Tyler Gilbert finally feels at home.
After attending five schools in five years, the newest addition to Tulane’s football team may be its most thankful. The 6-foot-3, 244-pound defensive end made his debut on the practice field with the rest of the Green Wave on Saturday morning at Turchin Stadium.
“I love my city,” Gilbert said. “When Tulane came and offered, I just said, ‘I’m coming.’ ”
Gilbert attended John Curtis before moving on to a prep school in North Carolina, then signing with Arkansas. However, he was dismissed by the Razorbacks after being arrested on burglary charges last spring.
After playing last season at Southwest Mississippi Community College, he was recruited by Tulane linebackers coach Barry Lamb and leapt at the opportunity to get back into Division I college football.
“I never second-guessed it,” Gilbert said. “Once they told me they wanted me, it was all just easy.”
The decision already paid dividends for Tulane co-defensive coordinator John Sumrall before the first practice of the season. Sumrall said he’s has seen his team’s defensive line depth skyrocket since the end of last season, thanks to Gilbert’s entrance along the addition of with LSU graduate transfer Chris Davenport, noticeably beefing up a position of need.
“We got here last year and looked around the defensive line meeting room ... and thought it looked a little less than impressive,” Sumrall said. “Now you look in there, and we look like the kind of football team you want to look at. We have some big men in that room who can inflict some pain on some people.”
Gilbert also brings versatility to the Green Wave, having previously played as an outside and middle linebacker in his previous stops. Sumrall already praised Gilbert’s mechanics and athleticism after watching in just one practice, citing his unique ability to cover a screen pass.
His addition is particularly helpful because Tulane’s defensive line is currently without freshman end Ade Aruna, who is having trouble getting his immigration paperwork cleared. Though Nigerian-born, Aruna attended high school in La Porte, Ind.
Sumrall said there is no concern Aruna will not be admitted and should be in practice “sooner rather than later.”
Saturday’s practice was held on the outfield of the Green Wave’s baseball home, Turchin Stadium. The 70-yard field featured no goal posts, and quarterback Nick Montana said he felt the end zone near the center-field wall was “closing in on him.”
It was the only practice scheduled on the field, as Tulane takes its traveling camp to Newman School, the Saints’ indoor facility and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome throughout the month.
“The field isn’t 100 yards, so all of a sudden it shrinks and everything is so cramped, and we can’t get people in and out of the huddle like we want to,” Green Wave coach Curtis Johnson said. “We will get it logistically fixed up.”
The field’s hard, artificial turf is also an issue because it wasn’t installed to handle football. Asked if he’d let his players tackle there, Johnson said he was unsure.
“I just don’t know yet, but if we had to play a scrimmage here, I would definitely let them tackle,” Johnson said. “But we just have to play this by ear, because I don’t know how much we’re going to be out here. It’s good though, it served its purpose today.”
Tulane was forced to move away from its traditional on-campus practice field because it is now a construction site for the building of its future home, Yulman Stadium. The Green Wave is expected to practice at Turchin Stadium during the season, but Johnson was uncertain how things will unfold as the season moves past August.
Johnson hasn’t named a starting quarterback and hasn’t given a timetable for when he’ll do so. The second-year coach said he was disappointed in Montana and Devin Powell’s ability to efficiently get in and out of the huddle on Saturday.
“I thought they were a little bit rusty,” Johnson said. “Part of it is our first time on this field, and it’s just a little different and a little tight. They’ll do a lot better tomorrow.”
Powell noticeably struggled in 7-on-7 drills, overthrowing several passes and nearly had two intercepted.
“Some of it was him and some of it was that we put him with a different group,” Johnson said. “He’s coaching them, so it was good to see him coaching those guys up.”
Al Tircuit was laid to rest Saturday after dying suddenly Tuesday morning at 69.
Tircuit was a well-known Tulane fan and longtime contributor to The Advocate’s sports coverage. He also served as a volunteer in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome press box during Green Wave games.
“I was deeply saddened to hear of Al’s passing,” said Roger Dunaway, Tulane’s director of athletics communication. “He was a constant professional and valuable asset to our football gameday operations team for so many years. He will be greatly missed.”
In lieu of flowers, Tircuit’s family members requested that fans make a purchase at the Tulane gift shop, saying they’re pretty sure the gift shop lost its biggest customer.
As Tulane prepares to play its final season in the in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, fans are being asked to submit and vote on their favorite “Doment” and All-Dome Team online at www.tulanegreenwave.com/38inthedome, or through the Green Wave’s social media sites. Voting for the top “Doments” will be open for the first three weeks of August, and the top six will be revealed at each of Tulane’s six home games. All-Dome Team voting will be held during the season, and the team will be unveiled during Tulane’s last home game against UTEP on Nov. 23.
Fans are also encouraged to share their favorite photos while at the Superdome during a Tulane game. Photos will be posted to the website’s media gallery. Fan photos can be sent to Tulane Athletics or shared through our social media networks using #38intheDome and/or #Doment.