Tulane spent large portions of Wednesday’s practice at Newman High School working on their execution in short-yardage situations, including a spirited goal-line sequence early in practice.
Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said he uses practices like these to raise the physicality of the entire team, but he was especially happy with the effort from his defense on this particular day.
“The offense made some plays, but the defense were the stars of the day,” he said. “If we get down and (the opposing offense) needs a yard, we’ve got to be able to stop them. I thought our defense did well with that.”
Along with raising the physicality of the team, another advantage that comes with practices that focus on short-yardage situations is the clarity they provide for the roles of certain players on the defense. Defenses often are forced to stop themselves from sacking quarterbacks or throwing runners to the field in an effort to protect their fellow teammates from injury, but in Wednesday’s practice, the Green Wave defenders finally were able to unleash their physicality against the offense with no limitations.
“That’s what we need; we like to be physical with each other,” defensive back Darion Monroe said. “We’ve got to be smart and not dive at each other’s ankles and knees, but we’ve been playing physical and fast, and it’s been good.”
Monroe also managed to catch an interception at practice after Tanner Lee tried to make a quick throw on a third-and-1 play to pick up a first down.
“I was the high safety and the defensive line got pressure on (Lee),” Monroe said. “He threw it out quick and (cornerback Lorenzo) Doss jumped the slant, batted the ball in the air and I just went and got it. That’s what we practice on: Doss says if he can’t get it, he’s just going to tip in the air and I better be near.”
Johnson mentioned defensive linemen Corey Redwine, Tanzel Smart and Tyler Gilbert as players who solidified their roles along the defensive line with their play from Wednesday’s practice, but he also mentioned one other defensive lineman that didn’t play as well as he hoped.
“I’m waiting to see a sighting of Royce LaFrance,” he said. “I want him to play better; he’s not playing as well as he should play. It’s time for him to step it up.”
Johnson spread the carries between the running backs throughout practice and said he was disappointed in the way some of them ran on certain plays.
“A couple times those (running) backs bounced stuff outside,” he said. “They’ve got to go inside and hit that thing (up the middle).”
Along with the assistant coaches and team managers wearing Tulane T-shirts, there were a few people wearing NFL-sanctioned clothing along the sidelines and in the stands at Wednesday’s practice.
They appeared to be scouts representing the Washington Redskins, St. Louis Rams and Green Bay Packers taking in the morning session at Newman’s practice field.
They were likely in attendance to take a look at Doss, a player who’s been added to the preseason watch list for some of the most prestigious awards in college football after nabbing 12 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) in his first two seasons with the Green Wave.
“I saw four or five (scouts) the other day and there were a few at the scrimmage,” Johnson joked. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
Doss is eligible to enter the NFL draft after this season, but he still will be eligible to play one more season at Tulane if he chooses.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Marc Edwards sprained his ankle in practice Tuesday and sat out Wednesday morning’s session with a noticeable limp. Johnson said the injury isn’t serious and that he expects Edwards back by next week.