Five questions as Tulane opens spring football practice _lowres

Advocate file photo by A.J. SISCO -- Tulane cornerbacks Lorenzo Doss, left, and Parry Nickerson knock the ball away from Memphis receiver Adrian Henderson last season. Doss had 15 career interceptions when he declared for the NFL draft this spring. Nickerson had six picks last season and hopes to continue the tradition for the turnover-minded Green Wave.

1 Is there any way for Tanner Lee to lose his job as quarterback?

For the first time in Curtis Johnson’s Tulane tenure, he’s leaving no doubt that a starting quarterback is locked in, openly placing Lee at the top of the depth chart. While backups Devin Powell and Glenn Cuillette will jockey for the second spot, there’s little either can do to unseat Lee in the spring, according to Johnson. Tulane didn’t sign a quarterback this spring, with the understanding that its depth at the position is full this season.

2 How much of a difference will a special teams coordinator make?

Last season, Tulane coached special teams by committee, making it everyone’s second priority. That method failed as the Green Wave piled up costly mistakes in the kicking game and struggled badly to gain yards in the return game. This spring, linebackers coach Doug Lichtenberger will take over all special teams duties as the official coordinator and has a chance to revitalize the unit the way former coordinator Barry Lamb did in 2012 and 2013.

3 Who will emerge as Lee’s top receiving target?

Injuries to seniors Xavier Rush and Justyn Shackleford forced Tulane to employ three true freshmen as its top receivers for the final month of the season but neither Teddy Veal, Terren Encalade nor Leondre James showed enough consistency to earn the title of a true No. 1 option. Considering there are only four scholarship receivers on the roster this spring (including junior Devon Breaux), each will get ample opportunity to make their case.

4 How does Tulane replace Lorenzo Doss?

The Green Wave suffered its first early NFL draft entrance in over a decade when cornerback Lorenzo Doss chose to forego his senior season. While the preseason All-American didn’t live up to his initial billing, failing to even claim first-team all-conference honors, he leaves a gap in Tulane’s secondary across the field from sophomore standout Parry Nickerson. Sophomore Richard Allen is the expectant frontrunner, but redshirt freshmen Donnie Lewis and Stephon Lofton will have a chance to climb the depth chart as well before four freshmen corners arrive this summer.

5 Will the playbook open up?

Nearly all of Tulane’s offensive contributors return this season, with the exception of a youthful position battle at left tackle. Johnson said offensive coordinator Eric Price has been held back by inexperience, but the spring serves as a perfect chance to expand the playbook and make Tulane’s offense more dynamic as it prepares for a crucial 2015 season. Most of the pressure will be placed on Lee’s arm and mental progress, since he needs to prove that he’s capable of protecting the ball and avoiding turnovers while still gaining big chunks of yards.

Scott Kushner