Darius Bradwell did not hesitate before deciding to skip his final semester of high school and enroll at Tulane in January.
After completing his fourth practice of spring drills Monday afternoon, he felt even stronger about his choice despite some erratic passing. A return to his hometown of Tallahassee, Florida, during Tulane’s spring break last week did the opposite of making him long for the chance to attend his senior prom.
“I realized I’m not missing anything,” he said. “I think I’ve matured since I’ve been here. I really love being in college. It’s a big adjustment from high school, but I like it. Any student-athlete out of high school who can enroll early should do it.”
Bradwell is one of three scholarship quarterbacks competing for a wide-open position in the spring, joining redshirt sophomore Glen Cuiellette, who played one down last season, and senior Devin Powell, who has not won one of his rare starts since 2013. Another candidate, freshman Johnathan Brantley of Houston’s King High, will arrive in the summer.
Bradwell will enjoy a 15-practice advantage on Brantley by the end of spring drills and has no less experience in new coach Willie Fritz’s offense than Cuiellette or Powell. He also is well aware of Fritz’s history.
In Fritz’s first season at Sam Houston State in 2010, true freshman quarterback Brian Bell won the job and kept it for four years.
“It doesn’t really matter which one to me — true freshman, sophomore or senior,” Fritz said. “We’ll use the best guy. I tell those guys every day’s a job interview. You are either going up on the depth chart or you are going down.”
The next step is getting comfortable with their throwing motions. The ball hit the ground far too often when all three quarterbacks threw in the first week of practice, and while Cuiellette improved his accuracy Monday, Bradwell continued to spray his passes.
“I feel a little bit more comfortable after getting all the reps from the week before,” Cuiellette said. “I took the time off during spring break just trying to study and look over what I did wrong the first week and try to correct it this week.”
Still, it’s far too early for Fritz to get a good handle on the competition. He spent a portion of Monday’s workout trying to correct the way the quarterbacks pitched on the option — a play that was not in former coach Curtis Johnson’s repertoire.
“Right now, it’s really about not making mistakes rather than making plays,” Fritz said. “The plays will come. They are going to separate themselves. It hasn’t occurred yet, but it will.”
Bradwell (6-foot, 220 pounds) who appears faster than his official 4.51-second 40 time, already has shown why he rushed for 1,213 yards (he threw for 1,097) as a senior in high school.
Cuiellette, who threw for 2,128 yards and ran for 493 in his final season at Mandeville, loves the freedom Fritz gives his quarterbacks after spending two years in Johnson’s constricting, complex offense.
“He’s got some ability,” Fritz said. “He can run and has good size (6-0, 213), but he has to throw the ball consistently. Sometimes he looks like a million bucks on it, and other times it’s not quite there.”
He admitted the description applied to all of the quarterbacks. None of them is ready to direct his offense, but they have plenty of time to improve.
Bradwell is thankful for having received the right advice. Missing out on this opportunity to practice in the spring sounds unimaginable to him.
“It’s a great advantage,” he said. “After my junior year (at Godby), I talked to my high school coach, and he said I should do it. Also, my dad kept enforcing it ever since I started playing, saying you should enroll early. You want to have that edge over everyone else in your class.”
Tulane’s Monday practice, its first in 10 days, left Fritz frustrated.
“This is the first time I’ve done it where we practiced before spring break and came back after spring break, and it might be the last time, too,” he said. “If we want to accomplish the goals we want to accomplish, we have to have a good workout every single time we come out here. Some guys did an excellent job, but not enough of them. … This should have been a great workout or us with a week off to get your legs back under you.”
The players will get another opportunity Tuesday morning in a practice moved up a day because of rain forecast for Wednesday.