LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette football team was dealt a major blow when it learned senior left guard Mykhael Quave was lost for the season after he tore his rotator cuff Saturday against Louisiana Tech.
Quave was an all-Sun Belt Conference performer and a mainstay who started 43 consecutive games on the Cajuns offensive line.
“Obviously disappointed because he was having an outstanding season so far,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “I’m really disappointed for the kid because he has worked as hard or harder than any player we’ve had over the last four years.
“He’s been a leader, a hard worker, he practices hard, prepares hard. I’m hurting for him and I know our team is hurting for him, too.”
Quave is expected to be out of action for the next 9-12 months, which is particularly upsetting to Hudspeth.
Everything Hudspeth had heard so far indicated Quave would not only make the roster for the Senior Bowl, but would be invited to participate in the NFL combine ahead of next year’s draft.
“It looks like those things are going to be pushed back also because this is a 9-12 month recovery,” Hudspeth said. “That’s the part where I’m just hurting for him.”
Hudspeth said Quave would likely have to wait until 2017 for the draft.
The injury occurred in the first quarter of the Louisiana Tech game, and Quave played through to the end of the game, though obviously his effectiveness was limited.
Hudspeth said Quave couldn’t lift his arm above the shoulder.
Quave was not at practice Wednesday and was unavailable for comment.
Though his college playing career is now finished, Hudspeth said he talked to Quave about sticking with the team, albeit in a somewhat different role.
“We need him to still have a big role on this team,” Hudspeth said. “Now it’s going to be more of a player-coach, be a leader, encourager, because he can still have a big influence on this team. This team looks up to him that much.”
As far as replacing Quave on the field, the Cajuns are reshuffling their offensive line deck.
Grant Horst is moving from left tackle to center, Eddie Gordon is moving from center to Quave’s old spot at left guard, and D’Aquin Withrow will be making his first career start at left tackle.
Hudspeth called that group his “best five.” All three have experience at those positions, though most of that experience has come in practice. Until Wednesday’s practice, all three spent the majority of their practice times at different positions.
“It is a challenge, because you come into camp and it takes a while — even for your starters — to just learn to work together,” Hudspeth said. “Now it’s sort of like starting the first week of two-a-day practices and we’ve got a new offensive line. Three of the five positions are different.”
Despite the new look — and the different set of skills each player brings to their new position — Hudspeth said the game plan won’t deviate much from its original script.
“We’re going to try to keep doing what we do,” he said. “These guys have been playing, they’re just playing different positions now.”
This is new territory for Hudspeth during his tenure as Cajuns coach. His offensive line units have had a remarkably clean bill of health until Quave’s injury.
In Hudspeth’s four-plus years as the Cajuns head coach, he’s never had an offensive lineman miss a start because of injury. Quave will be the first.
“We’ll overcome, but I hate it for Mykhael Quave because of the person he is,” Hudspeth said.