LAFAYETTE — He has started 30 games at safety in his Louisiana-Lafayette career, but Tracy Walker’s new status as one of the team's “juice” bringers has him in a different role.
And it has nothing to do with hydration.
“I’ve had to become a lot more vocal,” the preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selection said. “My job is now as a leader, and to come out there with that on my mind, bring the juice and get everything out of my teammates so we can get better.”
Does that mean getting in a teammate's face at times?
“Sometimes that happens,” he said.
Ragin’ Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth has used the mantra “bringing the juice” since his arrival in 2011, referring to his desire for players to practice and play with intensity and enthusiasm. But after Thursday's and Friday's workouts, Hudspeth mentioned that some squad members have not been as receptive as he would like in taking coaching and motivation from teammates.
“Sometimes you have to humble yourself,” Hudspeth said Friday. “It’s about being humble and understanding there’s a hierarchy on the football team. Seniors, team captains, they’ve got the right to tell a young player to pick it up a little bit. You’ve got to have a little bit of humility and know your place. Guys coming in from another school or high school where they were the big dog, and now they’re down the depth chart, they’re not used to accepting that.”
No names were mentioned, but Hudspeth said a handful of players did not respond well when veterans held them accountable during workouts.
Even if Walker wasn’t directly involved, he has become one of the most vocal members of that hierarchy; the Brunswick, Georgia, product and four-year starter at rover said he’s not backing down.
“I can see how much effect I have on my teammates with Otha Peters, Tre’maine Lightfoot, those guys gone,” Walker said. “I see how much my voice really carries on this team, so I’ve had to step it up a lot.”
“Great teams are player-led,” Hudspeth said. “We’re really trying to push that aspect, and we have guys that are stepping up, and I love the way they’re doing that.”
Walker heads up a secondary that has taken a lot of bruising in the first six days of workouts. Although no projected starters have been involved, the Cajuns are operating without three players who were likely to be in the mix for playing time.
The most significant is junior Jam Williams, a two-year member of the UL-Lafayette baseball team who joined the football squad this season. Williams, who was penciled in as Walker’s backup at rover entering fall drills, suffered a lower leg injury in Thursday’s first full-pads workout. Hudspeth said he would be sidelined for at least a month.
“We don’t know the severity until we get all the results back, but he could be out for a little while,” he said. “Just a freak thing during practice.”
Senior safety Denarius Howard, who played 13 games and had two starts last season, and freshman safety SchDarren Archie are sidelined with hamstring pulls.
“We lose three defensive backs in the course of three practices,” Hudspeth said. “You need that depth throughout practice so everybody else doesn’t get worn in the ground and then they start coming up with injuries. We’ve had to bring up some guys out of the bullpen.”
Junior Corey Turner, who moved to the slash linebacker slot from safety, could return to the defensive back role if the shortage lingers. Miller played in all 13 games last season.
It’s not one of the two major scrimmages that UL-Lafayette plans for camp, but Saturday’s practice will include at least an hour of scrimmage action.
Hudspeth said the 9:15 a.m. workout will be broken into a review segment and a live-work segment.
“We mainly want to see some of the new kids and put them in position to see if they’re picking up what we’ve put on them and see if some of those guys can help us,” he said. “It’ll be good evaluation. We have not tackled yet, so this will be the first time we’re going to tackle to the ground. We’ve been what we call 'thudding up.' ”
Asked to define "thudding up," Hudspeth said, “Kind of similar to a hug — a hug with a little bit of aggression.”
The workout and scrimmage are closed to the public. The Cajuns have full-scale scrimmages set for Aug. 12 and 19.