One week of fall camp is in the books, two more are yet to come, and University of Louisiana at Lafayette football coach Mark Hudspeth likes where his team is sitting.
“We’re way ahead of where we were at this point last year,” Hudspeth said after Saturday night’s scrimmage. “Last year, we were putting in a whole new defense with a new coordinator, didn’t have a lot of returning starters and had a lot of question marks.
“This year, offensively just about everybody is back. Defensively, a lot of players have played in a lot of games in this scheme. That’s made the installation go faster, and the guys are picking things up quicker.”
With the amount of returning players the Cajuns have, including 14 returning starters, there aren’t many positions still up for grabs. But there’s still plenty of information that has been gleaned from a week of player evaluation, and plenty more to watch out for as fall camp turns to game-week preparation.
What has been cleared up?
Coming into camp, there were a couple key positions without a clear-cut leader. While not all of the positions have been ironed out, a week of practice was enough to answer a few questions.
Cornerback Dominick Jones appears to have locked down the starting job opposite Corey Trim, winning a one-sided camp battle with junior college transfer Antoinne Adkins. Jones has been running with the first-team unit since camp opened on Aug. 4 and doesn’t appear to be losing ground any time soon.
Jones, a St. Aug alumnus, saw limited action a season ago but has endeared himself to Hudspeth with his approach.
“That guy takes care of his body, he trains, he’s attentive at practice — he’s what you’re looking for at that position,” Hudspeth said.
Any question about who will enter the season as senior quarterback Terrance Broadway’s backup has also been put to bed after the strong start to camp by Brooks Haack.
Haack has taken all the No. 2 reps in portions open to the media this fall and also served as a fill-in for Broadway with the first-team offense during the scrimmage.
What is still up in the air?
Though Hudspeth wanted to have his two-deep set after the scrimmage, he might still need a while with a couple different positions.
Redshirt freshman center Grant Horst continued to work with the first-team offense during the scrimmage, playing all but one series with the first team unit, but Hudspeth continued singing the praises of junior college transfer Eddie Gordon.
Gordon was the first newcomer to receive a white stripe for his helmet in place of a black stripe he wore the first week, a symbol of him doing everything the right way and earning his spot on the team. Gordon is larger than Horst and perhaps better physically, but Horst has been around the system. This might take another week.
The middle linebacker position also remains unsettled for now. Junior Chris Hill and senior Trae Johnson worked with the first team during the scrimmage, while LSU transfer Trey Granier and true freshman T.J. Posey worked with the second unit. Sophomore Kevin Fouquier, expected to be Johnson’s main competition at Mike linebacker, missed Saturday’s scrimmage with an injury.
Hudspeth said senior Hunter Stover is currently ahead of junior Steven Brauchle to be the main placekicker this season. Stover hit all five of his field goal attempts in Saturday’s scrimmage, with a long of 45 yards.
It’s not time yet, but Hudspeth indicated C.J. Bates could make his way into the regular rotation at wide receiver if he keeps playing the way he did in the scrimmage.
Players to look out for
C.J. Bates: Bates had an excellent scrimmage Saturday night, making a nice leaping touchdown grab on an underthrown ball over his old JUCO teammate, Adkins.
Gabe Fuselier: The freshman wide receiver has turned some heads. He took a kick return for a touchdown in the scrimmage, and should get an opportunity to play early.
Sherard Johnson: Think you see a mountain on the field? Nope, that’s just the 6-foot-8, 383-pound sophomore defensive lineman Johnson. He got a chance to work in with the second-team in the scrimmage and didn’t look as out of place as one might think.