August 18th Scrimmage Impressions

Tulane hits the field for their second scrimmage of fall camp and the first one open to the public. Read about the improvements on offense, the running backs and linebackers stepping up, and Coach Curtis Johnson's thoughts.

First we must note the absence of LB Trent Mackey who has been indefinitely suspended from the team after being arrested friday. All we know is what has already been put out in the Times-Picayune and this story is still developing. We'll have quotes from Coach Curtis Johnson at the end of this article on Mackey and his situation.

On to scrimmage impressions:

- The first thing that jumped out was the improvement seen along the offensive line. They have struggled at times in practice but today they provided Ryan Griffin enough time to make the necessary throws and created opportunities for the running backs.

- The 1st string on the offensive line today was: Sean Donnelly and Eric Jones at tackle, Alex Paul and Rio Mares at guard, and Mike Henry at center.

- The RBs shined today even with the absence of Orleans Darkwa. This is an encouraging reminder that the depth at this position will make Darkwa's injury more bearable. On the offense's first drive Dante Butler made a great run pushing the pile to get a first down. Later in the scrimmage he pushed the pile again to force his way into the endzone. Rob Kelley, who also lined up at FB on a couple plays, showed good power as well pushing through the line for positive yardage.

- RB Derrick Strozier made a nice catch coming out of the backfield. The team continues to try and get him in space to utilize his quickness.

- RB Josh Rounds impressive camp continued today. He made nice running plays between the tackles, showing a willingness to engage contact. He also bounced a few runs to the outside that turned into big gains. He displays a lot of explosiveness and will also assist in providing depth without Darkwa participating.

- Coach Johnson had a lot of praise for Ryan Griffin today, saying after practice that his control of the offense reminded him of Drew Brees on the Saints' scoring drive last night. On one play, Griffin changed plays on the line of scrimmage ("killed" it) and then completed a nice gain to WR Ryan Grant for a first down. The team was forced to settle for a FG on this drive, however.

- WR Ryan Grant was far and away the best receiver today. He made a number of catches, one of which was the play of the day. On a deep route Devin Powell dropped it right in the basket for Grant to garner a long, 30+ yard yard gain.

- Speaking of Powell, his arm strength has been impressive. He's still going through some growing pains, but he made a number of solid throws including the deep ball to Grant. Coach Johnson talked a little bit about giving Powell some first team snaps - more on that in the quotes section of this report.

- The second team rotated a lot of guys in and out today. The team and coaches are not making any concrete decisions on the two-deep quite yet. Position battles continue.

- The defense made two nice INTs of D.J. Ponder today. One was on a diving grab by Jordan Batiste after a bad throw and another from LB Zach Davis when he undercut TE Sydie London on a route and reached up and grabbed it.Coach Johnson remarked after practice how he thought Zach Davis did a great job stepping in for Trent Mackey.

- The offense did much better today than in the previous scrimmage, however it is my impression that they have not really gone too deep into their playbook. I imagine the staff is looking mostly at execution and getting rhythm down rather than trying to run a lot of different plays. This will obviously change once they get into game preparation weeks. One area of weakness was inside the redzone. They had a tough time finding the endzone, save a pair of runs that the offense busted right up the gut.

Quotes from Coach Johnson

On Trent Mackey: "It's university policy that I can't say anything about Trent. We just missed him today and guys stepped up, it's always next man up and I think Zach Davis played great."

On trying to replace Mackey: "It's the same thing with Robert Kelley and Dante Butler, they replaced Darkwa today and I thought they were good. Darkwa may be out for a couple a weeks, who knows, he's day-to-day. Marfisi was a little down. It's just you gotta keep playing.

On what he wants to say to Mackey: "We love him. We miss him. That's all we can say."

On Devin Powell seeing time with the first unit: "You know what, I think Devin Powell has done well all fall camp." He then turned his attention to Ryan Griffin: But Griffin, masterful drives, just every down, he looked like Brees last night. I just told Griffin do the same thing Brees did. We just didn't get in the endzone...but operation was great."

Back to Powell: "Powell has a ways to go. He's learning, it's just so much offense right now. When we cut back and get into game planning I think Powell will be fantastic also."

On missing Darkwa for short yardage situations: "Absolutely, he's our battering ram. He reminds me alot of Chris Ivory (Saints RB)...we miss him. Kelley did good, Butler did a good job, Rounds had a spectacular play to cap off the scrimmage, but we miss him."

On his team's intensity: "I thought that early on the defense was a little low, they were a little down, but they picked it up. The offense came out gangbusters, it reminded me of the spring scrimmage when the offense couldn't make a first down, so we were just down the field one play after the other, that was good. That was good for the defense to go in and watch it and make some improvements."

On the team's progression: "I just wish some guys would come back, a couple guys that are injured, just a little knick knacks, they'll be back. But I like what I see. That defensive line played great, I didn't call any sacks but they had about 3 or 4 today. They're playing well"

On Zach Davis replacing Mackey: "He was everywhere. He does exactly what he's supposed to do. He's in the right gaps, he's fitting everything right. I thought he played great today. But he's been doing well all fall camp. Matt Bailey also played good, Bailey helped him out a lot. When we get Farley back we got a good linebacking crew."

On freshman RB Josh Rounds: "I'm just telling you, Rounds has been amazing. Every time I see him do something it's more and more. Today he made that catch between two defenders and pranced into the endzone. I mean I didn't see that on Sundays last year. I like what Rounds is doing."

On the possibility of a two-QB system:"I don't see it unless something crazy happens. I just think Griffin is just operating the offense, playing so well. I just want to see him on the field at all times. Powell will get a chance to play though, and I like what Ponder's doing also...Not a system no, but I think there's some plays that I can put Powell in and let him execute. More of a change of pace system where you give a guy certain reps."

On the message to the team after losing a defensive leader: "We have the philosophy of next man up. We gotta keep it moving. We said it at the Saints all the time, just keep it moving...I think we'll be fine. The way the offense looked now, we looked pretty good today."

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