Aug 27, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Following a morning practice outdoors at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium, second-year Tulane head football coach Curtis Johnson took the podium to address the local media during his first weekly press conference of the 2013 season on Tuesday afternoon at the James W. Wilson Center.
One of the big announcements Johnson made along the way was that junior transfer Nick Montana will open Thursday's contest against Jackson State under center. In addition, Johnson spoke on other position battles that took place during preseason camp, his expectations for Thursday's game and the attitude of his team for the upcoming season. A complete transcript of Tuesday's press conference is below.
Tulane will kick off the 2013 campaign against a JSU Tigers' squad which went 7-5 a year ago and won the Southwestern Athletic Conference's Eastern Division. Jackson State was picked to finish third in the SWAC on a vote of league coaches. For ticket information, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office at (504) 861-WAVE (9283). Season ticket packages start as low as $100 for adults and $70 for youth.
The Tulane Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center and is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For additional information, log onto the official website at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
TULANE HEAD COACH Curtis Johnson
"It's been a good camp for us thus far. I think the highlight of camp this camp so far, the highlight of my day and the highlight of this time period around us entering classes for the first day yesterday, and Devon Walker is taking his classes for the first time since the injury. This young man is very, very courageous. He's one of my idols. I spent two hours with him yesterday at a fundraiser and he just had the best spirit in the world. I just wanted to announce that. Any time we can uplift him and pray for him, he's always in my thoughts and prayers.
On how many freshmen he expects to see significant time against Jackson State
"We have a couple guys who are injured, but I'd say anywhere from 10-12. I know right now, I look on the defensive side, and I think Eric Thomas has been working with the ones. So has Nico Marley. He's been working with the ones. Sherman (Badie), the running back, is going to play for us. The two corners, Parry Nickerson and Richard Allen, I know they're going to play a substantial amount of snaps for us. Tanzel Smart is almost like a starter. He's going to play a lot. Just off hand, there are a lot of guys that I know are going to be in the game. They're going to be in the game early and they're going to be in the game often."
On what the overriding factors were for naming Montana the starting quarterback
"Nick came in and he had college experience prior to coming here. He knew a little bit about the offense when he got here. I think I liked his presence in the huddle and what he does. He just doesn't call the plays. He calls the plays and tells a guy, `Hey, be careful. Here comes the slant. I'm throwing the slant to you.' Just things like that. He gets guys lined up better than the other guys, and he does a better job of seeing the blitz and a better job with protection."
On if he expects to play the other quarterbacks in the opener as well
"The plan is to play the other quarterbacks. I'm not trying to give anything away, but I don't know how much and which one is going to play. I've got a feeling it's going to be Devin Powell. He's going to see some action for sure. Then we'll do a little bit with Jordy, also."
On his original plan to wait to name a full-time starter until a few games into the season
"I just felt that we had some benchmarks where we looked at the overall (body of work). Once we got to this point in the season, we all felt that it was just best to name Nick because Nick gives us the best chance to win."
On if he plans on redshirting true freshman quarterback Tanner Lee
"Tanner Lee is a guy who I think is going to be a great football player for us. I don't want to use the word redshirt ever with him because I don't know if that's going to be possible. I love what he did in fall camp. He was phenomenal some days. He just needs to learn right now. I don't want to put Tanner in a situation where he will hurt himself. I just think until we feel a little more comfortable with him going in and seeing the blitz, seeing these adjustments, and seeing these sight adjustments. He still has to learn. I think he's going to be a phenomenal player."
On him listing so many players at certain positions on the depth chart
"There are certain packages - for instance, there's an 11 package that we do, there's 20 and 21 - and we have different backs going in with different packages. I just don't want to say one kid is going to start because on defense, we've got a 3-4 package that we may start the game. I don't want to tell you that you may not see (Chris) Davenport the first snap of the game. He may not be the starter because he may not be in that package. It's kind of what we did a little bit with the Saints. It'll be this guy or that guy depending on the package."
On the team's preparation for Jackson State
"We're in our last phase right now. From here on in, it's all mental. The first day, we wanted to get on with our base offense and base defense. Then we went on to our third-down offense and third-down defense. Our special teams worked throughout the week. We felt that we were a little ahead of schedule on special teams. All of a sudden, today we did a little bit of red zone, goal line and short yardage. So I think we're pretty much prepared. I thought the guys ran around. I think they're legs are back. They look like a football team to us."
On how difficult it was for him to be a part of a losing program last year after mostly being around winning programs
"I'm one of the hardest people in the world as far as being hard on themselves. I shoulder a lot of the blame for the losses. I have to. I'm the head coach. I just feel that it invigorates me. I'm up at 4 in the morning studying tape and doing things, calling people at weird hours in the night when I shouldn't be calling just to get information. We also did something after the season. We talked about getting winners into our program. As you look when we were recruiting every kid, most of the kids had winning experience. We've got four kids from John Curtis that have won. Then you look at University High, we went up to Baton Rouge and Zachary High School. We just wanted to target the winners because I think we need to inject some more winning into this program. I think it's tough to try and turn a program around. I think we have the young men that want to do it. I think we will do it. It'll be good for us to play a game."
