Tulane football coach Curtis Johnson confirmed Monday what he hinted at after Saturday’s scrimmage: redshirt freshman Tanner Lee is his No. 1 quarterback.
“Tanner is the starting quarterback,” he said following a morning practice at Newman High School. “He will start for us this year. I think he’s going to have a great season and a great career.”
Lee, from Jesuit High School, beat out redshirt sophomore Devin Powell and senior Nick Montana. Lee produced touchdowns on his first four possessions in Saturday’s scrimmage, and Johnson said his rationale for naming a starter one week into fall camp was simple.
“He (Lee) has a strong arm, has command of the offense, great leadership skills and doesn’t make very many mistakes,” he said. “Devin Powell’s played well and so has Nick, but Tanner’s our guy and we’re going to go with Tanner.”
Johnson’s announcement caught at least one player off guard.
“I just found out from y’all (reporters) right now,” said cornerback Lorenzo Doss, who returned to practice Monday after missing most of the first week with a minor leg injury. “To me, he (Lee)’s the man. He’s our quarterback, and we believe in him and what the coaches do. He has that quarterback swagger."
Montana, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, started 11 times last season while Powell started twice. Although Tulane had a winning record (7-6) and went to a bowl game for the first time since 2002, the Green Wave finished near the bottom of college football in total offense, scoring 17 or fewer points in four of its last six regular-season games.
Montana, hampered by a separated throwing shoulder for much of the year, completed 158 of 296 passes (53.4 percent) for 1,717 yards with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Powell went 60 of 110 (54.5 percent) for 681 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Both of them ended the season on a down note. Montana got benched against Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown, and Powell tossed a fourth-quarter interception deep in Tulane territory that led to the Ragin’ Cajuns’ winning field goal In a 24-21 loss.
Johnson added that Powell was No. 2 on the depth chart and Montana No. 3.
“It's an ongoing competition, but that's how the depth chart sets,” Johnson said. “When we get to the first game (at Tulsa on Aug. 28), that's how it will be.”