March 21, 2004
Geoffrey Shannon, <i>Hullabaloo</i> sports editor
Head Coach Chris Scelfo and the Tulane football squad kicked off the start of spring this month with the return of spring drills, the first leg of the 2004 football season. Coach Scelfo and his staff will use this early time to evaluate some of the young talent at the skill positions who will fill the gaping holes left by graduating seniors quarterback J.P. Losman and running back Mewelde Moore.
"We are losing two outstanding players [in Losman and Moore] who will go on to represent Tulane well," Scelfo said. "We have to focus on filling those roles."
Losman used the NFL Combine to rebound from a tough Senior Bowl, where he threw just 5-for-11 for 53 yards and was out-shadowed by N.C. State quarterback Philp Rivers. Among the Combine quarterbacks, J.P. threw the best deep ball in the group and displayed his mobility with a 4.68 40-yard dash. Losman raised his stock again and is scheduled to go in the first or early second rounds of the National Football League draft.
Competing to fill Losman's shoes at Tulane is the trio of junior Anthony Cannon, sophomore Lester Richard and freshman Richard Irvin. Of the three Cannon has the edge in experience, taking a handful of snaps last season. Richard is a highly-touted prospect who spent last season as a red-shirt for LSU. Previous to that Richard was ranked as the No. 5 prep quarterback in the nation. Irvin is a 6'2" 195 lbs. red-shirt freshman from California and one of the top quarterback prospects in the state.
During his four years at Tulane, Moore broke 25 school records, including the all time rushing record (4364 yards) and the all-purpose yards (6,505 yards). He ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the Combine, a solid number for the versatile back. He is expected to go as high as the third round of the draft, but more likely will be picked up early on the second day.
The team will attempt replace to Moore's production with junior Jovon Jackson. Last season Jackson gained 405 yards on 82 attempts and averaged 4.6 yards a carry, just below Moore's 4.9 average. Though not as versatile as Moore, Jackson has demonstrated a power running style during his brief appearances. Also expected to contribute to the offense is freshman Ray Boudreaux, a Louisiana native who rushed for 1219 yards on 188 carries during his senior season in high school.
Outside of the high profile positions, the team will focus on practicing both the fundamentals and in-game scenarios. The Wave will once again be a young team, though the team does bring back 19 starters and 45 lettermen from last season. Coach Scelfo is hoping that the spring drills will provide some much needed experience.
"We are trying to correct things from last year and work on some real game time situations," Scelfo said. "We only have 12 seniors on the team so we need these work outs for the younger guys."
Of a burning concern is the health of the defensive line. The Wave enters spring drills with only six healthy defensive linemen. Eight defensive recruits will be added in the fall, but until then the team will have to do with the few bodies it has. On the opposite side, the offensive line returns all its starters from last year. The group, who were blamed by the national media as the reason Losman had a tough senior season, will try to once again fight the critics and build a strong, cohesive unit. Despite the youth and injury status of the team, Scelfo expects to keep a strong practice schedule.
"We're not going to take it easy. We are going keep practices hard," he said. Spring drills end March 27. Tulane will open the season Sept. 4 in Starkville, Miss. against Mississippi St.
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