Oct. 23, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - On the heels of a hard-fought 24-20 Conference USA loss at UTEP over the weekend at the Sun Bowl, first-year head coach Curtis Johnson once again addressed the media on Tuesday during the Tulane University football team's weekly press conference in the Hall of Fame Room of the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center.
One week after coming from behind to defeat SMU, the Green Wave fell just short against the Miners on Saturday. Johnson stressed that in spite of the loss, spirits remain high around the program as the team began preparation for the upcoming UAB game during its morning practice earlier in the day.
In addition, discussed the overall health of his team, the progress the Green Wave have made as the season has progressed and what his goals are for the remainder of the 2012 season. A complete transcript of Tuesday's press conference is below.
Tulane (1-6, 1-2 C-USA) will kickoff against the Blazers on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz 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
"I was disappointed this weekend. It was one of those games that when you grow as a program, you just tend to win those games. I never had any doubt that we weren't going to win, but we came up a little bit short. We did do some good things. I thought our offensive line played their best football game. We ran the ball well. Ryan Griffin is playing sensational. He threw for 360-something yards and had a couple of touchdowns. The receivers played fanstastic. (Justyn) Shackleford and (Ryan) Grant had good games. All of those guys played well. (Orleans) Darkwa finally played. He was in and out and was injured throughout the game, but he played well. The disappointing thing about the offense was we have to get the ball in the endzone when we get in the red zone. I thought the turnover really hurt us, but we have to get right over this little hump that we're going up. We've been playing uphill all this time and now we have to get over the hump. Defensively, we didn't tackle well early on in the game. Our tackling was shoddy at best. Today, we kind of addressed it a little bit. A couple of times we were out of position. We had some young-guy mistakes. In the second half, I thought the defense came up and gave us a chance to win. This week, we just didn't get it done."
On Tulane's final offensive possession
"One of them (Griffin's passes) was tipped. One of them was dropped. And at the end of the game, we had a down-the-field shot where the guy kind of made a play on the ball that you never would have thought he could have made. I just thought it was going to be one of those good catches, an over-the-shoulder catch. It was a little bit underthrown. I thought the receiver should have come back and went up for the ball. The guy just put his hand up and tipped it away. That's how the game ended."
On the similarities between Tulane and UAB
"I think they're a good football team. As a matter of fact, my nephew plays for them. I have to say that or my sister would kill me. They're a good football team. They have some good skilled guys. They have some JC transfers in there that are making some differences. They're good, they're explosive and they're fast. They are a good football team. The record doesn't indicate that. Most of the new coaches in the league are struggling a little bit just taking over these programs, but I think they're a good football team."
On how encouraging the play of the offensive line was last week at UTEP
"Each week, I've felt that if any position group has begun to take strides into forming up, I think that's the group. One thing I can say about those guys is not one time can I ever say they quit. Not one time can I ever say I've seen them blame each other. I don't think they're a very confident group, but confidence comes from playing more games. I think they're starting to play well. They played physical. There was a series there where I had to tell E.P. (offensive coordinator Eric Price) - and I'm a receivers coach at heart - that we just have to run it. Just keep running it. They were knocking them down. Then we got to the end and we had a turnover, but I thought they did a fantastic job."
On if he is still disappointed after this weekend's loss to the Miners
"The biggest disappointment is with this war of attrition that we're going through. We're starting to lose more guys. (Julius) Warmsley, today, couldn't go. Zach Davis couldn't go. Here and there, we're starting to lose the lit bit of confidence we had because we have guys not being able to play. It's not that they don't want to practice. They just can't go. I'm a little bit concerned about starting a lot of freshman. Monroe can start because he can do something else. Doss and Batiste have been playing consistently. But when you start starting more freshmen in the offensive and defensive line, then I begin to get a little bit concerned."
On potentially having to play Kenny Welcome and Corey Redwin with the injury to Julius Warmsley
"Julius is probably our most active defensive lineman. He may be the best overall defender that we have in just being consistent, being big enough, being physical enough and he's like the emotional leader. You lose him. You lose (Austen) Jacks a little bit, and you lose Zach Davis a little bit. That's our core guys in the middle of your defense besides your secondary. We just have to hope that we can get Julius back, and I think he'll be better tomorrow. (Kenny) Welcome and (Corey) Redwine are doing a fantastic job, but it's hard to ask a kid - young guys who haven't played much - to say, `alright, now all of the sudden you're playing the three technique.' It's like telling a guy that all of a sudden you're playing quarterback this week. It's sort of like `Oh my goodness.'"
On the recent performances of UAB quarterback Austin Brown and what Tulane can do to slow him down
"They do a good job of running the ball because that back is a pretty good back. They've got a couple of good receivers. What he's doing the best is he's spreading the ball around. We just need to win first downs. If we can get to second-and-10 or second-and-seven, we have a good chance of containing it. But if it's second-and-four or second-and-five, I think we can get in trouble."
On if it's a sign of progress to be disappointed coming off a close loss
"I want these guys to experience success. I think the coaches work extremely hard and prepare them very well. These players have not played very much, and I'm disappointed for them because I want them to feel the success. We've asked them to come early in the morning, to practice early and do some things different in their lives. They've done all of it. I want them to feel like they're on a little bit of a roll and win a couple of games so they can feel good about themselves. It's hard to build confidence if you're not winning games."
