Photos: UL Lafayette falls to App State _lowres

Advocate file photo by BUDDY DELAHOUSSAYE -- Ragin' Cajuns running back Elijah McGuire

The Next Level: Filling out the Cajuns’ backfield

Brace yourself for Elijah McGuire 2.0. The man who has averaged nearly a first down every time he’s touched the ball in his college career is now the primary, secondary and tertiary options in the Cajuns’ attack.

It remains to be seen just how heavy a workload McGuire will get this season with the Cajuns. Coach Mark Hudspeth and offensive coordinator Jay Johnson might use the first few games on an experimental basis to see just how much beating their special back can handle.

What’s known is this: When McGuire has the ball in his hands, he’s a threat to go the distance on any play — regardless of the competition. And give McGuire room to operate in the open field? Well, partner, that threat just became a whole lot more real.

What isn’t known is the concern that is bugging the Cajuns coaching staff. For as special as McGuire has been in his first two seasons — 2,127 rushing yards, 852 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns — he’s always had a big ole bruiser there in Alonzo Harris to take some of the beating for him. How will McGuire fare when he’s not changing the pace, but setting it?

The Cajuns will get their first glimpse of the answer to that question against Kentucky.

It’s been a long time since McGuire had to prove to anybody that he was capable of doing something.

What better proving ground than a Southeastern Conference stadium for the player who has utterly dominated most of the people across from him? In his career?

And really, what is he capable of now that he’s unrestrained by a time share?

Luke Johnson’s Four Downs

1. First day on the job

That’s the euphemism Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth chose to describe this team, which is littered with first-time starters and freshmen whom the Cajuns are counting on to perform better than their experience would suggest they’re capable of. Kentucky will provide a challenging first test.

2. Who’s the man?

One of those inexperienced players will be the starting quarterback, only we still don’t know who that may be. Brooks Haack is the presumed favorite for the job based on last season and reading between the lines of Hudspeth’s news conferences and practice reports.

3. Air Raid sirens

New UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson rose through the coaching ranks using the Air Raid offense, which has been successful at Texas Tech, West Virginia and Kentucky. The Cajuns are breaking in a new secondary and a new defensive scheme.

4. Young legs

Speaking of inexperience: The Cajuns will rely upon two true freshman specialists against Kentucky, one of whom (Australia native Steven Coutts) has never kicked in an American football game. Hudspeth likes what he sees in his youngsters, but he has cause for nervousness.