CoachSpeak: Curtis Johnson

The Tulane football team is preparing to battle Hurricane Isaac just as much as it is to face Rutgers Saturday night at the Super Dome. Relocating to Birmingham, Ala., while the hurricane heads to Louisiana tonight, first year Green Wave coach Curtis Johnson spoke to the media about Rutgers, the weather and kicking off the season in four days.

Safety is the primary concern for the Tulane football team, practicing in Birmingham, Ala., with Hurricane Isaac set to hit New Orleans tonight. But instead of worrying about what is out of control, Green Wave coach Curtis Johnson has his team relaxed and excited to start fresh after winning just two games last season.

"Right now everything is as usual," Johnson said. "Just because the hurricane hasn't hit yet, we're just planning just like everything will go on without a hitch. … Until the hurricane actually hits, we'll figure out the power outages and the damage that it does, we really don't know. We're just planning on playing Saturday night."

Johnson is a New Orleans native and spend time with the New Orleans Saints staff. Hurricanes are nothing new to the first-year head coach.

"I think I did this once before when I was with the Saints and we went to Indianapolis," he said on relocating to Alabama. "I thought it was a good deal just because there were no worries. Everybody was home. It was like a home atmosphere for the Saints. We were around the guys. We didn't worry about the guys going out and doing something foolish.

"It was almost like a field trip. It was like a good feeling. It was like a team bonding experience."

Scouting Rutgers

Johnson watched some of the tape from the Tulane win over Rutgers in 2010, but with two new coaches and major personnel changes his focus is on his own squad.

"I think Rutgers' offense, they're big and they're physical," Johnson said. "That offensive line … they're going to try to run it and attack. … They have a lot of speed on defense. They're playing great special teams."

The ground-and-pound game and tough defensive systems stand out to Johnson. In 2010, Tulane won 17-14 by ruining the offensive rhythm of Rutgers.

"Offensively, I think that big offensive line … when they run the ball they can hurt you," Johnson said. "Defensively, their overall team speed [is a concern]. I think they're a fast team. … The kids just let special teams dominate. I think that's a piece of the puzzle is special teams."

Youth Versus Experience

Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin has a win against Rutgers under his belt and two years as a starter. Despite the experience, Griffin still stood out to Johnson with his presence in the huddle.

"I thought Ryan Griffin has had a tremendous camp," Johnson said. "I thought he was one of the big surprises. … He runs the offense really well, does what we ask him to do. He's throwing the ball with accuracy. … He knows what to do. He knows where to put the ball."

Facing a young quarterback in sophomore Gary Nova, Johnson hopes to stop the running game and force him to make plays in the air.

"I thought he was a good player," he said. "I think they lean on their run. I think their running game will help him a lot. I think he's good. I know he's competing with other guys. … They're so big on offense up front."

Game One

When Johnson and Rutgers coach Kyle Flood meet Saturday, one is leaving with his first career win as a head coach.

With Johnson taking over after working as an assistant for the Saints and Flood doing the same as the offensive line coach for Rutgers, both make their debuts in the Super Dome.

"I'm really excited for the coaches and the kids more than [myself]," Johnson said. "Mostly because I think the kids really want to get it. They want to express something good. We've had adversity problems this year. It's time for them to play against somebody else. It's a new system. They really embrace the system. The city is beginning to fall behind these guys and they've worked their butts off all spring."


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