Devon Breaux summed up all the reasons he’s one of the more intriguing players on Tulane’s offense this upcoming season during one play at Friday’s morning practice at Tad Gormley Stadium.
The redshirt sophomore receiver took off down the sideline, fooled cornerback Donnie Lewis with a double move and found himself wide open running toward the end zone. Quarterback Tanner Lee noticed how open Breaux was a second late and lobbed a pass toward the end zone — but his delayed recognition gave Lewis the opportunity to catch up with Breaux.
It didn’t matter.
Breaux leaped up toward the sky and snatched the ball out of the air for a 39-yard touchdown. This display of speed, strength and athleticism shows what makes Breaux so special in relation to his fellow Green Wave receivers.
While some of his teammates may have individual traits that rival — or even exceed — those that Breaux possess, none have quite the complete package Breaux has at the position.
“He’s playing well,” Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said. “He can jump out of the gym, so we had him doing some stuff in the red zone last week. We’re starting to expand his role because he’s starting to show he can do some good things.”
Breaux said his physical and mental growth will be the key to becoming the threat his physical attributes suggest he can be in the Tulane passing game.
“I think I’ve gotten stronger physically and I’m doing a better job of listening to my coaches and limiting mistakes,” he said. “I think getting physically stronger and mentally stronger is the key to taking that next step in my game.”
Along those same lines, Johnson said he is well aware of the spectacular catches Breaux is capable of making. He would just like to see the young receiver do some of the nonspectacular things at a more frequent pace.
“His consistency isn’t where it needs to be,” Johnson said. “When it comes to young players, that’s just how they are.”
Tulane spent a portion of Friday’s morning practice installing some of its kick return coverages. Among some of the players that got opportunities to field kicks were safety Richard Carthon, running back Dontrell Hilliard, and receivers Breaux and Devin Boutte.
Johnson said Friday’s practice was more about installing their schemes and that a starting return man will become more obvious as they continue to work on the kicking game.
Boutte averaged 19.7 yards per return on 13 opportunities last season. Breaux boasted a 29.2 yards per return average, but only had four returns.
Senior running back Dante Butler returned to practice Friday after missing the previous few days with a case of pink eye.
Butler had 21 carries for 139 yards last season and is among a large group of running backs in competition for snaps and opportunities in the Tulane offensive backfield.
“I like what he does,” Johnson said of the former Brother Martin standout. “He’s a runner, he’s a blocker and he’s done a good job protecting our returners (on kickoffs).”
Johnson has said that he will likely deploy each of the running backs in ways that suit their individual skills and it will be unlikely that any one of the running backs gets a significantly larger portion of the work than any of the others.
Two observations from Friday’s practice.
1 Third-string quarterback and 2013 starter Nick Montana closed practice by leading a methodical touchdown drive in 11-on-11 work. He finished it off with a 3-yard scoring toss to freshman tight end Charles Jones, a camp standout, on fourth-and-goal.
2 Redshirt freshman Ade Aruna, whom the coaches expected to play last year before eligibility issues kept him out of preseason practice, continued to get work with the second defense and is in the rotation at defensive end. Said defensive line coach Kwahn Drake: “He’s a great asset. He’s going to play for us this year.”