Nov. 20, 2012
New Orleans -
Despite his team dropping its last three straight games, first-year Tulane head football coach Curtis Johnson remained upbeat and said his team was doing the same when he took the podium on Tuesday for his weekly press conference on in the Hall of Fame Room at the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center.
At 2-9 overall and 2-5 in Conference USA play, Tulane will close out the season this Saturday at Houston and Johnson stated a victory in the finale would go a long way for his first team. He also talked about the progression the team has made over the course of a season filled with adversity.
Tulane will kick-off in Houston on Saturday at 2:35 p.m. in the final game at Robertson Stadium. Tickets to the Houston game and future Green Wave events are available through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
TULANE HEAD COACH Curtis Johnson
"Last week's game was a great effort. I thought the guys really played hard. I thought they wanted to go out and give the seniors a going away present their last game. They had their high school coaches from all over and their families were there. We just fell a little short. But I was pleased that they played hard. [East Carolina] is a good football team. I feel that that was probably one of the better teams we played in the conference. I think those guys and Tulsa are two really, really good football teams and Coach (Ruffin) McNeill did a really great job with those guys and I thought we fought hard, but just came up short."
On his reflection on the season and his biggest takeaway:
On how much tougher the injuries made it:
"I think the biggest hurdle we had was the incident with Devon Walker and Devon's situation was just a weight I think on everybody--there's still a bit of a weight. But the losses, when they come, they're always tough, but I think that weight just knowing that a fellow teammate, a fellow brother--he's like a son--is just weighing. It's still weighing on us, but it was, for a minute there, it was like we're all in a fog. I think that was the toughest thing and dealing with it. Credit the players to get them back to playing football was amazing by them. You know I always brag about these young men because they're character guys. You know character...character, character, character. You know I love all of them."
"There are a lot of guys who are playing across the country who are injured. I think we have some injuries that we have to be careful with. We have some other injuries that are season-ending injuries. We have a couple knees here and there, so I think the season has taken its toll on us. You know I thought we were a little under, not only undersized, but just a little bit under-numbered at certain positions, especially with defensive positions, and we just didn't have enough bodies on defense. And then all of a sudden, this time of year, the wear and tear has caught up with us."
On Houston having a similar Devon Walker type injury:
"You know I would say this: our prayers go out to this young man and his family. He was one of their better players just like Devon was one of our better players and he's out for the season, but you know fortunately I think the future is bright for both of those young men. We just have to continue to pray and continue to support them. But it's a tough deal for any football team to go through."
On junior kicker Cairo Santos:
"He's amazing. I am proud of Cairo because Cairo, in the past, had his struggles and you know they've been well-documented. But he has overcome some of those struggles and to be the kind of kicker he is, he's always chomping at the bit to kick one farther and kick one farther. He's not backing down for anything. He's done a great job of kicking off also. It's just an honor to have a young man that competitive in the nation, to represent our school--a classy young man. And I think it goes back to (Ryan) Rome and Billy Johnson too. That operation has been sensational. I mean I don't think they've had one [field goal] even close to being blocked. It's just off and gone. Sometimes they all don't look pretty but they all just find a way of going in."
On if he feels like he has made a proper amount of progress for next season, and how important is it to get a win on Saturday:
"The win is very, very important because the biggest thing about a win is guys come out and they practice hard. These young men have been practicing hard all year, and you want to have a reward for them--and winning is the reward. And there's no substitution, I mean there are some moral victories but I don't really believe in it. But winning is the number one reward that you want. I think the program is going to move along. We had our adversity this year. I think there are some young players in the program and that's an indication of what the program will be like in the future.
There're a lot of young guys that are coming back in this program that are exceptionally good football players, and I'm not just talking about (Darion) Monroe, (Lorenzo) Doss and I'm not just talking about freshmen. There's a young offensive line that's mature to be one of the better parts of our team. These receivers when I first got here, with Keith Williams' direction as a receivers coach, they've made impeccable strides. The tight ends are playing well and the running backs are playing well, so offensively, it's good.
Defensively I think the secondary is in good shape coming back. I think we have some young defensive lineman that will be back. A bunch of freshmen that we're playing, we've got four freshmen standouts-- (Aaron) Bryant, (Corey) Redwine, Royce (LaFrance) and Calvin Thomas--are guys that will be here the next few years. We got some young linebackers and like I said the secondary. I think we are moving in the right direction. I think the number one thing that you've got to ask yourself as a coach--you know I'm highly competitive, I'll compete with my wife who can brush their teeth first. I'm beating her to the toothpaste--but the competitiveness is, are these guys quitting? I don't think so. I'm looking for guys in the program that I can point out and say `Hey, look man, you can't quit on us,' and I don't see it very much. So I think we are moving in the right direction."
On breaking in a new starting QB next season and what is the realistic expectation for next year and talk about the junior college issue:
"The update on the junior college issue is we have submitted some junior college guys' transcripts and some stuff and we're just waiting to hear back on what players we can and can't get in and who we believe can realistically try to graduate. It may be none or it may be some guys who we may like their transcript, but we may not like them athletically compared to some of the freshman. So, that's where we are in the recruiting process with the junior colleges and I think if there are one or two guys at a junior college that we see that can really help us and can really make an impact, I think we'll go after them, but I also understand that this school is a challenging school and I wouldn't have it any other way. I want them to graduate, so if I don't feel like they can do that, I won't mess with them.
The good thing about the quarterback whoever it will be next year, and you know as of right now we have one scholarship quarterback after this game that's coming back, and we have a walk-on so we're going to have to go out and recruit some quarterbacks. The good thing about whoever is the starter, you probably play him in front of someone else just thinking, and this is off-the-cuff and I haven't put much thought in it, but we also have all of the running backs back, all receivers are back, the only lineman we're losing is Eric Jones. All the tight ends are back, so now instead of breaking in everyone on a whole new offense, you can limit what you're doing offensively because everybody's played. Last year, it was the opposite. (Ryan) Griff(in) was the only player who played and everybody else besides Eric Jones were new. (Orleans) Darkwa was back but was injured early in preseason camp. But now we have the opposite and I like either scenario. I like this one where everybody around [the quarterback] will be better because they played, and so the quarterback will come in and he doesn't have to be Superman or Spider-Man. He can just be himself and I think we'll be fine."
On changing the culture:
"Well you have to step back and look at culture. What I like about the culture here is-- and from what I'm seeing-- is that there's enthusiasm. I don't see guys hanging their heads too much. I see a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of guys running to the football and I see a lot more plays being made. And then another thing when you're talking about changing the culture, one, you have to change the winning percentage, but what leads up to winning? Here's what leads up to winning: enthusiasm, playing together as team, not letting the next man down and never quitting--that's the one thing--and I saw that the other day. Because, if you were to tell me that we're going to East Carolina and have a chance to win that thing, play close and almost have a chance to win it at the end, it's no different than the Rice game. You're starting to play, and early on we're getting blown out. Then as we got moving and we started to move closer and closer to wins. Now the next thing to do is we just got to push it on over. I think we're still easing up the hill a little bit but we're almost to the summit and then we'll start rolling down and we'll start collecting the wins and that will be the total change. But you could win games and the culture would be the same, they'll be better players, but I think the six inches between the ears is getting a lot better."