LAFAYETTE — It’s the most wonderful time of the year for players on the Ragin’ Cajuns developmental squad.
Those are the true freshmen, younger players who need a little more seasoning and walk-ons, players who have seen little-to-no action this season. Bowl season is when they have a chance to show what they can do.
“We’re going to do an Oklahoma drill with the developmental guys, then they’re going to do a team offense vs. defense, a little light scrimmage … with the developmental (players) only,” said coach Mark Hudspeth about Saturday’s practice. “We’re going to get some work with those guys, that’s what the bowl practice is for.”
Because of the experience the Cajuns had on their roster, they had the luxury of red-shirting the majority of their freshman class.
“It takes an opportunity, more than anything (for a freshman to play),” Hudspeth said. “Finally, when someone is maybe injured or someone is out for a practice, and you finally get that opportunity, that’s when you can show what you can do.”
Only four true freshmen saw playing time this season, wide receiver Gabe Fuselier, safety Travis Crawford, defensive lineman Taboris Lee and linebacker T.J. Posey.
Crawford, the only member of that group to start consistently, wasn’t ready at the beginning of the season, but he seized his opportunity when it came. It’s not the ideal scenario, but Hudspeth was happy with the way Crawford reacted.
“He got forced into it and didn’t have an option,” Hudspeth said. “He had to play. And through that pushing and taking a lot of effort to make sure he’s got it, it really helped his development.”
But for the rest of the freshman class, 2014 was a year spent learning how to be a college athlete. Now that he’s had an opportunity to gauge them over a full season, Hudspeth likes the way the developmental players have progressed.
“They’ve caught up a little bit to the speed of the game,” Hudspeth said. “On scout team, they see the real speed of the game against the starters, and that’s the thing that gets them early.”
Staffing can wait
Hudspeth has some decisions to make with regards to his staff for next year’s team, specifically with regards to defensive backs coach Tim Rebowe’s replacement and the status of interim coach Matt Wallerstedt.
Those decisions will wait until the season is complete, though.
“As soon as the bowl is over, then I’m going to evaluate everything on the staff,” Hudspeth said. “See where we’re at, because obviously coach Rebowe won’t be coming back, so I’ve got to make a hire there. Once the bowl game’s over, then I’m going to decide what direction I want to go.”
Hudspeth said that statement applied to Wallerstedt’s future as well.
While finals week may have been taxing on some football players mentally, Hudspeth said they were moving noticeably better after getting two full days off from workouts and practice this week.
“You can tell they’ve got their legs back,” Hudspeth said. “It’s been good. Their minds are fresher, bodies are fresher. Coming off a long season like that, they needed to be away for a little bit.”
After witnessing the phenomenal start to sophomore running back Elijah McGuire’s career first-hand, junior left tackle Mykhael Quave can see why offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue hassled him about a recruiting visit a couple years ago.
“I still remember when he was on his visit, and coach Rodrigue was like, ‘Hey, make sure you get this guy, make sure he feels at home,’ ” Quave said. “I was like, ‘Coach, you’re just being dramatic. He ain’t that good.’ Now I can clearly see why coach Rod was pressing for us to get him.”
McGuire earned Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors last year, before being named the conference’s overall Player of the Year last week.