Sep 3, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Following a morning practice at the New Orleans Saints Indoor Facility, second-year Tulane head football coach Curtis Johnson took the podium to address the local media during his weekly press conference on Tuesday afternoon at the James W. Wilson Center.
Johnson reviewed the 34-7 season-opening win over Jackson State, looked ahead to next week's home gain against South Alabama, and talked about his team's progress over the last few practices. One thing he focused on was the performance of the Green Wave ground game, which posted the most yards by a Tulane team since the 2011 season.
While Tulane's 24-point margin of victory was the largest for an opening-day win since 1953, Johnson was quick to point out that it was just one of what he envisions as several benchmarks throughout the 2013 campaign. South Alabama comes to town 0-1 after dropping a 22-21 decision to Southern Utah.
Kickoff for the Tulane/South Alabama contest is slated for Saturday, Sept. 7, at 2:30 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. For tickets to that game, as well as future Green Wave events, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson 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.
TULANE HEAD COACH Curtis Johnson
"Thanks for coming today. As you know, it was a good week for us after winning our opener last week. We are really excited. I love the uniforms. We've heard more good than bad about the uniforms. One thing I know, back in 1987 - back before most of you guys in here were born - we played UCLA and they had these powder-blue uniforms. I couldn't see the numbers for nothing. I just wanted to emulate them a little bit (laughing)."
Looking back on Walker's injury almost a year after it happened
"What strikes me the most when reflecting on it, there's something bigger than football. Football is such a large part of our lives here, but this young man's life changed. And then, how courageous he is in what he does daily. You can't fathom what he and his family goes through all the time. Sometimes it's heartbreaking, but sometimes I rejoice because he's so positive."
On Nick Montana's performance in the season opener
"We're going to improve as a team on deep balls. I thought we left a lot out on the field. I thought we should have connected on more. It wasn't all Nick's fault. The receivers, the blockers and a variety of different things we've got to improve on. But I really liked how he took command in the huddle. He got us into the right checks. Like I've said, he can ad lib. He can make some stuff happen that we probably wouldn't have had happen. He makes our offensive line look better already. I really like what Nick is bringing to the table. He picked up the blitz real well. He's doing some things and he'll get better and better each week."
On not being sure of South Alabama's quarterback situation heading into Saturday's game against the Jaguars
"For them, I know they've got the two guys who have been playing. I think we kind of have to split the plays up of what they like to run. The kid who wears jersey No. 2 (Ross Metheny), he's more of a drop-back. He's a thrower. He moves the team. But this No. 7 (Brandon Bridge) can spoil our day because he's a runner. He loves to run with the ball. When they're in the game, we just have to plan differently for each of those guys."
On the running game's production against Jackson State
"We were poor last year in the running game. I think we have to challenge the offensive line. We have to challenge those backs. We've got to run. Orleans (Darkwa), I liked what he did. He had yards after contact, and that's one of the most important things for a good running back to have. I think the line blocked for him pretty well. There were some cases where they missed some stuff. All in all, it was a good day rushing the ball but I'd like to get more. There's more out there on the table in the running game also."
On the amount of FCS teams beating FBS teams last week and if the gap is closing between the two divisions
"When you talk about how the gap closes, here is how it happens. All of a sudden, teams get on a roll. They get hot and they get more and more recruits. Recruiting is the thing that is beginning to change. Kids are committing earlier, so the team is out in front and ahead can really change a program around pretty rapidly. I think that's what those teams are doing. You look at Southern Utah (which defeated South Alabama last week), they've got some fine players out there and they're not just getting them at the end (of the recruiting process). They're getting some guys. If you don't stay up with the recruiting, you're going to fall a little bit behind."
On which offensive linemen stood out last week against Jackson State
"I liked what Zach Morgan did. We didn't have very many mentals on the offensive line because he got us the right plays and got us blocking the right guys at the right times. I thought he did an outstanding job. Arturo (Uzdavinis) played well. It was his first start and he was nervous. I thought he was going to stay in the tunnel, but he played well. It didn't look like he wanted to come out, but he really played well for a first-time starter and that defensive end was a pretty good player he played against. I thought those two guys probably were standout. Chris Taylor, again, played about half of the snaps. I thought he played with a lot of emotion. He made some mentals but he played hard."
On how newcomer Jeremy Peeples has looked in practice
"He can run. He's playing on Saturday. I hope that he can give us an outside speed rusher. I like this Tyler Gilbert, now. He came and he was close a lot and put pressure on. But with Peeples if we can get two outside speed rushers - especially in third down situations - that'll make our program that much better."
On the return of suspended players
"(Todd) Jacquet is back this week. I'm sitting (Sean) Donnelly out this week. I'm sitting Zach Davis out again this week, and Jordan Batiste for a half. It was team policies. They've got to learn. Jacuqet is back. He's ready ready. He's full force. He's starting."
On the injury situation
"Edward Williams did a little bit more. I'm excited to see him. I don't know if he'll go this week. (Kedrick) Banks is stealing money from me. He's just on the sideline, taking all of my money. Sherman (Badie) is making progress, but I don't know if he's going to be ready to go either."
On possibly being able to open 2-0 for the first time since 2002
"The game we play of that week, with our team and how we are, has to be the biggest game in the world to us. That's one of the things we've talked about. If you want to turn this into something special, you've got to win the next one. Then, next week, we've got to win the next one. Then we've got to win the next one. Here's the deal. We've got to go out there and this team (South Alabama) is going to be fired up. As Sean Payton would tell me all the time, the most desperate team usually wins. Well this team is going to be desperate. They're 0-1. What we've got to do is we have to match their intensity, come out and play our game and I think we'll be fine."
