Defensive end Royce LaFrance has been suspended for the first half of Tulane’s season opener against Tulsa next Thursday for what coach Curtis Johnson said Friday was a violation of team policy.
LaFrance, a junior who made Phil Steele’s preseason first-team All-American Athletic Conference list, had 27 tackles and 6 ½ sacks last year, the most for a returning Green Wave player. He endured a rough camp, though, with Johnson refusing to name him as a starter and saying he needed to work harder and pay less attention to his press clippings.
Johnson did not reveal the specific reason for the suspension, but sources said LaFrance was involved in a fight before the start of preseason drills.
It is unclear who will start instead of LaFrance. True freshman Daren Williams of East St. John High School has been splitting time with him at left defensive end, but Williams struggled with the heat during Thursday’s practice at Tad Gormley Stadium.
Another possibility is going with six starting defensive backs and a three-man front of Tyler Gilbert and Corey Redwine at end with Tanzel Smart in the middle. Tulane used the same 3-2-6 look to start its last two games of 2013. In addition to certain starters Lorenzo Doss and Taurean Nixon at cornerback and Darion Monroe and Sam Scofield at safety, cornerbacks Parry Nickerson and Richard Allen have earned consistent praise in camp along with safeties Brandon LeBeau and Leonard Davis.
“That secondary has the most numbers of any I’ve been around,” Johnson said. “They are ready to roll in a game. They are playing well. I could see us doing some of that (starting six DBs). We just have to make sure our run fits are right.”