LAFAYETTE — If you had a hard time finding outside linebacker Darzil Washington in Louisiana-Lafayette’s win against Texas State last week, there was a reason for that.
“I think he had about eight, nine snaps,” said coach Mark Hudspeth.
Washington played sparingly in his first game since separating his shoulder against Kentucky. He did not record any statistics.
Though Washington was healthy enough to play the full game, at this point, coaches don’t see him contributing much more than on a situational level.
“He hasn’t been out there a whole bunch lately,” Hudspeth said. “We’re trying to ease him back, because he doesn’t know what to do totally yet. We had him in on our limited game plan stuff.”
Hudspeth said that snap number would probably increase by a little bit against Arkansas State, but he still defined Washington’s role as a third-down player.
Washington finished last season with the second most sacks (5) on the team behind Christian Ringo.
His teammates are confident he can still be a guy that brings some heat on opposing passers.
“He takes the pressure off us,” said defensive lineman Blain Winston. “He’s a great pass rusher. He opens things up for us in the middle, so that’s always a positive.”
Health is key
When asked about the biggest difference between the Jalen Nixon that torched Texas State on Saturday and the Nixon that started the season, Hudspeth pointed to a healthy throwing shoulder.
“His shoulder’s much better,” Hudspeth said. “That was pretty obvious to see the other night; … he had a lot of zip on his passes, tight spirals. He really threw some darts.”
Nixon had a bit of a different opinion, saying he thought the key to his solid game was his work in the film room and on the practice field. But a healthy shoulder certainly helped.
“It was a great feeling in order for me to control the ball and being able to run the ball physically,” Nixon said.
The Cajuns have moved Lorenzo Cryer, who had been playing wide receiver, to defensive back.
“We think he can really help us,” Hudspeth said. “He’s a tall kid that can really run. We’re anxious to be able to get him some playing time in the future, maybe next spring, not this year.”
Hudspeth said it wasn’t necessarily a depth issue, though he did say the team has “a lot of numbers at receiver.”
The Cajuns have a history of using players interchangeably between the receiver and defensive back positions. Al Riles Cajuns career started on the defensive side of the ball, and last year, C.J. Bates and Antoinne Adkins (neither of whom are on the team any more) worked on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve got some unselfish players on this team and that’s what our team is built upon, doing what’s best for our program,” Hudspeth said.
Extra rest negligible
“It’s not a whole week, it’s like three extra days,” Hudspeth said. “If you’re not careful, sometimes you can be (more tired) from the extra work.”
Hudpseth said that’s been the driving force behind trying to get his team on a more normal game-week routine for the odd Tuesday night matchup.
Originally, he used the extra time afforded to him by getting more work in, and his team came out sluggish.
Hudspeth said Jeryl Brazil and Gary Haynes will work as the first team returners against Arkansas State, with Brazil returning kicks and Haynes returning punts.
Haynes had 44 punt return yards against Texas State, the most by a Cajuns player since Darryl Surgent’s 44 punt return yards in the 2013 New Orleans Bowl.
Brazil had an even greater impact, answering a Texas State kick return touchdown with one of his own, a 100-yarder that took roughly 12 seconds start to finish.
“He’s got … another gear that a lot of people don’t have,” Hudspeth said about Brazil.