COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
Sun Belt PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Mark Hudspeth, 18-8 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jay Johnson | DEF. COORDINATOR: James Willis
Questions were plentiful when returning New Orleans Bowl MVP Blaine Gautier broke his wrist in the fourth game of the 2012 season, but Terrance Broadway answered those immediately. In only nine starts, Broadway set school records for total offense (3,616 yards) and completion percentage (65.4). He was also the Ragin’ Cajuns’ second-leading rusher (769 yards), and now heads into his junior year with a better grasp of coach Mark Hudspeth’s multiple scheme.
It doesn’t hurt that the Cajuns return their four top rushers, five of their top seven receivers and three linemen who have combined for 65 starts.
Burly running back Alonzo Harris has rushed for 1,581 yards in two years and still has two seasons remaining. Effrem Reed (414 yards) and Montrel Carter provide speed to the backfield. Carter was the Game 1 starter last season but went down with an ACL injury after only six carries.
Center Andre Huval, a third-year starter, is the unquestioned leader of the line. The Quave brothers, Daniel and Mykhael, also return, with Mykhael shifting from guard to the all-important left tackle slot on a unit that had the same starting lineup for 26 straight games. Tackle Johnny Kight, a junior college signee, played well during spring drills.
Big targets Ian Thompson and Jacob Maxwell return at tight end, but filling the shoes of dangerous wideouts Harry Peoples and Javone Lawson (nearly 4,000 combined career yards) remains the biggest question on offense. A return to form by veteran Darryl Surgent and the continued improvement of Jamal Robinson and James Butler should help fill that void.
Lost in the euphoria of a second straight 9–4 season and another bowl victory was a defense that ranked seventh in the Sun Belt overall and last against the pass in league games. Spring practice did little to placate the fears that surround a porous secondary. ULL went heavy on defensive back signees, with junior college transfers Cedrick Tillman and Corey Trim expected to make an impact. Veteran safety Trevence Patt came on strong to close the 2012 season.
The rest of the defense is in better shape. New coordinator James Willis plans to employ multiple looks from a unit that began last season in a 3-4 base and finished as a 4-3.
Christian Ringo (10.5 tackles for a loss), Brandon McCray and 330-pound Justin Hamilton have a combined 25 starts and lead a defensive line that was solid against the rush last fall.
Motivational leader Justin Anderson, the team leader with 105 tackles last year, moves from outside to inside linebacker, while Chris Hill was a late-season starter as a true freshman.
An all-conference pick as both a placekicker and punter, Brett Baer graduated as the NCAA’s all-time field goal accuracy leader (90.0 percent) among those with at least 50 attempts. ULL went to Australia to find punter Daniel Cadona, who had never donned pads before spring drills. Stephen Brauchle is the frontrunner to take over placekicking duties. Surgent had an off-year in 2012 as a return specialist after a solid sophomore season.
The Cajuns led the Sun Belt in scoring last season (35.5 ppg) and could be even better offensively this year. They will need to be, since ULL’s defense ranged from mediocre to bad in 2012. Hudspeth is confident that the new scheme will solve some of his team’s defensive issues. Still, it’s clear that the Cajuns will have to score a bunch of points to win games this season — something they are more than capable of doing. The school’s first Sun Belt title since 2005 is well within reach.