Quarterback competition underway at Tulane spring practice

Spring practice begins for the Green Wave inside Yulman Stadium.
Spring practice begins for the Green Wave inside Yulman Stadium.(Chris Hagan (custom credit) | Chris Hagan)
Published: Mar. 3, 2020 at 2:57 PM CST
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At any level of football, it’s hard to win without a good quarterback. So with the departure of 2019′s starter Justin McMillan, that’s where the conversation starts for Tulane during spring football.

The two that stood out most during day one: the redshirt senior Keon Howard and the true freshman that’s enrolled early, Michael Pratt, out of the state of Florida. The competition between them has hardly begun, but thanks to the time on task that even the younger players on the roster already have, the gap may not be too large.

“You’re able to do so much with the guys in the off-season that you weren’t able to do five years ago,” says head coach Willie Fritz. “You get to have them and work with them for a couple of hours in meeting rooms. So even the new guys have a good idea of what we’re doing.”

And past what you see on the field, Howard, as the veteran in the quarterback room, is already establishing himself as a team leader, and his coaches are taking notice.

“He’s really smart,” says Fritz. “He understands what’s going on. He’s a gym rat. He’s up in the office everyday. I come up there on Saturdays and Sundays. He finds a way in the office somehow, and I have to shoo him out of there sometimes on Saturdays and Sundays. But he’s a real student of the game.”

“I’m always doing extra work, staying after practice, throwing with my receivers, and building a relationship with my receivers,” says Howard, who had to sit out the 2018 season before serving as the back-up in 2019. “(I’m) always the first guy in, last guy out. Only thing I can do everyday is get myself better each and everyday and push my teammates my around to be the best that we all can be and vice versa, letting them push me to be the best I can be as well.”

The quarterbacks competing for the starting job certainly appear to have the right attitude as the football staff believes they have the right plan. Coach Fritz says he would’ve liked to start spring practice even sooner, as in late February, but the hiring of new staff pushed the date back. Tulane’s plan is to identify the good and bad about the roster as soon as possible to make the adjustments they need as soon as they can.

If you read between the lines, one could assume that if they don’t think they have what they need at quarterback on the current depth chart, they go after a transfer. After all, it’s worked the last few years, and got them to back-to-back bowl games with McMillan. Either way, as the athletes improve everywhere within the program, they can’t afford to take a step back at the quarterback position if they want to continue building on their success.

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