The bad news for Tulane: quarterback Tanner Lee did not practice Tuesday morning as the Green Wave continued preparing for Saturday night’s game against Southeastern Louisiana.
The good news? Coach Curtis Johnson said Lee did not have a concussion and expected him to return Wednesday, giving him enough time to get ready for the Lions.
Lee was pulled from Tulane’s 38-21 loss to Georgia Tech in the second half Saturday for what Johnson alternately described as a “heat-related” issue and getting “dinged.”
“If he practices (Wednesday), he’s definitely going to play,” Johnson said. “I think he will. The kid thinks he can practice right now. He said, ‘Coach, we should move the practice to the evening (Tuesday) so I can practice today.’”
Lee, a redshirt freshman from Jesuit, had a strong debut against Tulsa in Tulane’s season opener, throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-31 double-overtime loss.
He had two more scoring tosses against Georgia Tech, including a 61-yarder to Xavier Rush that gave Tulane a 21-14 lead with 9:38 left in the second quarter. But Lee also threw three interceptions the Yellow Jackets converted into 21 points.
After leaving the game, he went to the locker room for an examination before returning to the field. Devin Powell, a redshirt sophomore, played the rest of the way and did not produce any points, going 4-of-11 for 58 yards and scrambling once for 7 yards.
“Tanner’s the quarterback,” Johnson said. “He threw three interceptions, but he made some fantastic plays. He threw a couple in there that were just sensational. We just have to get him to be a little more consistent. He’s a freshman, it was a second start, but he does all the right things. It’s his team. He’s going to do fine.”
Johnson emphasized Tuesday that Lee’s exit had nothing to do with his performance and everything to do with his health. The Yellow Jackets hit him seven times — Johnson blamed three of them on the offensive line and four on Lee — and Tulane submitted two of those shots to the league office for review.
“The (conference official) said both of them should have been called unnecessary roughness,” Johnson said. “But we didn’t get the calls.”
With Lee unavailable Tuesday, Powell practiced with the first team. If Powell has to play Saturday, the playbook will not change.
“We are pretty much doing the same stuff,” Johnson said. “Devin’s doing a good job. He had a good practice. He understands what we’re doing.”
Powell went 2-0 as a starter last year as Tulane beat East Carolina 36-33 in double overtime and Tulsa 14-7 in back-to-back games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He did not fare as well in six games off the bench, completing 54.5 percent of his passes for the season with five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Lee won the starting job in the first two weeks of preseason drills, with Powell beating out Nick Montana for the top backup job.
Thrown in against Georgia Tech at the start of the fourth quarter, Powell moved Tulane from its 14 to the Yellow Jackets’ 37 before his first drive stalled.
The next time the Wave had the ball, he guided the team to the Georgia Tech 26 before turning it over on downs.
“I think I did pretty good,” he said. “The coaches said I did pretty well. They were OK with my play.”
Still, Lee clearly is the No. 1 option. Through two games, he already has matched Powell’s career number of touchdown passes (five) and earned the trust of teammates.
“Tanner Lee is the man,” cornerback Lorenzo Doss said. “He’s our leader. He’s always cool under pressure, and he can make great throws. When I walked out there today, Tanner was upset that he couldn’t practice. He’s competitive.”
Johnson’s biggest concern with Lee is impatience. After his early success against Georgia Tech, he began forcing the ball into coverage instead of throwing underneath.
What encouraged Johnson, though, was Lee’s understanding of exactly what he did wrong on his three interceptions by the time he reached the sideline.
Unable to practice Sunday or Tuesday, Lee still made good use of his time.
“He’s always ready to improve,” tight end Matt Marfisi said. “Tanner’s a perfectionist, so he’s already been up here watching film and getting ready, talking to guys and figuring out not to let it (the interceptions) happen again. He’ll take care of it.”