Conference USA.

According to 247Sports.com, Tulane’s class ranks No. 86 nationally and 10th among the 11 schools scheduled to be in the Big East in 2014 — 11th if Tulsa joins the league, as anticipated.

Still, the in-state group includes five three-star players, according to Rivals: running back Sherman Badie and offensive lineman Brandon Godfrey, both of John Curtis; offensive lineman Kenneth Santa Marina of McDonogh 35; defensive tackle Tanzel Smart of Scotlandville; and offensive lineman Chris Taylor of Zachary.

Badie and Godfrey are two of the four signees from Curtis. And while Tulane has always had a strong pipeline to the perennial powerhouse — Godfrey’s older brother, Jerry, played at Tulane from 1996-99 — this is the most from the school in one year.

Cornerback Richard Allen, the first of the four Curtis players to commit in June, said while it was not a joint decision, he was glad it worked out.

“I liked Tulane because they told me I would have a good chance to play right away,” he said. “But it’s going to be fun having my teammates there because we all know how to get the job done and win. If we do that, then more local players will want to come to Tulane as well.”

While Johnson has been targeting Louisiana players since his arrival and had 14 commitments by August, some were not on his radar until recently.

That includes cornerback Jarrod Franklin from University High, whom Johnson said he was basically unaware of until he saw him on film of the Cubs’ Class 2A semifinal playoff loss to Evangel.

“I liked the idea of being close to home, the education and the way the coaches were,” said Franklin, who also was offered by Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis. “And I like the idea of signing so many players from the New Orleans and Baton Rouge area. This recruiting class shows me Tulane is really going in the right direction.”

The biggest name among the out-of-staters is quarterback Nick Montana, son of Hall of Famer Joe. Nick played at Washington for one season before transferring to Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) Junior College last year. Montana will be the front-runner to become the starter when spring drills begin next week, but Johnson said Tanner Lee of Jesuit will get a chance to compete this fall.

“Nick Montana is a kid who’s used to winning, and he’s taking a chance on us,” Johnson said. “He’s going to have a major impact on this program.”

Offensive guard Jason Stewart of Warren Easton said there was a “buzz” locally about the Tulane program among the local players going there.

“We’ve really been doing a lot of talking to each other,” he said. “I’ve liked Tulane from the beginning because of the education. We know they haven’t been doing a lot of winning lately, but we think we’re going to be the ones that make it better.”

Attitudes like that, Johnson said, are why he was labeling this a “miracle class.” Tulane was 2-10 last year and has had 10 straight losing seasons.

“People didn’t have to recruit negatively against us,” he said. “We just haven’t been successful on the scoreboard. That’s why we had to sell the school above the football team before we can start upholding our end, which means winning football games. That’s why this can be a special class.”