Senior Taurean Nixon, who entered Tulane’s fall camp as the expected starting cornerback across the field from All-American Lorenzo Doss, was back on the field during the morning practice at the Saints’ facility Thursday after sitting out a week with a lower abdominal injury.
It was Nixon’s second practice back after participating in Wednesday’s afternoon session, which was closed to the media. What the former Southern Lab star thought was a simple stomach pain following Tulane’s third practice of camp flared up by the time he woke up the next morning, he said.
“I’m still a little slippery on my feet right now,” Nixon said. “(My) lower abdomen, that’s where I run from. I’m getting back used to running and actually covering again.”
Having given up a long touchdown Thursday, it was evident he’s still catching back up to speed, literally. On a go route along the sideline, newcomer Teddy Veal blew past Nixon to catch an easy, back-shoulder catch from Tanner Lee and trot into the end zone.
Coach Curtis Johnson was not happy about the play following practice.
“He’d better play better, because that freshman ran right by him,” Johnson said. “It’s a competition every day. It’s like, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ I’m watching Richard Allen and Parry Nickerson, they’re playing awfully well. So if you’re not healthy, you’d better pick it up because the bus is going to go.”
Nixon, though, attributed the gaffe to a bad read rather than residual pain from the injury. In a short-yardage situation during the throwing drill, he erroneously predicted a quick route, he said.
“It was my mistake. As far as the injury goes, I feel pretty good and ready to play.”
Nixon said he’s aware that he lost some ground in his time off. He watched as Allen, a sophomore, tallied more tackles (8) than any other defender in Saturday’s scrimmage, along with a sack and a forced fumble.
“I know when I was gone some of the young guys stepped up, and that’s what they’re supposed to do,” Nixon said. “Everybody’s here on scholarship, everybody’s here to actually play. As far as playing corner, I’m going to take it day by day and do whatever I have to do to stay on the field.”
Upping the ALS ante
The “Ice Bucket Challenge” — a social media campaign meant to bring awareness to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS — was put upon Johnson by three different people this week, and he saw their wager and raised Thursday.
Senior safety Sam Scofield, local broadcaster Fletcher Mackle and Cincinnati Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes all named Johnson in their video of ice water being dumped on their heads before challenging friends to do the same or donate $100 to foundations like Steve Gleason’s No White Flags.
Johnson told the media he would not only take the plunge, but also pay up, and that he would do both three times. That’s exactly what he did.
Shortly after practice ended, Tulane tweeted a video of Johnson handing over the $300 in a Ziploc bag before challenging 12 different people, including Saints receiver Marques Colston, Tulane President Scott Cowen and President Barack Obama.
He gamely took the three ice buckets, each eliciting a cheer, before receiving a kiss from his wife, a raucous “CJ” chant from his team and a double slap on the behind by an assistant as he shivered.
Eric Thomas, who has been rotating at both linebacker and defensive end, was not wearing shoulder pads Thursday and watched from the sideline. Johnson said Thomas “was just out (Thursday),” and that he hadn’t even heard a report on him yet.
Johnson said he would not demand much from Nickerson on Friday as a precautionary measure, indicating a small setback for the redshirt freshman
Senior running back Dante Butler, staying home with pink eye for the past several days, had not yet returned.
Three observations from Thursday’s practice.
1. Tulane receiver Teddy Veal flashed a quick-twitch during Thursday’s practice, cutting back to nab Tanner Lee’s pass after it was deflected by cornerback Richard Allen. The tip gave Veal enough time to come back underneath the ball, completing a 40-yard touchdown.
2. Brandon LeBeau made strides in his competition to be Tulane’s third safety, alongside Darion Monroe and Sam Scofield, by jumping in front of Devin Powell’s pass and running untouched toward the end zone. Curtis Johnson was complimentary of LeBeau’s camp thus far.
3. Cornerback Lorenzo Doss added to his arsenal, taking advantage of his place on the field goal defense team. A poor snap by Matt Marfisi allowed Doss to run in from the edge, and cleanly swat Steven Broccoli’s 30-yard field goal.