Tulane getting many returns for the 2015 football season _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Tulane Green Wave head coach Curtis Johnson talks to Tulane Green Wave quarterback Tanner Lee (12) at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans, La. Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014.

There weren’t many surprises when Tulane released its first football depth chart of the spring.

After starting a bevy of true freshmen during the Green Wave’s 3-9 season in 2014, coach Curtis Johnson had plenty of known commodities retuning in the starting lineup. In all, 23 players return for the 2015 season with at least one start to their name, most notably redshirt sophomore quarterback Tanner Lee.

Johnson named Lee the outright No. 1 signal-caller before the spring practice period began in February and said nothing occurred for Lee to lose the spot after 15 workouts concluded, repeatedly praising the former Jesuit product’s progress.

“This has been the best spring since I’ve been here by far,” Johnson said. “I watch them run around, and their athleticism is so much better. They are learning how to practice. They are doing what we ask them to do. This is by far the best spring.

“You look at last year at this time, and Tanner was throwing pick after pick. We had a lot of turnovers and a lot of penalties. Now we’re not doing those things.”

One notable absence from the chart was rising junior linebacker Edward Williams, who started eight games in 2014, racking up 38 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss and participated throughout the spring drills. He’s not listed on the two-deep at either linebacker spot, as Tulane coaches opted for Eric Thomas and Zachery Harris at middle linebacker while Nico Marley and William Townsend appeared at weakside linebacker.

A Tulane spokesman said Williams is still in good standing with the university and has not been suspended from the team.

There are a few other areas that feature fresh names at the top of the depth chart as well, particularly in the secondary.

The most notable change is at cornerback, where 2014 preseason All-American Lorenzo Doss’ early departure for the NFL Draft prompted Richard Allen to move up into his spot. Allen will now line up across the field from All-Freshman team standout Parry Nickerson and be backed up by Donnie Lewis, Jr. who redshirted as a true freshman.

They’ll be playing in front of junior Leonard Davis, who fills in at strong safety for graduated senior and leading tackler Sam Scofield. Davis played in all 12 games last year, but now takes on a role across from senior Darion Monroe where he’ll be relied upon to help call the defense and rack up tackles.

“It’s something I’m ready for,” Davis said midway through spring practices. “I’ve been around here a while, and I know what we’re doing, I just have to go out there and prove myself.”

Offensively, nearly all of the Green Wave’s starting lineup from the final month of the season remained intact.

The starting receivers (Niguel Veal and Terren Encalade), running backs (Lazedrick Thompson and Sherman Badie) and tight end (Charles Jones, II) are back alongside Lee. Four of Tulane’s five offensive linemen return as well with only junior right tackle Kenneth Santa-Marina causing a slight shakeup.

Johnson still hasn’t chosen a kicker between Andrew DiRocco and Trevor Simms. He’ll have another option to peruse in the summer when freshman Zach Block arrives as well.

“We have a lot to look forward to,” Johnson said. “It was a great spring, and we wanted to get better, and I think we did. We just need to keep making progress and keep getting better.”