Pair of football players enroll early at Tulane _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- West Jefferson's Niguel Veal runs in a game against Destrehan on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.

Tulane didn’t need to wait until February to secure its first additions to the 2014 football roster.

On Monday, a Tulane spokesman confirmed that athlete Niguel Veal and offensive lineman Raul Diaz officially turned from commitments to enrollees, attending their first college classes as the school’s spring semester opened. Both are expected to participate in spring practice.

Not only do their early entrances provide more time on the practice field, they also free up two scholarships for the 2014 class since both Veal and Diaz can be counted in the 2013 group.

The Green Wave started the week with 24 known commitments, pressing closely to the maximum 25-person class allowed by the NCAA. The pair of early enrollees allows coach Curtis Johnson some breathing room as his staff tries to put on the finishing touches before National Signing Day arrives Feb. 5.

Diaz and Veal are three-star prospects in’s composite rankings, which take into account each of the national scouting services. They are both among Tulane’s five highest-rated commitments.

Veal, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound athlete out of West Jefferson High School, is the younger brother of Alabama wide receiver Raheem Falkins. He chose the Green Wave over early offers from Ole Miss, SMU, Southern Miss and Western Kentucky. He is considered the 28th-best prospect in the state by and can play several skill positions, but he was primarily a wide receiver as a senior.

Diaz, a product of Miami Central High School in Florida, is a less-known commodity in local recruiting circles. Still, when the 6-2, 277-pound center chose the Green Wave over offers from Kentucky, N.C. State, South Florida and Florida International, it was considered a significant score for Tulane, so having him enrolled ensures there won’t be any Signing Day drama.

Diaz is ranked the No. 17 center in the country by’s composite rankings, and he should have an opportunity to compete for the starting spot following the graduations of Zach Morgan and Mike Henry, who held the position for the past five seasons.

It’s no coincidence Tulane’s first two additions come from South Florida and South Louisiana; Johnson has focused recruiting almost exclusively on these areas. Out of 24 commitments, 15 are from South Louisiana and seven from Florida.

“We think those two areas are where we can really get the best guys for what we’re trying to do here,” Johnson said this past season. “We have history and ties in both of those places, and they happen to produce some of the best talent in the country. So I think that’s where we’re going to spend most of our time.”