By Scott Kushner
Special to The Advocate
March 14, 2013
NEW ORLEANS — After a spring centered around a pair of quarterbacks vying for the starting spot, it was only fitting Tulane’s final spring football practice featured a bit of an aerial assault.
Green Wave quarterbacks Nick Montana and Devin Powell combined to score five touchdowns during the scrimmage portion of the afternoon at the New Orleans Saints’ practice facility, Saturday ensuring coach Curtis Johnson will have plenty to ponder before fall camp opens in five months.
Johnson reiterated he will not name a starting quarterback entering fall camp and is looking forward to seeing the competition unfold in August.
“I thought they were really good,” Johnson said. “Devin Powell went out and threw a couple of touchdowns, and Montana played well, and did a lot with his feet.”
Powell’s passes included a 40-yard touchdown to Wilson Van Hooser and an 80-yarder to receiver Ryan Grant, who turned the hitch pattern into an explosive play. Powell, a redshirt sophomore, bounced back from last Saturday’s scrimmage where he completed just 7 of 16 passes.
“(Powell) had two, three or maybe more touchdowns,” Johnson said. “He was hot today. But he’s got to learn about the blitz a little bit and got sacked a couple of times, but I thought he played really, really well. It showed he can throw it deep and throw it long and accurate.”
Entering the spring, most of the conversation swirling around Tulane was focused on Montana’s arrival from junior college, as the son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana and a former four-star high school quarterback. But Johnson never declared a starter or chose a favorite in the competition, and Powell said he just wanted to use the opportunity and generate some momentum heading into a long summer.
“I think I did great,” Powell said. “I think I picked it up a lot and executed plays and got better. My biggest improvement was my footwork and just calling the plays out. That’s what I mainly focused on, and I think I’m getting better at that.”
Tulane handed down a variety of accolades to punctuate the month’s top performers on the last day of spring practice.
Offensive MVP went to Grant , who highlighted his spring performance with a pair of TDs in the finale. Grant said the award was “nice” but more importantly, he solidified his place as a reliable target and senior leader on the offense.
“I feel like it’s important on my behalf to be a leader,” Grant said. “There aren’t many guys on the team who are seniors and who are mature. There are a lot of immature guys on the team, and I feel like for me to show them I’m mature, I have to make big plays day in and day out at practice.”
Dominique Robertson earned defensive MVP, a reward for not only practicing nearly every snap because of an injury-riddled linebacker corps but also for what Johnson termed “outstanding” improvement.
“This guy just came out and flew around,” Johnson said. “He hit everything, and he just played well.”
Running back Lazedrick Thompson earned the Comeback Player award, taking the reins of the backup running back spot after sitting out all of last season.
While the final practice was closed to the media and the public, Tulane did host a bevy of former players to view the scrimmage and meet the
Johnson said he took a page from his previous job at Miami, which frequently invited former players on to the sidelines and to be an integral part of the program.
“I stole the idea from Howard Schnellenberger and Jimmy Johnson who brought alums back to the University of Miami,” Johnson said. “One practice, next year, I’m going to let them coach the team, and we are going to watch and critique them the way they do us.
“I think it’s the best thing in the world, because the alumni are the guys who built these buildings and this field. You have to have those guys involved to have a great program.”