While the countdown to the season opener is exciting for the top half of a college football team’s roster, the rest of the players have to fight off the letdown of being left behind.
The reality of practicing with the scout teams — where third- and fourth-stringers simulate the opponent to prepare the starters and top backups for what they will see on game day — hit home Wednesday when Tulane began preparing in earnest for its Sept. 2 opener against Grambling.
Ideally, the transition to scout-team work is smooth, since it will form the backbone of most practices the rest of the year. But experience has taught coach Willie Fritz to expect bumps in the road.
“Some guys have a tough time getting better while they’re on the scout team, even though it’s the same keys, reads and everything else we’re doing,” he said. “Some of them have been starters all their lives and never been on a scout team. As I always say,’You’re either helping us win, or you’re helping us lose.’ Everybody has to do their roles to the best of their ability.”
Tulane’s scout team includes third-year sophomore guard John Washington, who entered camp competing for a starting job; fourth-year junior cornerback Stephon Lofton, who has played in 16 games the past two years; and freshman wide receiver Kevin LeDee, who turned heads with some nice plays in the preseason. Other freshmen joining them are defensive tackle Deion Rainey, defensive end Michael Scott and linebacker Monty Montgomery.
None of them is where he expected to be, something starting cornerback Donnie Lewis and starting center Junior Diaz understand. Both practiced on Tulane’s scout teams in 2014, redshirting as freshmen after arriving with loftier goals.
Rising from scout-team work to playing time in the same season is not unprecedented, but it is difficult.
“It’s tough at first, when you were a big star in high school,” said Lewis, a first-team all-state selection in 2013 at Central High School. “But at some point, you have to help out if coaches think you aren’t ready to play.”