Tulane spring game
Noon Saturday, Yulman Stadium
1. Quarterback quandary
Neither Glen Cuiellette nor Darius Bradwell proved ready to command the offense in an open competition. Their two-way battle likely will turn into a three-man chase when freshman Johnathan Brantley arrives in the fall. The candidate who makes the fewest mistakes likely will get the upper hand as coach Willie Fritz first looks for a player who won’t lose games.
2. It’s fundamental
Some coaches just talk about stressing the basics. Fritz lives it. Every practice featured individual drills that taught simple, repeatable skills. Every practice in pads featured long shoulder-to-the-thigh Hawk tackling drills that Fritz and his staff prefer. To stress ball security, every time the ball hit the ground — even on an incomplete pass — the entire team treated it as a fumble.
3. Running men
Fritz believes in balance, but the running game comes first. That emphasis will be even stronger this fall because Tulane has four talented running backs but few proven receivers. Dontrell Hilliard, Sherman Badie, Josh Rounds and Lazedrick Thompson are the focal points of the offense. Plus, the quarterbacks ran more in each practice than they did in all four years combined under former coach Curtis Johnson.
4. No depth
Fritz had to slow his practice pace simply because of a lack of bodies. With nine available offensive linemen even when everyone was healthy, players took plenty of extra reps. The five healthy receivers in the past two weeks of the spring had to take breaks to avoid exhaustion. Position changes and incoming freshmen will alleviate the problem in the fall, but spring ball was affected adversely.
Today, you will see ...
The offensive line play
Line coach Alex Atkins took over a dysfunctional unit that did not do anything well last year. He moved Kenneth Santa Marina to guard from tackle but stuck with returning guard Chris Taylor, center Junior Diaz and tackle Todd Jacquet. Will these guys hold up better against a talented front four featuring All-AAC tackle Tanzel Smart?
Who emerges at receiver
Tulane has one healthy returning recruited scholarship wideout: junior Terren Encalade. Converted tight end Trey Scott, converted running back Devin Glenn and former walk-on Larry Dace also will try to make good impressions.
If Smart is the best player on defense, that honor went to Hilliard on offense this spring. An all-around talent, he appears capable of rushing for 1,000 yards if he gets enough carries after averaging 5.6 yards as a sophomore. On Saturday, he will get to show what he can do against live tackling.
Today, you will not see ...
The quarterbacks getting touched
If they run as often as they have during practice, it will be interesting to see how the officials mark those plays.
Several players are out, including wide receivers Andrew Hicks (ACL surgery) and Rickey Preston, defensive end Daren Williams and cornerback Donnie Lewis, who pulled a muscle in practice Friday.
Tulane’s long snapper for the fall
Incoming freshman Geron Eatherly sent in his scholarship papers this week after originally intending to attend Oklahoma State as a preferred walk-on. If he is ready, he will shore up a huge weakness.
Say hello to the new guys
Fritz and his entire staff are new to Tulane, but five of his assistants came from Georgia Southern with him: Atkins, defensive coordinator Jack Curtis, offensive coordinator Doug Ruse, defensive line coach Kevin Peoples and linebackers coach Michael Mutz. Bradwell, from Tallahassee, Florida, and safety Will Harper of Tyrone, Georgia, enrolled early to participate in the spring.