Lewis: ‘Spring’ practice? At Tulane, it’s already over

Advocate photo by VERONICA DOMINACH -- Quarterback Tanner Lee warms up his arm during a Tulane spring practice session at Tad Gormley Stadium on Feb. 15.
Advocate photo by VERONICA DOMINACH -- Quarterback Tanner Lee warms up his arm during a Tulane spring practice session at Tad Gormley Stadium on Feb. 15.

OK, we get it. Curtis Johnson hates spring practice.

Well, he really doesn’t hate it. The Tulane coach just has a nontraditional view of it.

Like seeing the need to actually hold it in the spring. February, even with only 28 days, neatly accommodated the Green Wave’s first-in-the-nation-to-start, first-to-finish workouts.

Neither does Johnson see the need to use all 15 of his NCAA-allotted days. Johnson ended things Wednesday with two to go after originally scheduling only 14 to begin with.

Thanks to the largesse of the Saints, he didn’t see the need to work outdoors — although, barring a delay in the opening of Yulman Stadium, all of the Wave’s home games will be played al fresco for the first time in 40 years (excluding the Katrina diaspora of 2005).

And neither does he feel obligated to have a final scrimmage for the fans’ benefit, although the combination of Yulman Stadium still being a construction site and Tad Gormley being used as the staging area for Endymion on Saturday would have made finding a suitable location tricky.

Maybe next year on that last item. But no guarantees.

“It was a little weird,” senior safety Sam Scofield said. “Spring’s supposed to be like when it’s warm weather and it still feels like the beginning of the semester.”

But as Scofield conceded, that didn’t mean winter — er, spring — practice wasn’t productive.

“We got our work done,” he said. “If you think about it, it makes sense to come back as soon as possible right after the season, correct our mistakes when it’s all fresh for everybody and get a look at the new guys.

“And after Mardi Gras break, we’ll be back to square one, working on getting bigger, stronger and faster and playing 7-on-7 a couple of times a week. So it’s all good.”

Certainly Johnson sees it that way.

“I’m very pleased with what we got done,” he said. “We had guys dropping like flies the last week, and we were getting to the point of no return, which was the reason that we cut it short.

“The kids are in the weight room getting in shape pretty much year-round anyway, so I’m not sure if you need all 15 (practice) days to begin with.”

That may go against conventional wisdom, but when you’ve guided a program to its first bowl berth in 11 years and earned a new contract, you’re entitled to be the benefit of the doubt.

Starting spring practice only three days after national Signing Day wouldn’t seem to allow time for planning scheme or personnel changes, but Johnson said the staff used the new longer dead period in January to do that. The only significant change, he added, was working more 3-4 defensive schemes, and there were no dramatic position shifts.

What Johnson didn’t have time to get done, at least not officially, was to decide on a starting quarterback.

However, all indications are that redshirt freshman Tanner Lee has the upper hand on returnees Nate Montana and Devin Powell, who split the starting role last season.

“If you asked me today, I would say that Tanner had the overall best spring,” Johnson said. “So if you say, ‘Where does it stand?’ we’ll have to talk about it some more.

“But he did the best job of leading the team. I think you’ve got to keep the competition going, especially when you’ve got such a young quarterback and a couple of other guys that played last year and won games.”

Lee, who prepped at Jesuit, said while the coaches haven’t told him or the other quarterbacks where things stand, he feels confident in his abilities.

“I don’t know how they’re going to play it out,” he said. “I don’t want to ask that question. I just hope I’ve shown enough. We all competed well with equal reps and I got more comfortable every day.”

One thing Tanner and the other players enjoyed was using the Saints’ indoor facility, especially since the team workouts began at 8 a.m.

“There would be some cold mornings,” Tanner said. “But when they closed the doors it was nice and warm with no wind it was really nice.”

Added Scofield: “When you get in there with no distractions, it just seems like practice goes faster and you don’t waste any time.”

Being able to use the Saints facility before they need it more was a major reason for having spring drills so early.

By this time next year, the Wave won’t have to leave campus to practice as they have since the stadium construction began in early 2013 (construction will have to continue right up until it’s finished, supposedly in September).

But Johnson, who prefers to keep his team indoors as much as possible, isn’t sure when, where or how things will be set up for 2015.

Maybe it doesn’t matter that much.

As Allenn Iverson famously said, we’re just talking about practice.

Or as CJ might amend it, spring practice at that.