LAFAYETTE — Who was going to step up at running back?
That was one of the questions heading into the first week of the Louisiana-Lafayette football team’s spring practice. Returning starter Elijah McGuire and converted quarterback Jalen Nixon missed practice; McGuire was committed to playing for the basketball team in the Sun Belt tournament, and Nixon was recovering from an injury.
That left the door open for one of the other running backs to impress the coaching staff. That didn’t happen until Saturday’s morning practice.
“I thought, this being the first day in pads, you could tell a little bit more than before,” coach Mark Hudspeth said. “It’s hard to judge a running back in just helmets.”
With the team taking part in drills in helmets and shoulder pads, a few guys made an impression.
“I thought Jordan Wright did some nice things today,” Hudspeth said. “He didn’t stutter his feet in the hole as he did the practice before, which is good because he is getting a little more confident. We think he is going to be a good player. He’s just got to continue learning and maturing.”
The redshirt freshman wasn’t the only one that caught Hudspeth’s eye. Darius Hoggins’ steady play got noticed as well.
“Darius was consistent today, and he has always been consistent,” Hudspeth said. “He has been here for a long time. He works hard all the time, and he is probably being a good mentor to Jordan.”
QB race taking shape
With the first week of spring practice complete, the five-man race at quarterback has begun to take shape.
The five signal-callers all took snaps Saturday, but Jordan Davis and Chris Weaver impressed the most with several sharp throws.
“I think right now it is a two-man race at this point, but Dion Ray is getting better at the third spot,” Hudspeth said. “Chris and Jordan are competing well, and both throw the ball extremely well. They both have live arms.”
What is Hudspeth looking for during these practices from his talented, but inexperienced, quarterbacks group, which also includes Patrick Morton and Gunner Hudspeth?
“The first thing is, can they manage the game for us?” Hudspeth said. “Can they get the guys lined up, and can they get the calls right? The second thing is, can they take care of the football? And three is, who can make the plays?”
Intensity level remains high
In one of the final segments of Saturday’s practice, an offensive and defensive lineman got into each other’s face during a two-minute drill. The players had to be separated by teammates before calming down and focusing on the drill.
Hudspeth, for one, liked that his team was playing with an edge.
“You like to see that, especially when it carries on that far and it is at the end of the practice,” Hudspeth said. “You know that their energy level is high. I thought they came ready to work today.”
Final first-week thoughts
As practice wrapped up Saturday morning, Hudspeth took a moment to reflect on the first week of spring practice, while also sharing what he hopes to see from his squad during next week’s practices leading up to next Saturday’s scrimmage.
“I feel that we are a little farther ahead than I thought we would be at this time,” Hudspeth said. “Maybe just a little, and that’s a good thing.
“Next week, I hope that all positions can improve fundamentally. That’s the big thing during spring ball: Every position (needs to) improve fundamentally, and everybody (needs to) start to not have as many missed assignments. If we can do that, we can hopefully have a successful scrimmage.”