Aug. 24, 2007
NEW ORLEANS, La. - Special teams was the name of the game for the Tulane University football team as the Green Wave completed day 14 of preseason practice Friday afternoon at the Westfeldt Practice Facility.
The Tulane team had its practice shortened a bit by lightening in the New Orleans area, but the Green Wave were able to go through their usual gamut of 24 periods designed to work on specific situations that will arise throughout the course of the 2007 regular season. One of the real points of emphasis on Friday, however, was the kicking game as new head coach Bob Toledo and his staff spent a longer-than-usual portion of practice focusing on kickoffs and kickoff returns.
"(In a game) every six plays is a kicking play," Toledo said. "The thing about it is not only do you give up points or get points, but you change field position with it. And field position is so crucial. It's a lot easier to score if you're on the other side of the field than if you're coming out of your own endzone, and vice versa. Our defense would rather have them coming out than be on the plus side of the 50."
The Green Wave used several return men during the special teams portion of practice, including true freshman defensive back Dominque Dade, redshirt-freshman wide receiver Casey Robottom and senior running back Ray Boudreaux. In addition, Toledo and his staff are trying to find the right 11 student-athletes to fill each special teams unit.
"We've been auditioning, as they say," Toledo said. "Tomorrow, when we go into the Dome, we'll have a lot of kicking situations and evaluate people for the last time. We're working to get the 11 best on all those special teams and have some backups behind them.
"We think it's important to get the best possible athletes on special teams. If you're not athletic, when you get put out in space your athleticism shows up. And that's why people with good athletes have good kicking teams and people who play backups and third stringers and such have a bad time with their special teams. It's important to get good players out there."
One of the bigger battles during camp has been at kicker and punter where sophomore Ross Thevenot currently has the upper hand at both positions over true freshman Darren deRochemont. Last season, Thevenot played in all 12 games and handled all of the Green Wave's kickoff, PAT and field goal duties. He converted 9-of-15 field goals and 23-of-28 PAT tries, and finished second on the team with 50 points.
He turned heads in the spring with his strong leg both kicking and punting the football, but deRochemont has been hot on his heels in the fall. During his career at Armwood (Fla.) High, deRochemont averaged 42.1 yards on 116 punts with 31 downed inside the opponents' 20 yard line. Over his final two prep seasons, deRochemont converted 15-of-21 field goals - including four of 40-plus yards - and connected on 111-of-120 PATs.
"I was hoping that Darren deRochemont, the freshman, would be a little more consistent," Toledo said. "That's been the thing that's holding him back right now. Thevenot has been much more consistent than he was in the spring. He initially didn't want to do the punting, but he's actually probably the best punter out there right now."
While Thevenot is currently sitting atop the depth chart at both punter and placekicker, deRochemont has shown flashes of his ability with several long punts and kickoffs.
"That's the thing," Toledo said of the rookie. "That's the reason why we recruited him. When he hits it, it's a boomer. He hits it long and he hits it high. I think he's going to be an excellent kicker once he gets his mechanics down. He has some flaws in his technique, and Greg Davis is trying to coach him to do things a little better with his drop and his plant foot and those kind of things. There's no question that he's got physical ability. He just has to become more consistent."
Tulane returns to practice on Saturday, Aug. 25, with its four two-a-day of the preseason and third double session of the week. The squad will hit the field at the Westfeldt Facility for an 18-peiod practice at 9:30 a.m., and at 4:30 p.m., will depart for the Louisiana Superdome for a closed scrimmage.
The Green Wave open the 2007 season on Saturday, Sept. 8, when Tulane takes on Mississippi State at 6 p.m. in the Louisiana Superdome. Season tickets remain on sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. For ticket information, visit the ticket office on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center, by phone at 504-861-WAVE or on-line at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.