Tulane coach Curtis Johnson was noncommittal about his starting quarterback after Wednesday’s practice, but redshirt freshman Tanner Lee’s lack of participation in any team drill spoke volumes.
With only one day of preparation left for Saturday night’s game against Connecticut at Yulman Stadium, Lee has been strictly an observer this week, while Nick Montana has spent the majority of the time with the first-team offense, ahead of Devin Powell.
Lee hurt his right (throwing) shoulder in the first half of Tulane’s 31-6 loss at Rutgers on Sept. 27. Powell replaced him but was only 6 of 15 for 53 yards before giving way to Montana on the Green Wave’s final series.
“Tanner threw it a little bit better than yesterday, but he still hasn’t taken any reps,” Johnson said. “I like what Nick was doing today. Devin did some pretty good stuff, too. I like these guys. They’ve played before. I feel comfortable with them.”
Montana started 11 games last year and Powell started the other two while playing eight times before Lee beat out both of them for the starting job this preseason.
Asked if he planned to use Montana and Powell against Connecticut if Lee were unavailable, Johnson said no.
“I just want to see how it plays out for the rest of the week,” he said. “Whoever’s the best one, we’re going to play with him and then after that we’ll see what the struggles are or whatever. But the best one is going to play, the one we feel gives us the best chance to win the game.”
Good day for DiRocco
Whether or not it was a direct result of former Tulane kicker Cairo Santos’ presence, struggling freshman Andrew DiRocco kicked well in practice Wednesday.
Competing to retain his job against walk-on Steven Broccoli, DiRocco made 35- and 40-yard field goals with room to spare during a drill. Special teams coach Jason Rollins shouted encouragement that the latter kick would have been good from 50 yards.
DiRocco, who is 1-for-5 on field goals with all of his misses coming from 36 yards or closer, credited Santos’ volunteer coaching on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s a rough time, but he (Santos) is really just helping keep me positive,” he said. “It’s just letting you know that I am here for a reason.”
Also important: a trip to his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, during Tulane’s open weekend.
“I talked to some old coaches, really got back in touch with being myself the same way I did in high school,” he said. “It really just helped.”
Broccoli, a walk-on junior who has not kicked in a game, missed his attempts from 35 and 40 yards — one because of a bad snap — but Johnson said the competition would continue.
“I just need to take a deep breath and figure it out,” he said. “I foresee both of those guys kicking.”
Messy locker room
After Wednesday’s practice, the entire team had to do punishment exercises that included crab walking.
Was Johnson upset at their effort? Angry at their performance in games?
Nope. He wanted them to keep a cleaner locker room.
“The locker room was terrible,” he said. “It was bad. This is called discipline. We had ESPN in here yesterday (for an All-Access feature that will air next Tuesday) and had to go down there and look in it, and it was like the worst.”
Johnson added the players cleaned up the locker room before ESPN’s cameras arrive, so the mess won’t show up on television.
Johnson confirmed freshman linebacker Zachery Harris, a Holy Cross graduate who made a season-high four tackles against Rutgers, had season-ending surgery last week after tearing a knee ligament in the fourth quarter. ... Reserve cornerback Richard Allen, who has played in all five games, hurt a shoulder in practice but Johnson said the trainers told him he would be fine.