NEW ORLEANS — Tulane center Zach Morgan had not practiced in nearly a year.
When Morgan finally returned to the practice field this week — for the first time since last year’s spring game — coach Curtis Johnson said everything fell back into place on the Green Wave’s offensive line.
“It’s just very helpful anytime you get someone back with that level of experience,” Johnson said Saturday. “He brings an attitude and temperament to the group. I don’t want to call him the leader right now, because he hasn’t been here long, but honestly he is the leader. I’ve seen more guys get pancaked to the ground in the past two days than I’ve seen since I’ve been here. So he’s that type of offensive lineman.”
Between Morgan missing the 2012 season with a shoulder injury and the hamstring injury that sidelined him for the start of spring practice, Tulane’s offensive line has completely transformed around the redshirt senior, who has played in 34 games and started 27 during his Tulane career.
Not a single starter remains on the line from Morgan’s most recent on-field appearance Nov. 26, 2011.
“When he’s in, he’s a dominant force,” guard Adam Skidmore said. “We aren’t trying to rush him back or anything because he has the experience, and he has the knowledge and he certainly has the physical part down. ... When he’s in, he’s absolutely the leader out there.”
Morgan said he’s simply trying to get back into the routine of calling out plays and aligning the offense — not to mention the grind of testing his shoulder and hamstring in practice.
“The toughest thing with being out so long is wondering if you can still play because it has been so long sine I took a live snap,” he said. “Once I got out there and got into it, everything starts to come back to you, but there are still some areas I’m slow in. It will take some time to recognize defense the right way and things like that, but I’m mostly just happy to get back on the field and get used to playing with these guys.
“It was hard to watch everything going on without me, and I’m just trying to make sure we get better as the spring goes forward.”
All over the field
Injuries have forced senior linebacker Dominique Robertson into a platoon role.
Typically a weakside linebacker, Robertson has spent time in the middle and on the strong side this spring to account for the absence of injured linebackers Zach Davis, Logan Hamilton and Cameron DeJean, who all are out for the spring.
“It’s been great for Dominique,” Johnson said. “I think he’s really had the chance over the past few weeks to develop into probably our best linebacker, and he’s improving all of the time.”
Linebackers coach Barry Lamb said he wishes Robertson could spend more time in one place, but he has been pleased with his versatility and believes Robertson will come out of the spring a more well-rounded player.
“I’m learning a lot right now,” Robertson said. “It’s definitely tiring being out there all of the time and moving around, but I think it’s good for me in the long run.”
Defensive tackle and former LSU player Chris Davenport missed Saturday’s practice with a twisted right ankle. Davenport was in a walking boot, but Johnson said it’s precautionary and he expects the 6-foot-4, 330-pound newcomer to return this coming week.
Starting tight end Matt Marfisi is still out with an injury, but Johnson said he expects to have him back before the first open scrimmage next Saturday.
Running back Dant é Butler returned to practice after missing some time with concussion issues.