LAFAYETTE — When all else fails, get speed on the field.
Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth announced a new-look linebacker unit Sunday that will give the Cajuns the most speed they’ve had on the field at any point this season when they visit Texas State at 7 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2).
“(Former safety) T.J. Worthy is going to move down to one of the linebacker spots,” Hudspeth said. “Dominique Tovell now is going to start at inside linebacker for (Kevin) Fouquier.”
The Cajuns’ other outside linebacker spot will be occupied by junior-college transfer Darzil Washington, who saw extensive action last week. A healthy Trae Johnson rounds out the group at the other middle linebacker spot.
That’s an athletic foursome, one that Hudspeth hopes will create some of the big plays the Cajuns have been missing.
“You hope that you get more people to the ball and try to create turnovers,” he said.
The big surprise is Worthy, who has started 14 games in his career for the Cajuns — all of them at safety. Hudspeth said Worthy has played some linebacker in the Cajuns’ nickel package. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder is on the small side for a linebacker, but he packs a wallop and Hudspeth likes his other attributes.
“He’s long and can run,” Hudspeth said. “We just feel like he’s one of our best 11, and I think he fits that spot a little better than the safety position. It’s a good little move for us to get a little more speed on the field.”
Hudspeth hinted earlier in the week that changes might be coming on defense.
One of the Cajuns’ recurring issues this season has been with the drops that linebackers take in pass defense. Players have been out of place, leaving passing lanes open.
The responsibility of making sure everyone is in the right place typically falls on the middle linebacker. Hudspeth said he’s confident in Tovell as a communicator, but he wasn’t about to lay the blame on Fouquier.
“It wasn’t just one; the whole group in general had to improve,” Hudspeth said of his linebackers.
With senior safety Trevence Patt still not fully recovered from an ankle injury, the Cajuns likely will start redshirt freshman Tracy Walker at safety alongside senior Sean Thomas.
“(Patt) is going to be available if we need him,” Hudspeth said. “He’s just not 100 percent.”
Walker made a big tackle on fourth down last week to help preserve a win against Georgia State, and Hudspeth said he has been making strides as the year has progressed.
“We’re hoping he’s going to play well, and I think he will,” Hudspeth said. “He’s getting better each week.”
The Cajuns hope more speed equals more turnovers. The Cajuns have forced just one this season to rank last among Football Bowl Subdivision teams. But the problem isn’t all related to the front seven.
“We do have to challenge for more balls in the secondary,” Hudspeth said. “Haven’t gotten enough hands on the ball back there. Hopefully we can build on that. We’ve got to get turnovers.”
This change comes on the heels of the Cajuns bringing in Matt Wallerstedt as a defensive consultant, but Hudspeth shot down the notion that the personnel changes were a result of Wallerstedt’s input.
“He had just as much (input) as the rest of the coaches. They all had input,” Hudspeth said. “This is (defensive coordinator James Willis’) defense — 100 percent. Matt’s just another voice, just another assistant coach in the staff room.
“They’re all doing a great job working together and game-planning, but this is James’ defense. I expect us to play really good on Tuesday.”