First-year Tulane head football coach Curtis Johnson addresses the media on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
Oct. 2, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - Following the morning practice routine, Tulane University first-year head football Coach Curtis Johnson took the podium to address the local media at noon during his weekly press conference on Tuesday in the Hall of Fame Room at the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center.
Among the hot topics of discussion were what he can do to help right the ship after dropping the first four games of the 2012 season, how the losses have affected recruiting and his stance on the projected construction of an on-campus stadium. Johnson was quick to point out, especially to the fan base, was not to lose sight of the Green Wave's long-term goals, which include building the team into a contender and that the transition will not be an overnight project.
Tulane (0-4, 0-1 Conference USA) returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 6, when the Wave travel to Cajun Country to take on Louisiana-Lafayette at 4 p.m. at Cajun Field. Tulane's next home game is slated for Saturday, Oct. 13, when the Green Wave play host to Conference USA foe SMU at noon in the Superdome.
Tickets to that game and future Green Wave events are available through 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
"Right now, the biggest concern is the quarterback position. Ryan Griffin didn't do much with the ones or the twos today. He just threw it around a little bit. We have a pitch count on his throws. Devin Powell did some work but he limped around noticeably. D.J. Ponder was a little banged up from last week, but he looked pretty good today. I liked the way he practiced. I like the team practice. Again, we're practicing well, but we didn't play very well this past week. I thought this was the first time that we really didn't. Sooner or later, it was going to come where the defense didn't play as well as it should have, and neither did the offense. But it'll come to where we'll be playing well. It's taking a little longer than I expected. I'm impatient, but I'm managing to keep my patience."
On the health status of quarterback D.J. Ponder
"You hate to let your enemy know your weaknesses, but he got hit eight to 10 times during the game and there were some hard hits. He's just a little banged up. He can move around and do some things, but he'll do other things and it won't feel pleasant."
On if he can pinpoint one particular area that the team needs to improve on the most
"There are several areas of concern. The first thing is you want to win a game. You just want to get some type of confidence. I'm very concerned about our offensive line. There's no continuity in them being together. They haven't been together very long. We've got two quarterbacks out. That's another thing where you have no continuity in the offense. We haven't run the ball very well this season. We get behind so much that we turn into a one-dimensional team. That's a big concern. Each week, it looks like another freshman is playing. That's very concerning. If I wasn't bald, I would be. When a lot of freshmen play, it doesn't add up to be that good of a season. But the freshmen are playing well, and that was encouraging. I would say that this week, the offensive line didn't give up as many hits or as many sacks as they have the last couple of weeks."
On sophomore Renaldo Thomas moving back to safety
"He was a linebacker and we had him playing some nickel. Now, all of a sudden, he's back in the secondary at safety by necessity. I don't know how much (Sam) Scofield is going to be able to go this week. He's non-contact all week, so that doesn't look good. You just have to find some more guys. Then, I had to take (Derrick) Strozier from the offense - who's playing pretty decent - and I had to move him to defense because we're a little banged up in the secondary."
On if the team's 0-4 start will hurt recruiting in the long run
"You're always concerned about that if you continue to lose and nothing looks good. But the bottom line with this is, recruiting is about relationships. When guys come, I think they love the school and they love the academics. When you look outside, you can't be more happy with the weather and the school. A $62,000-a-year education is just awesome. Recruits will come in here and they know. They watch the kids playing early and I think the guys who really want to be here, the coaches will do a great job (with them). We'll finish up in recruiting. I think the high school coaches really know what we're doing. They know what this is about. They know me. They know David Johnson. They know all the coaches. I think in the end, we'll get our share of good players. They'll help next year and we'll be talking about them in this press conference."
On if the UL-Lafayette game is big as far as swaying potential recruits
"Here's the thing about their team. It's like last week. It's very important that you compete with the in-state teams. Last week, most of their talent was from Texas. This week, they've got a lot of junior college players from Mississippi. I think what we need to do is we need to continue to improve, continue to show that we do have a plan, we do have a vision and we do have a lot of structure. It's just unfortunate in the predicament that we're in with our injuries and the guys who aren't here."
On if he talked to suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton and his advice on playing with a third-string quarterback
"Here's what he did say. He said, `Look, you've got a plan. You've got a vision. You know exactly what you're doing so just keep doing it.' What he doesn't want me to do is just start doing something uncharacteristic. A reporter asked me today if I was going to do some dive read. (Payton) said, `Don't do that. Just do your plan because this thing is about the long haul. It's not a quick fix. It won't be for anyone.' He liked some of the stuff that we're doing. He didn't like some of the stuff that I called, but it is what it is."
On if he talks to Payton regularly
"We talk quite a bit. With Mickey Loomis also. I talk with Mickey a lot. He said, `Hey, just keep doing what you're doing.'"