On the "targeting" incident involving sophomore cornerback Lorenzo Doss
"He's playing. I got a message from the head official that it was a perfectly legal hit. He shouldn't have been ejected. What we have to do is we have to get our replay people up to speed. They need to replay it right after, right after, right after a million times for us. And then when the other team has a violation, then don't replay it (laughing)."
On the health of sophomore defensive tackle Calvin Thomas
"He's coming along well. I don't know when he'll actually be back in the mix and the rotation. He's coming along probably slower than everybody else, but he's starting to make some progress."
On having a new deep snapper this season and the issues he saw in the opener
"You're always concerned about the kicking game. I thought Cairo (Santos) was fantastic last year and I don't want to throw Cairo off. It comes down to the one statement that I can say: we just have to practice, practice, practice. As a true freshman coming in, he's handling our snapping duties for us. I thought Peter Picerelli caught some acrobatic snaps. Last year, he let the one snap go. It was a worse snap last year than it was the other night. But I thought it's coming along. This young guy is getting better and better every day. We're going to stay with him and work with him. I'm not going to mention his name until he does something good."
On what he expects from South Alabama
"It's going to be their best game of the year. If they can play with 15, they will because they're going to be everywhere. They're going to be flying around and they're going fired up. We just need to withstand the initial assault and just continue to play our game. I like our chances against them."
On if the targeting rule has changed the way he coaches defense
"The NFL is seeing it right now, and we'll see it again also. You've got to almost tell them to tackle low and you've got to tackle with your head up. If you don't hit with the crown of your helmet and you tackle low, cut the legs out - the one kid got hurt earlier in the preseason - and that's what the game is coming to. You've just got tackle low."
On if he is happy with the team's depth at wide receiver
"I thought the receivers had a good camp all camp long. (Justyn) Shackleford, (Xavier) Rush and (Ryan) Grant played well last year. They've gotten a lot better. I thing (Devon) Breaux came along well. That was one of the best catches I've seen. I didn't see Lance Moore and those guys jump over a guy like he did the other night. With (Kedrick) Banks coming along, and (Devin) Boutte has stepped up his game, we've got some receivers who are playing well for us."
On Montana throwing only 14 times in the season opener and if that was his target number of pass attempts
"I think the first thing I talk to this team about every day is we've got to run the ball. If we can run it a little bit more effectively, he'll be great in the play-action pass. He's really good at movement plays like the sprint outs and stuff like that. Then, when we have to, we'll work some drop-back stuff. But I like a 50-50 balance. I'm glad that we ran the ball, and we ran it better. Now, we've got to run it even better this week."
On if he feels wide receivers are excited to play for him with his background as a receivers coach
"Here's the thing that happened with the receivers. I think they probably took the other way because Grant was in my doghouse for a large part of last year. Shackleford couldn't do anything right. I wanted to run Rush out of here. It was just that with me being so hard on them, I think they've gotten better and they're beginning to understand. The reason that I was so hard on them is that I want them to be great. Now, they're beginning to get better and better and better, and Keith Williams has done a great job with them."
On if he is concerned about the yardage total allowed to Jackson State
"I'm not really concerned with them out-gaining us as much as getting off the field on third down. I think their third-down percentage was 50 percent and I thought that was a no no for us. That's something we're going to address. We didn't do much stuff on third down to them last week. We're going to probably mix it up a little bit this week and you'll see a couple of different looks. We'll be a little bit different."
On if he thought Montana was jittery and did not see the field as well as he could have
"No, it wasn't quite as much. The thing that left a bitter taste in my mouth - and you're going to miss some guys - but I just think the deep-ball throws to the wide receivers was a thing I came away from thinking `Gosh, we've got to address this.' When we got on the (practice) field, the first thing we're running is deep balls. I'm yelling at them, `Deep ball. Deep ball. Deep ball.' I'm yelling. The receivers are going to be tired this week, but we've got to complete those."
On the progress of the Yulman Stadium's construction
"It funny you said that. We'll have recruits in, and most people will say `We're getting a new stadium.' The first thing I do is I walk them on the balcony and say, `Hey look, this is what we're doing.' It's coming up and it's coming up quick. They're working like us. They're here and we're here. I hear the beating all the time, but it's exciting. It's very exciting for us."
On how he is handling practice with a longer week to prepare for South Alabama and a short week for Louisiana Tech
"What we've done is we've game-planned stuff that will be effective for both teams. Our game plan this week is a little bit longer. It's one of Sean Payton's tricks. At the beginning of next week, we'll begin to move stuff over to the next opponent. Even up until Friday night, we'll begin to just move stuff over to Louisiana Tech that we know we're going to run - stuff that we're good at. The game plans are just a little bit bigger this week."
On if he plans to unveil any more uniform wrinkles during the 2013 season
"We're going to definitely do some things different. We like the uniform right now, and once we get this uniform thing go over, we'll try and work a few more things in there. Right now, we're just going to keep it at the uniforms. I'm getting yelled at for the uniforms, but the uniforms are fine. I just don't like to get yelled at from everybody about, `Well, I don't like the uniform,' but we'll get used to the uniform. There will be some other things going on. I don't want to give all of my secrets away."
On if there is anything on the uniform to honor Devon Walker
"Yes, there's a decal. We may do something else for him. I love the idea for the flag coming out with him. I couldn't do much better than his pre-game speech. It was awesome. I almost cried. We've got his spot, we've got his locker and we had his jersey on him. It was good. It was a good night for him."