It was free snowball time for the Tulane football team on Wednesday morning, with every player getting his choice of flavors from a local company as he left Yulman Stadium.
They needed to cool down after the hottest workout of the preseason, one that had coach Willie Fritz producing some heat himself.
“We have to do a good job of transitioning from the cozy confines of the Saints facility to coming out here,” he said a day after the Wave worked out indoors in Metairie. “We want being able to play in heat and humidity to be an advantage for us. The worst thing that can happen is you worry about just surviving the game and not executing and playing every play. We’ve got to be in good enough shape to do that.
“It’s mostly about mental toughness more than anything else. We’ve got a bunch of tough guys, mentally and physically. We need more.”
The Wave won’t have to worry about the conditions Thursday and Friday, taking advantage of the Saints’ preseason opener at Cleveland to practice indoors. That will make it six workouts out of the past eight at the Saints facility rather than on campus.
The trick is finding the right balance between those pristine conditions and the sweltering conditions Tulane will face in in early-season games.
“Some of the guys had a great practice today and other guys, uh (not so much),” Fritz said. “Every great team I’ve been a part of, they really get after it every single day. We have to start getting toward that a little bit more.”
The offensive linemen, in particular, struggled one day after Fritz noted their improvement. The quarterbacks had little time to throw for most of the 11-on-11 drill at the end of practice.
“I’m going to tell the quarterbacks the best way to help our offensive linemen be better pass protectors is run the crap out of the ball,” Fritz said. “When you do that, the defense plays laterally instead of just jumping off the ball and coming every time.”
Starting quarterback Jonathan Banks professed little concern about the rough day. One of his strengths is his ability to keep plays alive under duress, and he found freshman wideout Travis Tucker for a nice gain in 11-on-11 work after moving around in the pocket.
“We’re getting into a rhythm,” Banks said. “We’ve been going good. It’s all about execution. I feel far more comfortable than I did in the spring.”
Depth has benefits
Fritz has mentioned Tulane’s improved depth repeatedly this season, and he cited that difference for the reason he conducted a full-tackling, one-on-one goal-line drill Wednesday. To protect against injury, the Wave refrained from live tackling last preseason.
Another benefit of increased competition will come on special teams.
“Having depth is great for practice and great for games,” Fritz said. “If we have someone who can take a few reps away from (starting strong safety) Rod Teamer, I can play him in the kicking game. If I don’t, it’s hard for me to do it. Last year, I would have loved to play Nico Marley on a bunch of the special teams, but he was playing every snap on defense and I just couldn’t afford to do it.”
Wide receiver Jacob Robertson turned in the play of the day, getting one foot inbounds after running under a Johnathan Brantley pass in the corner of the end zone. ... Terren Encalade, Tulane’s leading returning receiver, missed his second straight practice with a leg issue. He watched from the sideline and appeared to be walking around well. … Fritz said the Wave would do more scrimmage-like work Friday and Saturday, possibly even making true freshman Khalil McClain and Dane Ledford hittable as the coaches determine a third-string quarterback.