Tulane Opens 2005 Spring Football Workouts Tuesday

The graduation of "go-to" guys Roydell Williams and Chris Bush, as well as the steady Carl Davis, has left just six receivers on the 2005 spring roster although they will be joined by a quintet of 2005 signees in August. Williams and Bush combined to catch 89 passes for 1,491 yards and 19 touchdowns a year ago as Williams finished his career among the top three pass-catchers ever at the school.

NEW ORLEANS – Tulane Head Coach Chris Scelfo and his Green Wave football team officially begin preparations for the 2005 football season Tuesday with the first of 15 spring workouts at the Westfeldt Practice Facility on the Tulane campus.

The 75-man Tulane spring football roster includes 46 returning letterwinners, 16 seniors and 17 returning starters on offense and defense. The Green Wave is coming off a 2004 season that saw the team rebound from a 1-4 start to claim victories over bowl-bound UAB and Navy teams, as well as a win over homestanding TCU, to finish with a 5-6 mark despite fielding one of its youngest teams in years.

While youth will still be a factor at several positions, many of the sophomores-to-be can claim a full season of playing experience, including along the defensive line where Tulane will field no seniors again in 2005. However, Antonio Harris and Avery Williams each started an entire season as true freshmen, while juniors Craig Morris, Michael Purcell and Billy Harrison also return, as does Alvin Johnson, who sat out the 2004 season.

"We've got a relatively new group of defensive lineman that unfortunately had to play a lot last year and the year before that," Scelfo said. "But this group has a chance to be really good. I'm excited about our defensive line and where they were and how hard they've worked to get where they are now.

Scelfo will also be looking for his newest group of 17 seniors-to-be to begin asserting themselves in the leadership role. The Wave returns four senior starters along the offensive line in Joe and Matt Traina, Chris McGee and Donald Madlock, although Madlock will be held out of spring drills after undergoing shoulder surgery.

"Our offensive line again should be a strong point for us," Scelfo said. "Derek Rogers will move in and replace Jimmy Kosienski, and both Traina's and Chris McGee have played a lot."

Another senior-laden group returns at linebacker, where the starting trio of Antonio Mason, Anthony Cannon and Brandon Spincer, who returns to the linebacker position after spending last season as a safety, are also all seniors. Cannon, a team captain last season as a junior, has posted three straight 100-tackle seasons for the Green Wave.

"Defensively, we've got three of the best linebackers we've had since I've been here," said Scelfo. "We don't have much depth behind them, so we've got to really develop that with Kelvin Johnson and we've moved Terrence Peterson to linebacker from safety."

The back end of the Tulane defense features experience in the form of cornerbacks Sean Lucas, Bruce Youmans, Jeremy Foreman and Israel Route, and safeties Darren Sapp and Tra Boger. Boger is back after redshirting the 2004 season with an injury after compiling 133 tackles in the 2003 season. However, Scelfo cautions that the competition will be fierce and improvement will be required as youngsters like Joe Goosby, Josh Lumar and Renovell Hill make their bids for playing time. Tulane defensive backs intercepted only six passes a year ago.

"At cornerback, a big key there is going be how physical our corners can play," Scelfo said. "I thought we took a step back last year in a standpoint of trying to be physical and being good tacklers on the perimeter, and that's going to be something I'm going to evaluate very hard. We've got to do a better job of playing the ball in the air on the back end and we're going to spend a lot of time doing that. I'm really excited to see [redshirt freshman] Josh Lumar perform. It'll be a very competitive spring in the back end of our defense."

Competition will also be lively at running back as four experienced players – senior Jovon Jackson and sophomores Ray Boudreaux, Matt Forté and Ade Tuyo – will be joined by redshirt freshman Ryan Bewley in the backfield. A year ago, Jackson and Forté tied for the team lead in rushing yards with 624 apiece while combining for nine rushing touchdowns and 38 receptions.

"At running back, we've got some depth there," Scelfo said. "We need to bring along Ryan Bewley and Ade Tuyo there, but I'm really pleased with the way Ray Boudreaux, Matt Forté and Jovon [Jackson] have performed."

Tulane also finds itself with four tight ends on the roster for the first time in quite a while, although 2004 freshman Gabe Ratcliff and 2003 starter Jerome Landry will miss spring drills due to injury. The Green Wave will work senior Bobby Hoover and true freshman Justin Kessler, a 2005 signee who enrolled at Tulane in January and will see some action this spring. "If we can ever keep the tight ends healthy, they should be a very talented group that will bring back a lot of experience," Scelfo said. "But receiver is a different story as the only guys with much experience are Damarcus Davis, Fred Smith and Bubba Terranova. Preston Brown and Kenneth Guidroz have some experience, but not from a standpoint of being a starter, so how they react to that role is going to be a key for us this spring. And I'm excited to get a look at Michael Batiste there."

The graduation of "go-to" guys Roydell Williams and Chris Bush, as well as the steady Carl Davis, has left just six receivers on the 2005 spring roster although they will be joined by a quintet of 2005 signees in August. Williams and Bush combined to catch 89 passes for 1,491 yards and 19 touchdowns a year ago as Williams finished his career among the top three pass-catchers ever at the school.

In addition to replacing Williams and Bush, one of the biggest questions this spring is at quarterback, where 2004 starter Lester Ricard continues to recover from the broken wrist he suffered in last year's Army game which forced him to miss the last two games of the season. Prior to that, Ricard had shown flashes of brilliance, especially in Tulane's upset wins over UAB – when he threw a school-record six touchdown passes on 36-of-49 passing – and Navy when he completed a school record 18-of-19 passes for 323 yards and four scores.

Ricard will see some action this spring, as will Nick Cannon, who continues his rehabilitation after surgery. Their availability, and the departure of former back-up Richard Irvin (transferring to Harvard) sets the stage for 2004 redshirt Scott Elliott to pick up significant experience in the Tulane offense this spring.

"Scott Elliott is a guy who we feel has tremendous ability and potential, but has not had many snaps under center in our offense," Scelfo said. "He ran our scout team last year, so it'll be beneficial for him this spring to get as many reps as he can."

While one of Scelfo's goals is for the Green Wave to become more physical, it will not be accomplished through 11-on-11 drills.

"I really believe that our talent level has increased, and we've got a team that has some depth now," he said. "What we need to improve on now is fundamentals and technique. We won't do as much 11-on-11 scrimmaging as we've done in past springs. We'll have time to do the little things as far as fundamentals and technique that will really give us a chance to be a good football team."

"We grew up a lot last year," he continued. "We stuck together through adversity and really came through some things. I think we've got a good senior class. It'll be interesting to see how the leadership develops over the course of spring and obviously through the summer. The first step is tomorrow."


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