West Virginia transfer Trevor Simms arrived at Tulane with the intent of pitching for the baseball team. Suffice it to say, he has found plenty to occupy his time before becoming eligible in his chosen sport.
After handing the kickoff duties to Simms last fall, football coach Curtis Johnson reiterated Wednesday what he had indicated at the end of the Green Wave’s spring game Saturday — he is leaning toward making Simms his No. 1 placekicker, too.
Simms, who is ineligible to play baseball this spring as a transfer, has one year of football eligibility remaining after practicing with Rice as a backup kicker in 2012. He did not play in any games for the Owls and never joined West Virginia’s football team.
“After today, I’m leaning even a little more toward Trevor Simms,” Johnson said. “He’s getting a little bit more consistent, so I like what he’s doing.”
Tulane’s kickers struggled from start to finish last year. Freshman Andrew DiRocco missed what would have been a go-ahead 21-yard field goal in the opener against Tulsa with 1:46 left in regulation, and he went 8 of 15 for the season. He also missed two extra points, one after he was called for a false start.
Simms had one shot at a field goal — a 51-yarder against Cincinnati — and shanked it badly, but he impressed Johnson with his strong leg. Fifteen of his 34 kickoffs went for touchbacks.
“I can turn my back and listen and I can hear ‘boom’ (when Simms kicks),” Johnson said. “That’s what you want to hear. It’s hard to teach a bigger leg, but it’s easier to teach accuracy.”
Although DiRocco was perfect during Tulane’s spring scrimmage, connecting from 40 and 46 yards, he was less accurate in warm-ups, missing wide right from 42 yards, then coming up short on 47- and 52-yard attempts.
Simms hit all of his kicks in warmups except for a 52-yarder that was long enough but drifted left.
Distance has been an issue for DiRocco, with several of his successful kicks during the spring barely clearing the crossbar.
“I really don’t want to get into ‘this one does the short kicks and this one does the long kicks,’ ” Johnson said. “That’s where I really am.”
Nothing will be settled for certain until the fall, when punter/kicker Zach Block arrives to increase the competition. Simms’ biggest issues in the spring have come with bad snaps that mess up his timing. When holder Peter Picerelli needs to adjust the ball, Simms has kicked some line drives that barely get off the ground.
“That’s the one thing that Kansas City loves about (former Tulane kicker Cairo Santos),” Johnson said. “His timing is just so good and so quick and he can adjust so well. That’s the one thing with Trevor. He just hasn’t adjusted so well.”
After saying he was disappointed with the way the defense finished Saturday’s spring scrimmage, Johnson added another one near the end of Wednesday’s closed practice at the Saints facility.
“If you asked me who had the nod on Saturday, I felt the offense did a little better,” he said. “But the offense did a lot better today. We scored a lot.”
In statistics provided by Tulane’s sports information department, quarterback Tanner Lee was 6 of 12 for 81 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions. The scoring passes were a 29-yarder to Teddy Veal, who had three catches for 45 yards, and a 30-yarder to Terren Encalade.
Third-string quarterback Glen Cuillette connected with running back Josh Rounds for a 19-yard score, and Rounds added a 1-yard touchdown run.
Linebacker Rae Juan Marbley was credited with a team-high four tackles, but Johnson was not pleased with the defense, referring to Veal’s touchdown run in Saturday’s scrimmage when senior safety Darion Monroe whiffed on a tackle.
“You’ve got to tackle and you’ve got to get guys down,” he said. “Three guys missed a tackle on Teddy. Teddy is good but he’s not that good. The defense has some catching up to do. Like I told the guys: I don’t want a repeat of Tulsa (when Tulane lost 38-31 in overtime).”
Defensive tackle Sean Wilson was held out again for precautionary reasons after tweaking a knee at the beginning of a Feb. 28 scrimmage at Yulman Stadium.
More special teams
Tulane worked on special teams at the start of its first practice this spring and has continued to emphasize the unit after breakdowns cost the Wave in almost every department last fall.
Johnson has praised new special teams coach Doug Lichtenberger repeatedly. Picerelli echoed those comments Wednesday.
“He (Lichtenberger)’s not really tolerating any fooling around from anyone on special teams,” Picerelli said. “He doesn’t want you walking in 5 seconds late, so it’s been good. It’s clear that a lot of emphasis has been put on special teams this spring, in drills and meetings.”
Lichtenberger also has been forced the kickers to participate in conditioning and weightlifting drills more often than in the past.
“It’s very important that our specialists do everything that everyone else does,” he said. “They are part of the team.”
Lichtenberger said no decision had been made on a long snapper for field goals. Offensive lineman John Leglue handled that role for most of the spring, but snapping specialist Mike Lizanich received most of the reps in the spring game. Lizanich will handle the punt snaps. ... Tulane, which moved up its spring game a week to avoid a conflict with St. Patrick’s Day festivities, worked out Monday and Wednesday and still has two practice dates available. Johnson said the Wave would practice Friday, but Saturday’s workout is up in the air.