Aug. 16, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - If an outsider wondered into the Tulane University football team's morning session on Thursday at the Westfeldt Practice Facility, they would only have to witness the opening and closing moments of the day to figure out what first-year head coach Curtis Johnson's goals for the day were - intensity and attention to detail.
From the get go, Johnson had his team going full boar and he actually had to stop his team following the opening snap to reiterate that they were supposed to be going all out. Then, at the end of practice when the offense was running wind sprints after losing a head-to-head competition with their defensive counterparts, Johnson had the unit re-run three different times because things did not go exactly as he had intended.
"Today was a very important day because it was our short-yardage and goal-line day," Johnson said. "We wanted to get down in the trenches. We didn't do too much running with the receivers. We're going to have a little two-minute day tomorrow. I just wanted to see the tough guys and find out that when it's a little bit hot, who's really doing it right and who's doing what they're supposed to do. It was pretty good today.
"It was hot out here today. Everybody is hot, but that's what you want in this type of period - the short-yardage and goal-line. You just want to see who's tough. Part of the game is the heat. It's hot everywhere."
The tone for the day was set early on as Johnson had his team run short-yardage situationals. On the first play, junior running back Orleans Darkwa - who led the team in rushing the last two years and has accumulated 1,849 yards on the ground for his career to date - tiptoed through the hole.
Following a brief reminder that football is a physical game, Darkwa lined back up in the backfield with newfound focus, took the ball from senior quarterback Ryan Griffin and slammed headlong into the teeth of the defense to convert for a first down.
In team drills, the Green Wave went through their usual gamut of situationals with both sides posting highlight-reel performances as Griffin connected with junior wideout Wilson Van Hooser for a 35-yard touchdown strike on a corner route and freshman cornerback Darion Monroe posted a pass break-up by tipping an attempted screen.
The highlights of the day, however, came in the later portion of the practice. In another short-yardage session, the offense was able to convert on six of eight snaps when facing third-and-one. From there, Johnson had the team line up at the one-yard line heading in.
The defense held on the first three plays as senior safety Devon Walker tackled sophomore fullback Taylor Bullock short of the endzone on a screen pass while linebackers Zach Davis and Trent Mackey logged tackles on consecutive running plays. Sophomore running back Robert Kelley sandwiched a touchdown grab and a scoring run around a Griffin bootleg to tie the competition at 3-all, but junior defensive tackle Julius Warmsley clinched the competition with a tackle for loss on the next play to close out the day.
"That's a sign of good competition," Johnson said of the back-and-forth performance. "The offense really took it to them at the beginning of the drill. Then, when we turned it over down at the goal line, the defense went up 3-0 and the offense came back and tied it up. Then on the final play, the defense made a great play. Warmsley made a great play."
The Green Wave return to action on Friday, Aug. 17, when they hold a single practice starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Westfeldt Facility. Tulane will hold an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday and will be off on Sunday before starting week three of preseason camp on Monday morning.
The Green Wave formally kick off the 2012 season on Saturday, Sept. 1, when Tulane plays host to Rutgers at 7 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Season and individual-game ticket sales are currently for sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
CHAT WITH COACH JOHNSON: First-year Tulane head football coach invites Green Wave fans to participate in a 30-minute question and answer session on Twitter tomorrow (Friday, Aug. 17) at 1 p.m. Fans can send their questions or comments to Coach Johnson via his Twitter handle: @TUCoachCJ.