UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns 2015 Preview and Prediction
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#87 UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
Sun Belt PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Mark Hudspeth, 36-16 (4 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jay Johnson | DEF. COORDINATOR: Charlie Harbison, Melvin Smith
In each of Mark Hudspeth's four seasons, UL Lafayette has gone 9-4 and finished the year playing in the New Orleans Bowl. This year's Ragin' Cajuns could keep each of these streaks alive, but to do so it will need to rely on new starters at key positions, including quarterback, as well as a new defensive coaching staff.
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Previewing UL Lafayette’s Offense for 2015
Certainly the Ragin’ Cajuns’ offense wasn’t prolific a year ago. It finished 10th in the Sun Belt in passing offense, fourth in rushing offense and sixth in total offense. But it was efficient, finishing No. 1 in the league in red-zone offense. This season, with the departures of quarterback Terrance Broadway, leading receiver James Butler and bruising running back Alonza Harris, Louisiana-Lafayette will ask another player to lead the way — running back Elijah McGuire, the 2014 Sun Belt Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year.
McGuire won’t have to share the ball with Harris, and he’s expected to continue to catch passes out of the backfield after he was second on the team in receiving yards last season. He’s even going to be the punt returner. While he shared the spotlight a year ago, the Cajuns’ offense will be geared toward getting him the ball as often as possible this year.
Yet if the Cajuns are to excel offensively, others must step forward, especially at quarterback. Three players who appeared in just six games combined last season — juniors Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon and redshirt freshman Jordan Davis — will battle to replace Broadway. There is talent at wide receiver in Al Riles, Jamal Robinson and C.J. Bates. And while the offensive line is looking for two new starters, All-Sun Belt candidates Mykhael Quave and Grant Horst return.
Previewing UL Lafayette’s Defense for 2015
This unit will have a different look. That’s because there are some new faces on the defensive staff, led by co-defensive coordinators Charlie Harbison (outside linebackers) and Melvin Smith (defensive backs), both of whom make their way to Lafayette from Auburn. They bring along Levorn Harbin to coach the defensive line, and the trio has helped instill a different mindset and approach on that side of the football, one that showed signs of improvement in spring drills.
The defense didn’t dominate the Sun Belt stats, but it placed well in areas that mattered such as second in scoring defense and No. 1 in red-zone defense. The Cajuns allowed 405.8 yards per game, including a league-worst 263.6 passing yards, and improving those numbers has been a point of emphasis.
The Cajuns are loaded at linebacker with Dominique Tovell, Tre’maine Lightfoot and Otha Peters. The problem area is on the defensive line, where standouts Christian Ringo and Justin Hamilton have moved on. Chris Prater and Miami transfer Jacoby Briscoe will be expected to step forward there. The secondary, also missing some key players from a year ago, will lean on Troy McCollum and T.J. Worthy.
Previewing UL Lafayette’s Specialists for 2015
The return game will have experience, with McGuire expected to be used on punt returns and Montrel Carter back on kickoff returns. The concern from an experience standpoint is with the kicking duties. Dylan Scheurich and Stevie Artigue will battle for the placekicking job in preseason camp. At punter, Australian Steven Coutts caught the attention of coach Mark Hudspeth in spring drills, and the job appears to be his.
This is a program that has thrived under Hudspeth’s leadership, and the Cajuns are expected to continue to enjoy success again this year. They have posted four consecutive 9–4 records and four straight New Orleans Bowl appearances. While competition will be strong, Lafayette is expected to contend for the Sun Belt title once again. There is concern based on inexperience at a couple of key positions, most notably quarterback and on the defensive line, but there is also a confidence among those in the program based on recent success.