On how much improved he feels his offensive line will be
"We must run the football. If you want to win anything - if you want to win in Pop Warner, like I said before - we've got to run the football. The mainstay is on the offensive line. I'm glad that we have Zach Morgan back. He's a guy that knows all the signals. He knows what to do. He knows all of the adjustments. He can help us out where we didn't have that experience. Another year in the program, the experience factor, is good. I think the backs are healthier. Orleans Darkwa, who was the leading rusher two years ago, he's back healthy. I think that's the No. 1 thing. We've got to run the football, we've got to stop the run and we can't give up big plays defensively."
On if he plans on using a lot of players throughout the first two games of the 2013 season
"The first goal of playing these games is to win the game. No matter what we want to do, we want to win the game. These competition battles in camp - if you guys were around at camp - were very, very heated and very close battles. Freshmen and seniors, sometimes you didn't know the difference between the two. I think some kids have earned the right to play and earned the right to get a chance to showcase their skills. We're going to play a lot of guys."
On if he plans to continue shuffling offensive linemen the way he did last year
"Yes. I would say this first game, we have a couple of guys who probably won't play. We have a couple of guys who are injured. There are a couple of guys who will be disciplined in this first game. But yes, I can easily see between eight or nine. I can see eight or nine guys playing in the defensive line. In the secondary, I see even more. I think we're good back there but we're not great. There needs to be some more improvement. (Lorenzo) Doss better look out because his job is in jeopardy. Every day, that's how we have to look at this thing. Your job is in jeopardy every day. So we just have to keep playing and we'll figure out the right mix. It may be week one. It may be week five. It may not be until week 10, but we'll figure out the mix."
On if he will be more demanding in his second year as head coach
"If I coach them any harder, I think they'll probably kill me or quit because I'm all over them. The difference between this year and last year is the expectation is so much higher. My expectation for them is so much higher. I expect to be in every game and I expect to win a bunch of them. That's my expectation and I think this team has the same expectation that I do. In coaching them harder, they understand that this is what it takes for us to win and that's what we're going to do. They've got to understand that if you're not going to get the job done, we're on with the next man."
On if there was one adverse situation from a year ago that helped make this team better
"I think it's Devon Walker. If you look at this young man and went through what he's gone through. Every time you see him, every time he's up here - he was up here last week at the rookie show - I just sat and watched him most of the time and he was all smiles. He was just all smiles. He's around the guys, he'll joke about me and joke about them. He's an inspiration to me and everyone else."
On the return of senior cornerback Jordan Sullen
"Sullen is a young man who has played and has experience. That was one of the things that we didn't have last year. He has experience. He's played in games. He's played in a bunch of games for us. He's a big, physical corner and he has a great attitude. You can't have enough kids like that who's big, physical with attitude. He's a good tackler. He's a good defender. You like having guys like that in the secondary. If we had him last year, we probably wouldn't know about some of these younger kids."
On what he likes about freshman linebacker Nico Marley
"Nico Marley excites me because he's active. That's one of the things our defense wasn't last year. I think these young linebackers are very, very active. Right now, if you ask me - and I know the answer to the test question - Nico Marley is my starter because he's active, he can bring it and he's a very, very smart young man. I love him. I love his attitude and his enthusiasm."
On what he has learned from the adverse situations faced by his team last season
"In life, you separate your adversities and you just have to kind of keep moving. What we have to do is when bad things happen - and bad things will, they'll happen in the first game, they'll happen in my life, they'll happen in your life - we've got to learn that we have to put those things aside and continue to keep things going and continue to get back to as normal as we can. I think we've all learned a valuable lesson from those experiences."
On the status of true freshman defensive end Ade Aruna
"So Yesterday I'm at practice, he walks up with the big bright smile and shows me his ID. I said, what is that? So he's in school. He's getting his classes. You need an acclimation period before you can play in a game. We probably won't see him until next week."
On which freshmen are definitely going to play on Thursday
"Nico Marley, right now, I think he's going to start. Eric Thomas, I like him. Richard Allen, he's playing. Parry Nickerson is playing. Chris Taylor is playing. Tanzel Smart is playing. If I forget somebody, I'm sorry but the good players are playing."
On so many freshman being penciled in for playing time
"As a staff, we need to continue to inject good football players into our program. I'm not who the starter is and who the back-up is. It's like the NBA. When you ask who the starter is, the starter is the guy who plays the most minutes. The good players are going to play, but I think the young men who are coming into this program are very active and they're good football players. They're what we need in this program so they're definitely going to play."
On the importance of getting off to a good start to the season
"It's a faceless opponent for us. The psychology of it all is we've lost so much for so long, and I'm a part of it - I'm a part of the losing - and it's time for us to take a step in a positive direction. We've been through a hard training camp. We had a hard spring ball. The off-season program was hard. It's time for us to get a reward and the only reward is to win the first one. Then the next week we'll win the second one and just keep going. It's one at a time. Everything that we've got is in Jackson State."
On Jackson State quarterback Clayton Moore
"One thing about this quarterback that they have is he's a dynamite player. He led them to the SWAC Championship Game and they should have won it. He embodies what they do. He's an option quarterback. He can pull it. He can run it. He extends plays. He's a very, very good player. If we can get a handle on him and contain him, it heightens our chances of winning this game. He's a little bit like a Donavan McNabb-type of guy who's an athletic guy who all of a sudden will tuck it away and run with it. He's a good football player."