On if it hurts more because the team was able to come from behind the week before against SMU
"It stings because we felt like we let it get away. We're going in to score and we turn it over. Then we go in to score again and we settle for a field goal because of a penalty. Then you get the ball in your hand, the defense gets a turnover for you, and you just don't finish it off. We just have to learn to finish those things off."
On if he feels his team has an identity
"One thing that gives us an identity a little bit is our quarterback. Our quarterback has good swagger. He understands. We play very confident with our quarterback. Offensively, as you've noticed over the last couple of weeks, we've been a little more up-tempo. We've been doing some no-huddle stuff that's been tremendous for us because that's what he does. He's our `Drew Brees.' Defensively, we're playing with a lot of young kids. Darion Monroe is something else. He's one of the guys that I'm kind of leaning on. It's hard to ask a freshman to be a leader. But I think he's a guy. He makes 13 tackles. He makes 12 tackles. He makes nine tackles. We have to get more guys like him to play like him and I think we'll have a great identity."
On if he feels his team has made progress this year and what areas he feels is most improved
"First and foremost, I think our special teams is playing really outstanding. I think that's the one thing that I felt coming into this thing that we had to improve on. Now that we have a quarterback with some experience, I think our offensive is beginning to look like the way it will look. The offensive line from day one, we said we have four guys who haven't really played. They never touched the field the year before. These four guys are starting to gel and play good. We get Darkwa back and some running backs back, and we're starting to run the ball better. I don't know if there are too many guys who will have receivers like Shacklefor and like Grant. They've been doing some good things. Offensively, I'm very pleased. Defensively, and I'll start on the back end, we're playing three true freshmen and they're not really giving up very many plays. For them to play enough, they're doing well. We found Zach Davis. If you go back to last spring and tell me Zach Davis is going to be a starter and play this well, there is no way I would say that. But he's one of the guys that you lean on. The defensive line is playing good. They're starting to get some pressure. They're starting to get some sacks. They're starting to get around the quarterback. I think we are developing. The disappointing part about it is as soon as you begin to develop and you begin to get some continuity, another guy goes out."
On what his goals for his team at this point in the season
"I think the biggest thing to develop this culture that we're doing is to develop these young men. They're not quitting. I'd love to stand up here and do like some coaches and say, `This guy did this' or `They just quit.' I have not seen them quit one time. So you're developing what you want. Sometimes you don't get to your goal. I remember in 06 and 07 (with the New Orleans Saints) we thought we were going to win the Super Bowl. In 07, we didn't play well. But 07 and 08 developed us into winning the Super Bowl the following year. I would say that we are developing a culture. You watch us and we're fighting hard. Guys are in the right place. Guys are making plays. We're playing a lot of young kids. I like where we are except for the record."
On sophomore receiver Justyn Shackleford not being able to practice and who will have to step up for him
"With the quarterback here, we kind of doing it a little bit by committee without Shackleford. And I'm not saying Shackleford is out. He didn't do anything today, but I just like guys to practice on Tuesday. We can definitely do it by committee. I have a lot of confidence in (Brent) Comardelle. I have a lot of confidence in (Wilson) Van Hooser. I'm pretty confident in the quarterback and (Xavier) Rush. Marc Edwards has made some plays. Because we've played a variety of guys, I feel pretty good about the receivers."
On if Tulane is exploring the option of adding junior college transfers in the future
"I think the doors may open up to get some JuCo guys. You just have to get the right JuCo guys to come in and give us some immediate help. If you can get them, the problem is you've got to get them in school. The academics here is pretty challenging. You'd love to do it, but I don't know that this would ever be a JuCo program. You'd like to get one or two guys who can help you at some positions where you lose guys. If we can get the right ones in here, Rick (Dickson) and some of the other powers that be said that we definitely have to take a look at them. I've been pushing that a little bit, and they are receptive to it. We just have to look at who can qualify and who can do it. If we can get some guys that can qualify, we're going to beat the doors down and get some help as soon as we possibly can."
On how big of an advantage of having junior college transfers as opposed to signing only high school athletes
"It's a huge advantage because we're playing guys who are 17 or 18 years old. The guys coming out of junior college are 20 or so. They've played more football. They've played at least 10 or 12 games of college football. It's unfortunate in that some of our guys are good players but they just haven't had that experience. (With junior college players) you can fill a guy in with some experience and you may get a great, dominant player also."
On if Kenny Welcome is more of a 3-technique defensive lineman or is Corey Redwine the better player at that spot
"If you look at them, both of them are both one technique players. I think Redwine is a little bit more explosive than Welcome. Welcome is a little bit more savvy. You'd probably the more savvy guy would be the three because the one definitely has to hold the point. You just have to hope that both of them can support us in doing both of those jobs."
On the fact that both defensive linemen are so new to the lineup
"That's the hard thing about it. As soon as you get one guy out of the mix, there's another guy who has never done it before. He hasn't done anything before. We're trying to catch up. The guys we've playing against, they've had 10 or 12 starts."