LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette football team will wrap up its spring Saturday at Cajun Field with its spring game. And, in keeping with the season, the theme of the day will be what is new.
Quarterbacks Jordan Davis and Chris Weaver — who have a combined 42 collegiate pass attempts between them, all courtesy of Davis — have been competing for the starting job this spring and will command opposing offenses in a final dress rehearsal before the team breaks for the summer.
Jorge Munoz, last seen patrolling the sideline as a wide receivers coach, will coordinate the offense. He took over for Jay Johnson, who left to take a job near his hometown at the University of Minnesota. He plans to introduce an up-tempo attack that spreads the field, though that is one of the new looks that likely won’t be on full display Saturday.
Tracy Walker, a two-year starter at safety, is now a linebacker. For the first time in the Mark Hudspeth era, a game will be played at Cajun Field with nary a Quave (neither Mykhael nor Daniel) on the roster.
The Cajuns are even going back to playing an actual game Saturday, instead of the screwy scoring system that only Hudspeth seemed to know the equation to.
Maybe this is all a good thing. After going 4-8 last season, the first losing season in Hudspeth’s five years as head coach, a little change could be beneficial.
The new thing to watch Saturday will be the performance of the quarterbacks, because that was the old thing that perhaps played the largest part in the Cajuns’ poor record. The quarterbacks did not produce at a high level last season, which is largely why the Cajuns once again find themselves holding a spring competition.
Starting last spring and stretching into the regular season, the coaching staff vacillated between starting Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon, and neither found any consistent success.
Haack, who sat in favor of Davis for much of the final game, transferred to Northwestern State after throwing five touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. Nixon was moved to running back this offseason, though he has taken some snaps at quarterback since returning from an injury.
Now it’s up to Davis and/or Weaver to turn that around. Though they vary greatly in stature — Davis is 6-foot-3, Weaver is a generously listed at 6-foot — they both possess dual-threat ability, which Hudspeth wants. Davis has the advantage in mobility and experience; Weaver has what Hudspeth considers to be the strongest arm he’s ever coached.
Davis is expected to be the last man standing in the competition. He’s taken all of the first-team snaps this spring, and Saturday he’ll guide the roster that’s composed mostly of projected starters.
Saturday also figures to be an excellent opportunity for a few youngsters to get an opportunity to shine, because there are a bunch of important players who won’t be participating Saturday for various reasons.
Among the players who either won’t suit up or will be limited strictly to catching punts are Elijah McGuire, Jalen Nixon, Gabe Fuselier, Jared Johnson, Gary Haynes, Otha Peters and Taboris Lee, all of whom figure to be big contributors this season.
McGuire, who will enter his season ranked No. 4 on the Cajuns’ all-time rushing list, did not join the team until after spring break as he was playing with the basketball team during its post-season run.
McGuire and Peters, largely considered the best players on either side of the ball for the Cajuns, are being held out for precautionary reasons. All the other players who are missing the game had nagging injuries this spring or offseason surgery.
That means redshirt freshman Jordan Wright, whom Hudspeth tabbed as the most impressive Cajuns player this spring, will get a chance to carry the load. It also means redshirt freshman Jamarcus Bradley and sophomore Keenan Barnes, part of the 2015 recruiting class along with Wright, could be the primary receiving options for Davis.
Everything looks much different than it did this time a year ago, and the Cajuns might be glad for that.