When it comes to considering just how many places the Tulane football team has held workouts in the past 18 months, Green Wave junior cornerback Lorenzo Doss channels his inner Allen Iverson.
“What it comes down to is, it’s just practice,” said Doss, who with his teammates reports and begins preseason drills Monday. “Not a game — just practice. We’ve had to adjust so much, it’s normal to us now. We just get on the bus.”
Due to the construction of Yulman Stadium that began in early 2013, Tulane has been forced to find several off-campus practice sites, including the Saints’ indoor and outdoor facilities, which is where Monday afternoon’s opening session will be held.
In the coming days, the Green Wave will drill at Tad Gormley and Newman, with the ones at Gormley on Saturday, Aug 15, Aug. 18 and Aug. 21 open to the public.
Four of the five two-a-day sessions will be held at two different venues, perhaps making Tulane unique in that aspect.
And even after Yulman becomes available to the team as its primary practice venue — currently scheduled for Aug. 24, four days before the season opener at Tulsa — coach Curtis Johnson said he plans to use the Saints’ indoor facility once a week throughout the season if possible, with the hope that’s an impetus for the school to construct its own indoor facility.
“We like to get indoors out of the heat when we can,” said Johnson, whose relationship with the Saints as a former assistant has enabled his team to make use of the Saints’ facilities. “It’s been a blessing for them to open their arms to us like they have. I don’t know of any college team that has the relationship with an NFL team like we do.”
Johnson, who is going into his third season, expects to have 105 players — 84 or 85 on scholarship, depending on some late academic rulings, and 20 walk-ons.
Tulane is coming off a 7-6 season that included its first bowl appearance since 2002.
And besides having an on-campus stadium for the first time in 40 years, Tulane is playing its first season in the American Athletic Conference.
“You’re always ready for practice to start,” senior safety Sam Scofield said. “Just knowing that you now have a game coming up in a few weeks gets everybody a little more fired up. And then we’re finally getting into our own stadium. That really makes it special.”
Taking practice on the road, so to speak, has been beneficial for the Wave. In Johnson’s first season, when the team usually practiced at the now-demolished track stadium, the Wave went 2-10. Last spring and fall, using the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in addition to Gormley, Newman and the Saints’ facilities, they made a five-win improvement.
This year’s spring practice was held primarily at the Saints’ indoor facility.
“We told everybody, ‘Consider it a road trip,’ ” Johnson said. “I think we learned to make adjustments better than anybody. It was like, ‘Here’s what we’re doing, here’s how we’re doing it and here’s where we’re doing it.’ It was all very positive.”
Once the Wave does get on the field Monday, Johnson said he plans to move quickly to establish a two-deep, anticipating doing so after the team scrimmages at Gormley on Saturday.
“We want to get a good look at our freshmen and then decide on the 35 to 40 players we want to go to war with,” he said. “It shouldn’t take more than four or five installations to fight that out. After that, we like to keep the practices short and moving quickly.”
The quarterback situation might take a little longer than a week to be decided.
Nick Montana and Devin Powell shared starting duties last season, but redshirt freshman Tanner Lee appeared to have the edge following spring drills.
“We know about these guys’ abilities,” Johnson said. “We want to see how comfortable they are with the leadership roles that go with being a quarterback — how they conduct themselves in the huddle and how they handle pressure. We’d just like to go a little bit before deciding it.”
Injury-wise, Johnson said the only players doubtful to be ready to go full-speed Monday are sophomore linebacker Jarrod Franklin and sophomore guard Alex Paul. Sophomore linebacker Nico Marley, who suffered a broken elbow in spring drills, is 100 percent, Johnson said.
The only major disciplinary situation involved incoming freshman Teddy Veal, who was arrested in February for an on on-campus simple rape and remains suspended pending the case being resolved. Running backs Dante Butler and Robert Kelly have academic issues to work out.
And as for all of the bus rides to practice, as Doss said, it’s usually without problems. He did recall one day when one of the two buses went to the wrong place and caused practice to start about 15 minutes late — and how the buses always felt too chilly for sweaty bodies following this year’s spring workouts, held in February at the Saints’ indoor facility.
“We really liked working at the Saints’ place because they practice there, too, and you never knew who might come around to watch you,” he said. “You just never wanted to miss the bus.”