On if there is anything he can draw from his experiences at Miami
"It reminds me of 1997. We were 5-6. We played Reggie Wayne and we played Santana Moss. Ed Reed was out. We played a bunch of freshmen. Edgerrin James was a freshman. James Jackson was a freshman. Probably our best players were freshmen. We went 5-6 at `The U' and they wanted to run us out of there. It was an experience. One guy would get hurt. We had 13 or 14 guys injured. The quarterback was brand new, Ken Dorsey. He committed to us and he stayed with his commitment. This reminds me so much of that year that I can draw from just the improvement of a Vernon Carey playing that early, a lot of true freshmen played then, and then four years later we ended up beating Florida in the Sugar Bowl and the next year we won a national championship."
On if guys from his past like Payton and Loomis call him constantly following the 0-4 start
"No, they're not blowing my cell phone up. As a matter of fact, Mickey called me up and I haven't called him back yet. So I'm going to be in his doghouse a little bit. But he's good. He sent a great message. I've been getting great messages from coaches throughout. Tom Cable called me. He was one of my roommates in the past. He's called and said to just keep doing the course. I think they follow things a little more than loosely. I know the players they like and I know the direction they want me to go in. We agree on most of the stuff."
On the match-up between Tulane's offensive line and UL-Lafayette's defensive line
"They're very good. That's been a concern all year. Again, like I said early, you just don't play true freshmen on the offensive line anywhere and we're playing two of them. We've got two (redshirt) freshmen, so we're playing four total freshmen. Out of that, we've got one guy with experience and the other four guys haven't had much experience at all. Sometimes they just get out-matched or out-manned. But what you do is just continue to play and continue to play hard, and that will play out dividends in the future."
On facing UL-Lafayette quarterback Terrence Broadway
"I think both of their quarterbacks are good. They're experienced. They're awesome in the running game. They've got good skill. They're going to be ready to play. I tell you what, those two offensive tackles that they've got are something else now. They're good players. I think they're going to come in and run the ball. They're going to pound it a little bit. They're going to throw it around. I don't think they're going to fear us. If you watch our games, you don't fear anything. They know we've got freshmen out there playing. They do a good job of scouting. All of those teams do. We expect Jordan Batiste to get picked on a little bit. We expect (Lorenzo) Doss to get picked on. But once these kids grow up, they'll be solid, solid players."
On the fan base's reaction to losing 63-10 to an in-state school
"They should be a little bit restless. I'm restless. I haven't slept. But the bottom line is we didn't play well. We need them to continue to support us. The fan base is going to be what it is. When you win, you get everybody in and you've got a big bandwagon. When you lose, your bandwagon is probably going to have friends and family. It's like a Southwest Airline gang."
On his stance on building an on-campus stadium
"I'm totally behind the on-campus stadium. I see college football as being something where you wake up, you leave your dorm room, your parents come over, the alumni come over and you're at home. It's not an away game. I'm totally behind it. It doesn't matter how many people are in the stands. I think our first crowd we had was listed as 26,000. You'd love to see 26,000 on campus. Now that would be rocking. It's kind of like what they're doing at Lafayette. They've got a smaller stadium, but they've got some people in there. You just want your own. There's no place like home."
On his thoughts on the projected capacity of the new on-campus stadium
"We haven't had that many yet, so of course it's big enough. Yes, it's big enough. We'll talk more about that once we start doing a little better, we start improving and once we pack that one. Once we pack that one, I'll be knocking on the president's door. I'll be the first one with a pick and a shovel to knock on his door and find some way to expand it. We've got to pack that one. We've got to get some enthusiasm. We've got to play better."
On playing an in-state opponent and what it would mean recruiting to play well in those games
"I think it does make a difference, but I think a lot more than the game plays into it. I think recruits will look at two things. They're going to say I can go to a place and I can sit for two or three years or I can go somewhere and I can start right now. I can go somewhere and get the best education in the world and I can go somewhere that has this kind of offense. What young guys want to do, and this is no different than when I recruited Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss and those guys - they want to come in and they want to start. This would be a great opportunity. They know we're running a pro-style offense. They know the guys on the staff. They know we've got NFL guys. We're coaching well. The high school coaches know it. They keep calling and asking questions on how we do this blitz, what's this play, what's this protection? We just don't have the guns right now. We haven't done it right now. The in-state rivalries are good. What happens with in-state teams is one team is up. It's Florida, Florida State and Miami. Right now, this seems to be Florida State's year. It was Miami's year when I was there. Florida won a couple of national championships after us. We just have to turn the tide a little bit, get some of our kind of kids in and we'll be fine."
On if it would be easier in the short term to run some spread or some option to take pressure off the offensive line
"It would be easier, but I don't have a quarterback who can do it. Every time I put a quarterback back there, as you know, they don't come back and the next week they're out. The one thing that a spread does is get two tackles on an island. These defensive linemen that we can't block right now, it would be a race to the quarterback then. Then, when you talk about running the option, I'm trying not to get them hit. (Hits) were down this week, so that was encouraging. When Griff and Powell were in, sometimes they were getting hit on every play."