With classes starting Monday, Tulane football players will get a rare day off from practice three days before the season opener at Tulsa.
The timing is unusual — no team goes without practicing on a Wednesday before a Saturday game — but coach Curtis Johnson is not worried about the change from the normal routine. He also takes the term “student-athlete” seriously.
“I want to get the young men acclimated,” he said. “They are here for school, and I don’t want them concentrating on football for a day. We’ll pick it up again on Tuesday.”
Tulane has had plenty of extra time to prepare for Tulsa. The Green Wave broke into scout teams early this past week at the end of camp, so Sunday’s closed workout at the Saints facility was fairly light.
Again, that’s a departure from the norm, when the practice four days before a game usually is the heaviest of the week.
“It was a little bit different because we had less to do,” Johnson said. “We’ve been working throughout the week, so we went a lot shorter.”
Ready to run
Lazedrick Thompson ran with authority during preseason practice last year, but that ability did not translate into the games. His average of 3.1 yards on his 22 rushing attempts was the lowest of Tulane’s five running backs.
He has run with authority again this August, prompting Johnson to label him Tulane’s best downhill runner, and he hopes the similarity to 2013 ends there.
With four-year starter Orleans Darkwa gone, he senses a real opportunity as one of five backs Johnson said he will use with different packages in his Saints-based offense.
“I feel a lot better than I did last year,” Thompson said. “Last year, I was running behind Orleans and Robert Kelley. I didn’t get frustrated because I knew I had to wait my turn. I just tried to do whatever I could do when I got in.”
The other lingering issue for Thompson (6-foot-1, 217 pounds) was the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered late in 2011 as a senior at St. Charles Catholic High. At the time, he had gained 1,583 yards and 18 touchdowns for the eventual Class 3A state champions.
After redshirting in 2012, he had to regain confidence in his rebuilt knee.
“When you tear your ACL and miss all those games, it takes a toll on you mentally.” he said. “They say it takes a full year after you return from an ACL to fully recover.”
Radio show returns
For the third consecutive year, Johnson will have his weekly radio show at New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. at 4141 St. Charles Ave.
The first show will be from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday before returning to its customary spot on Wednesdays next week. The final show of the regular season will be on a Tuesday because of a conflict with a Tulane basketball game.
Co-defensive coordinator Lionel Washington will be the primary guest on Monday’s show.
Johnson said there were no new injuries at practice Sunday. … Freshman defensive end Daren Williams, who had to leave Thursday’s practice at Tad Gormley Stadium because of heat-related issues, said the humidity made it hard for him to breathe. He said he did not miss any time in Tulane’s next three workouts, which all were indoors. … After taking Monday off for the beginning of classes, Tulane will practice at Yulman Stadium for the first time Tuesday morning.
1 -- The word is Tulane is trying out a defensive player as a kickoff specialist in practice, but Johnson refused Sunday to identify the player, saying nothing was settled. Green Wave kickers struggled to get to the goal line in an open practice last week at Tad Gormley Stadium even though they kicked off from the 40 instead of the 35.
2 -- Here is the full list of true freshmen who will play or might play against Tulsa: wide receivers Teddy Veal, Terren Encalade and Leondre James, tight ends Charles Jones III and Trey Scott, center Junior Diaz, linebacker Rae Juan Marbley, defensive end Daren Williams and cornerback Donnie Lewis Jr.
3 -- Sunday’s workout was the last of seven consecutive days Tulane hit the practice field. With classes starting Monday, NCAA rules require the Green Wave to take one day off a week for the rest of the season.