Freshman place-kicker Steven Logan considered Georgia Tech before walking on at Tulane. In an interesting twist, it turns out his choice may have given him the best chance to kick at the Yellow Jackets’ Bobby Dodd Stadium this year.
Tulane plays at Georgia Tech on Sept. 12, and Logan outperformed holdovers Steven DiRocco and Trevor Simms as well as scholarship freshman Zach Block in Saturday’s scrimmage as the Green Wave continued its search for someone reliable. Last season, DiRocco made only 8 of 15 field goals, missed twice from inside 30 yards, and botched two extra points.
“If you asked me today, probably short kicks would be Logan, and longer would Simms,” Johnson said after Monday’s closed practice at the Saints facility. “Logan was one of those guys we had on our radar, and we’ve definitely liked him in the preseason.”
Logan, from McLean, Virginia, connected on both of his 37-yard attempts from the right hash in a drill at the start of the scrimmage, then hit an extra point in the regular portion. The other three candidates all missed one of their two field goals from the same distance, and Simms missed an extra point, too.
Johnson, whose frustration with the kicking game a year ago forced him to go for two fourth downs inside the Duke 25 (both attempts failed), knows the Wave cannot afford a repeat. Logan might be the answer to his prayers.
“I was a little nervous, but I’ve been kicking in team practice for about two weeks now, so every day I’m getting more comfortable with the team and my line and holders,” Logan said. “During the scrimmage I felt pretty good.”
Logan sought out Tulane because of the academics and the opportunity, falling in love with the campus when he took an unofficial visit in January. He recruited the coaches rather than vice-versa after playing only two years in high school for Potomac, where he was perfect on 62 extra-point tries and made five of nine field goals.
After the first few days of Tulane’s preseason drills, he earned a promotion to the main kicking derby.
“We told him to be ready because you never know when your time is going to come,” special teams coach Doug Lichtenberger said. “He’s done a nice job since we threw him in there, and he’s kind of wiggled his way into the competition at this point. This week is going to be about really determining who we can trust and who is going to be the most reliable.”
Simms, who has by far the strongest leg of the four candidates, sprayed the ball left and right last week. DiRocco, whose long field goal was from 42 yards last year, has not been consistent enough to earn the coaches’ confidence.
Lichtenberger said he trusted Logan up to 40 yards, but he will need to keep kicking the way he did Saturday.
If he does, everyone associated with the team will breathe a huge sigh of relief. After two years with former Lou Groza Award winner Cairo Santos, the come-down was calamitous.
“I’ve just got to stay consistent, keep making my field goals, and not get too nervous about it,” Logan said. “I need to go out there and do what I do best: kick the ball straight.”
Kicker is the most intensely watched position battle of the preseason, but it’s not the only one. Johnson said the others were too close to call Monday, including the competition between sophomores Ade Aruna and Daren Williams for the end spot opposite Royce LaFrance.
Three players are competing to replace two-time leading tackler Sam Scofield at strong safety: sophomore Tristan Cooper, redshirt freshman Donnie Lewis Jr. and true freshman Malik Eugene.
Lewis had an interception in Saturday’s scrimmage, and Johnson said Eugene picked off a pass in a short scrimmage at the end of Monday’s workout.
“I like Malik because he’s fast, and Donnie just finds a way to get to the ball,” Johnson said. “Cooper knows it all and does a great job tackling, so we’re still going back and forth with that position.”
Johnson said redshirt freshman Kendall Ardoin was moving ahead of senior Sydie London for third on the depth chart at tight end. The Wave plans to use the tight ends heavily, and Ardoin converted a short pass into a 47-yard gain on the first play of Saturday’s scrimmage. … Freshman running back Nigel Anderson made a good impression in his first full-contact practice Monday. Johnson said: “Nigel’s a load. He ran over a couple of guys.”