Tulane’s football practice may have been closed to the media Tuesday, but the aftermath of the morning session at Tad Gormley Stadium provided more clarity as to what the Green Wave will look like in its season opener Aug. 28 at Tulsa.
Tulane coach Curtis Johnson has left several position battles open throughout fall camp, with the hope the daily competition would provide answers as to who he will be able to trust on a game to game basis.
With the first game of the season approaching, the third-year coach has finally begun to give a clear picture as to which players will be playing in some of the open starting positions that still haven’t been filled.
Coming into camp, Johnson made it clear that almost every position on Tulane’s special teams units were up for grabs and there has been a close competition throughout camp at several of the more important spots on the different units.
Johnson announced Tuesday that incumbent punt returner, wide receiver Devin Boutte, will again be the man returning punts for Tulane after returning 23 punts last season for 94 yards. Johnson said that Boutte’s trustworthy hands in the punt-return game are key. Safety Darion Monroe will also be a returner for the Green Wave, but they want to protect him with the understanding that he may be fatigued leaving the field after some third-down scenarios, Johnson said.
Incoming freshman receivers Leondre James and Teddy Veal were also mentioned as possibilities in the return game.
Johnson said that the competition to replace last year’s Lou Groza award-winning kicker Cairo Santos still hasn’t provided many answers in the kicking game. Steven Broccoli and Andrew DiRocco have been battling throughout camp, but neither has done a good job of taking the starting spot from their competitor.
“Kicker is still to be determined,” Johnson said. “We’re just looking for consistency.”
He even joked, “The (battle’s) raging, but the fire’s not that hot.”
Johnson also announced that the starting deep snapper will be sophomore Michael Lizanich.
Another position battle that has been wide open throughout the course of camp has been the battle for starting middle linebacker. According to coaches, it has been an even race between Rae Juan Marbley, Edward Williams and Eric Thomas and that the starter of that group still hasn’t been determined. Despite this, the Green Wave fully expect all three to get plenty of playing time.
“I always tell those guys that they might be first (on the depth chart) one day and third the next,” Tulane co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jon Sumrall said. “Everything’s written in sand with that group. They all bring different things to the table and different skill sets that help us in different situations.”
Sumrall said that Matt Bailey and Nico Marley were two players who will undoubtedly get plenty of time at the outside linebacker positon and that he especially like the versatility that Bailey brings to the position.
“I’m excited to hopefully see Matt Bailey have a good senior year,” Sumrall said. “He’s really bought into what we’re doing and I feel like he’s headed in the right direction.”
Bailey has found himself in the proverbial “dog house” with the coaching staff several times over the past years, but Sumrall said he believes an attitude change can make a big difference for Bailey this season.
“It’s just been his attitude and his approach to the game everyday,” Sumrall said. “My thing I tell him is that you’ve got to worry about what you can control. You can only affect what you can control. To me, it’s worry about your effort, worry about your attitude and worry about your production on the field and everything else will take care of itself.”
Curtis Johnson show
Tulane also announced on Tuesday that Johnson’s weekly radio show from 7-8 p.m. will be hosted by New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Co. — located at 4141 St. Charles Ave.
The show will be aired on the flagship station for Tulane Football, WMTI-FM, 106.1 “The Ticket”. The show will kick off with their first episode on Aug. 25 because the season opener falls on Thursday, Aug. 28.
From that point on, the show will switch back to Wednesday’s on Sept. 3 leading up to the team’s first home game at the newly built Yulman Stadium.