Johnson: QB nod will take ‘as long as it takes’

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Tulane quarterback Nick Montana throws during the spring game at Tad Gormley Stadium on Saturday, March 2, 2013.
Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Tulane quarterback Nick Montana throws during the spring game at Tad Gormley Stadium on Saturday, March 2, 2013.

NEW ORLEANS — Don’t be surprised if Tulane waits until after the season’s second game to designate a starting quarterback for the rest of the 2013 season.

Coach Curtis Johnson said after Saturday’s spring game that he is more concerned with picking the right guy — redshirt freshman Devin Powell or transfer Nick Montana, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe — than making a decision this spring or even during fall drills.

“As long as it takes,” Johnson said.

Saturday was the 11th practice of the spring, with four to go.

Johnson’s decision to ponder the quarterback job is a clear advantage for Montana, one of three newcomers to enroll this spring. Unlike Powell, he is still learning a new offense. Powell has been around the offense longer but has limited game snaps and a lesser football pedigree.

Neither quarterback dazzled or deflated Saturday at Tad Gormley Stadium. Powell had the stronger arm, which allowed him to throw a better long pass and set up play-action.

“I think I did great,” he said. “Executed the plays, got the ball down the field. What more can they ask for?”

During an early possession, Powell misfired on fourth down from the 1-yard line.

Montana showed nice touch, Johnson said. When his receivers were covered, he scrambled out of the pocket. After starting with three consecutive incompletions, he passed for a 4-yard TD and ran for another.

“It was just a good job of extending the play with (receiver Justyn Shackleford) getting all the way over there and the defense let somebody go,” Montana said.

To open the season, Tulane hosts Jackson State on Aug. 31 and South Alabama on Sept. 7. Those games could be the final evidence for deciding who will replace the departed Ryan Griffin.

Powell, who prepped at O. Perry Walker, played in two games last season, taking over for an injured Griffin against Tulsa on Sept. 8, then starting the following week at Ole Miss — where he injured his foot, ending his season. Footwork and accuracy are two aspects of his game he’s working to improve.

For the season, he competed 30 of 57 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted three times and sacked nine times.

Montana, a junior, began his college career at the University of Washington before transferring to Mt. San Antonio College, a junior college in Walnut, Calif. Saturday’s practice was the first time anyone outside the Tulane athletic program saw him compete for the Green Wave; practices this spring have been closed to the public and media.

At his junior college, Montana passed for 2,652 yards and 22 TDs with 11 interceptions. He was sacked 24 times.

“I think, once we see the fall, put all the offense in, get ready to do the game plan, we’ll know,” Johnson said. “We’ll know who’s the better guy, better fit for the team.”