At the end of Tuesday morning’s football practice, Tulane players and coaches exited Yulman Stadium on the opposite side of the field than normal.
Their destination was the 18-wheel equipment truck parked next to the practice field outside the stadium, where they stood for a series of group pictures while beaming athletic director Troy Dannen watched.
The Wave is saying goodbye to the days when it had to pack all of its equipment into the belly of a plane before road trips, then rent a U-Haul to transport it when the plane arrived.
"It's awesome, isn't it?" coach Willie Fritz said. "This is the deal a little bit with Division I football. It's kind of neat when we see all these other teams come in here with these big old 18-wheelers, and now we've got one.”
The truck’s cab had an Angry Wave logo on the side of it. The trailer is painted green with capital white letters spelling "Green Wave." In between the two words is a depiction of a player wearing a blue helmet with a picture of Yulman Stadium inside of his face mask.
Dannen said the process started last fall when he asked associate athletic director for business and operations Chris Maitre to “find an equipment semi like every other program has.” Maitre spent about six months on the project before finding the right deal in Tampa, Florida.
Tulane paid for the trailer. The tractor was provided.
“We worked on the design late last spring,” Dannen said. “It’s a brand-new semi and a brand-new trailer.”
Dannen said having the 18-wheeler would make getting in and out of airports quicker because they will not have to load and unload the equipment from a plane.
It might have meant an extra hour,” he said. “But when you’re playing a game at 7 and get to the airport at midnight, it’s an extra hour you’d like to keep.”
Mainly, though, it can serve as a nice recruiting tool to prove Tulane is willing to keep up with other major college football programs.
“That cab is going to be on the road all the time year-round, so people will see that, too,” Fritz said. “It's great advertising for Tulane University and the football program in particular. It's first-class. I’ve driven the equipment truck a lot (when he coached at Blinn College in the 1990s), but it didn’t look like that.”
After dropping two easy passes during Monday’s practice, wide receiver Brian Newman rebounded in a big way Tuesday.
First, he made a diving catch in the middle of the field to snag a Jonathan Banks pass just before it the ground. On the next snap, he dove along the sideline and kept his feet in bounds, providing back-to-back contenders for the best play in camp.
“With my rough day yesterday, I knew I was going to bounce back,” he said. “It was just one of those days everybody has, but in my head that's unacceptable. To come back right away out of the gate and make some big plays was big for me.”
Newman, a senior who was awarded a scholarship right before the start of preseason camp, does not want that moment to be the end of his story. He is competing for the third starting spot at receiver along with Jabril Clewis, Jacob Robertson and Jaetavian Toles.
Fritz has said Newman will play anywhere from five to 50 snaps per game depending on his production.
After his first terrific catch Tuesday, Fritz walked over and slapped hands with him.
“I think I’m definitely in the running for (a starting spot),” Newman said. “I have to control what I can control and be a consistent playmaker.”
Instead of having the offense and defense practice against different scout teams in preparation for the Aug. 30 opener against Wake Forest, Fritz is using starters against each other to prepare for the Demon Deacons.
First quarterback Jonathan Banks and company simulate the Wake Forest offense for the defense. Then the defense gives the offense the looks it might see against the Demon Deacons.
“We started doing that toward the end of last year because we got banged up and didn’t have enough guys to be scouts,” Fritz said. “Plus, our pool of who’s going to play right now is a lot larger, so we wanted everybody to get a few reps. There are a lot of things we can call in our defense that are similar to what Wake Forest does that our kids know already, and there are a lot of similarities offensively, too.”
Defensive end Cameron Sample returned to full practice Tuesday after missing some time with a minor knee issue. … Wide receiver Terren Encalade missed his second consecutive day (unspecified injury), but Fritz said he would be ready soon. … Quarterback Keon Howard, a Southern Miss transfer, took practice reps for the first time after observing for two weeks. He has to sit out the season under NCAA rules and will serve as a scout-team quarterback.