Tulane football coach Willie Fritz already knows what his experienced starters can do, so they will only make cameo appearances in Saturday morning’s spring game.
The rest of the roster will have much more at stake on a day that will start with special teams work around 10 a.m. before two full quarters of a scrimmage.
“We're going to be tackling, so for a bunch of these guys, I just want to see them pull the trigger in a real game-type situation or as close as we can get to it,” Fritz said. “It will go a long ways towards figuring out who's first team and who's second team, etcetera.”
Specifically, Fritz pointed to running back Cameron Carroll, tight ends Will Wallace and Tyrick James, linebacker Quentin Brown, safeties Macon Clark and Larry Brooks, defensive tackles Jamiran James and Alfred Thomas and outside linebacker/rush end Carlos Hatcher. All but Wallace and Brown, a pair of redshirt sophomores, are second-year players with limited to no starting experience.
Other than quarterback Justin McMillan, who is scheduled to play most of the first quarter before giving way to Keon Howard, the veterans will depart after six to 10 snaps.
Look for Carroll, a redshirt freshman, to get plenty of touches. He ran with speed and power at the beginning of preseason camp in 2018 but could not crack a loaded depth chart with Darius Bradwell, Corey Dauphine, Stephon Huderson and fellow freshman Amare Jones in front of him.
The spring game is his opportunity to force his way into the picture.
“I want to see what he can do,” Fritz said. “He's a big, strong, fast guy.”
A few inexperienced linebackers will gobble up all of the downs, with starters Lawrence Graham and Marvin Moody sitting out due to minor injuries. In their absence, junior college transfer Nick Anderson and Dorian Williams, a true freshman from Fort Mill, South Carolina, practiced with the first-team defense in practice this week along with Brown.
It will be a huge opportunity for Brown, a non-factor in his first two years. He arrived as a projected safety but was converted to linebacker last season.
"Quentin Brown has had an outstanding spring," Fritz said. "I'd like to see if he's really tackling those guys (in the spring game). He's in position to do it a whole bunch (in practice, which has no live tackling), but is he really tackling those guys?”
Williams took advantage of enrolling early.
“He's going to be a good player for us,” Fritz said. “He's got good size and length. He's got tremendous strength. He bench presses close to 350, and for a high school kid that's really good, especially a long-armed guy like him, so he's got a very bright future for us. He's going to get a bunch of reps.”
Clark has practiced with the first-team defense all spring as Roderic Teamer’s replacement at strong safety, but only because junior Chase Kuerschen is recovering from an injury, wearing a no-contact jersey. With a few big plays, Clark can make his case for a permanent promotion.
Thanks to a dominant front, the defense has controlled most of the practices this spring, but Fritz said he liked everything he saw from new offensive coordinator Will Hall.
In particular, the running backs and tight ends have been much more involved as receivers. The backs combined for 14 catches a year ago, and the tight ends managed 17.
Wallace started the past four games a year ago as a blocking tight end, but he caught only three passes while departed senior Charles Jones took the important snaps. James flashed some potential with four receptions for 49 yards and has shown the ability to get open down the seam in spring drills.
Saturday will provide the first public viewing of Hall’s scheme, which combined elements of Fritz’s triple option with his own spread concepts in a faster-paced approach than Tulane used in the past.
“He (Hall) really uses the field horizontally and vertically as well as anyone I've been around,” Fritz said. “It's always good to get fast guys the ball in space. It's going to be a bunch of guys having the opportunity to touch the ball because we're going to probably run about 10 to 15 more plays a game than we did last year.”