Despite low expectations outside of the program for Tulane in its first season in the American Athletic Conference, the players are not buying into the negativity. Almost across the board, they say the Green Wave will be better than a year ago, when it snapped a 10-year streak of losing records by going 7-6.
The confidence is most noticeable on defense despite the loss of six of the top nine tacklers from 2013. Players who have not started before are predicting huge seasons, and coach Curtis Johnson is fine with the bravado.
“It’s everywhere you go with defensive players,” he said. “They walk with a swagger. I would rather have a team with the swagger than a team without it. Now overconfident or not, I won’t know until after this first game how confident we should be.”
Johnson said Tulane has more overall talent than a year ago, so he can live with untested defensive tackle Corey Redwine setting a goal of 10 sacks.
“I like the talent level, I like what they are doing, I like the athleticism,” Johnson said. “I like how they run around. So if they say a couple things here and there, It doesn’t bother me. Just don’t say it to the referees or the opponent.”
Wide receiver Marc Edwards had an appendectomy this week and will miss at least the first two games.
“It happened the night before last,” Johnson said. “He was complaining about his side and then all this on the trainer called and said go to the hospital and he got his appendix removed.”
Edwards, a junior from St. Aug, was in the playing rotation but pretty far down the list, with freshmen Teddy Veal, Terren Encalade and Leondre James ahead of him, along with seniors Justyn Shackleford and Xavier Rush and sophomore Devon Breaux. After starting three times and catching 23 passes as a freshman, Edwards played in only six games last year with one reception.
Mum’s the word
Johnson would not announce his first-team placekicker in the competition between freshman Andrew DiRocco and sophomore walk-on Steven Broccoli even though he said he had an idea who would get the job. He sees no reason to make that determination publicly.
“I kind of know who it’s going to be but we got to make sure we do our due diligence,” Johnson said. “It’s moving in the right direction. We just want our guys to continue to compete.”
Neither DiRocco nor Broccoli has kicked in a college game. During open practices, both of them have struggled with accuracy and distance.
Johnson said either freshman Daren Williams or senior Andre Robinson will replace Royce LaFrance, who is suspended for the first half of Thursday’s game at Tulsa. … For the first time in three days, Johnson praised quarterback Tanner Lee’s performance in a two-minute drill, labeling it “excellent.” … Johnson said he still has not heard whether or not running back Rob Kelley will become eligible, adding it was time to move on. … Five quarterbacks will be on the travel roster for the Tulsa game, including true freshman Glen Cuielllette. Said Johnson: “Yeah, I’m taking them. With quarterbacks, I’m a softy.”
Three observations of note from Saturday’s practice:
1Tulane practiced at the Saints facility Saturday, and the workout was not open to reporters. After the Wave survived the brutal heat at Tad Gormley Stadium on Thursday morning, coach Curtis Johnson welcomes all indoor practices. “Any time we’re indoors, we’re pretty good,” he said.
2Quarterback Tanner Lee said Johnson’s decision to name him the starting quarterback early in camp had paid off in a big way, helping him become a leader and getting everyone focused on a common cause. The only area he has slacked off in has been with the razor. Sporting a good bit of stubble Saturday, he said he had been “too lazy” to shave.
3Senior safety Sam Scofield said the biggest surprise of preseason camp was how deep Tulane had become defensively. He named five cornerbacks and five safeties who were ready to play, adding all of the young linebackers and defensive linemen were talented. When he arrived in 2011, Scofield said the Wave went only one-deep at almost every position.