LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette football team still hasn’t named a starting quarterback, but coach Mark Hudspeth may have slightly tipped the scales in Brooks Haack’s favor Tuesday.
“Brooks Haack may have come out (of the spring) a little bit ahead. He may have a little more experience than the other guys,” Hudspeth said during a Sun Belt Conference coaches teleconference. “Jalen Nixon has had some game experience, and the freshman Jordan Davis is a pretty talented young man that had a really good spring, too.”
It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of Haack as the starter but, when spring camp concluded, Hudspeth deemed the race too close to call.
The Ragin’ Cajuns still will use fall practice to determine which quarterback will be the starter when they open the season Sept. 5 at Kentucky. But Hudspeth said he’d like to use that time to establish a definitive starter — rather than using a situational dual-quarterback approach.
“Hopefully as we get into two-a-day practice, one of those guys will take hold of the starting position,” Hudspeth said while intimating that the decision may not be made until the week of the Kentucky game. “Hopefully we can settle on one guy without it being a dual system.”
The Cajuns finished spring practice nearly a month ago, well before several other teams in the conference wrapped up spring camp.
It has given Hudspeth and his staff some time to evaluate film from the practice sessions, and Hudspeth said each quarterback showed some valuable strengths. Haack has the most game experience of the bunch, and his leadership skills drew heavy praise from Hudspeth.
“His leadership, right now, is probably tops on the team,” Hudspeth said. “He’s not only working hard and leading by example, but he’s a vocal leader. His work ethic, his leadership ability and the way he handles himself in everything, day-to-day — academics to offseason to football — is really a breath of fresh air. I’m pretty excited about the way he’s handling himself.”
But Haack’s physical skills also grabbed Hudspeth’s attention, particularly in the vertical passing game, where the Cajuns struggled at times last season. Haack didn’t get the opportunity to throw many deep balls when he spelled Terrance Broadway last season, but he showed off a strong and accurate arm at times in the spring.
“When you go back and look how he threw the deep ball, he gives us some big-play threat, especially when you’ve got some targets like Jamal Robinson coming back, Jared Johnson. He didn’t have his top two receivers in the spring,” Hudspeth said. “He can really hit some big plays.”
The wild card might be Davis, a redshirt freshman who has never taken a snap in a college game but has wowed coaches with his ability to create openings with his athleticism.
“Just going back and watching the film, it’s amazing how many times he turned broken plays into good plays,” Hudspeth said. “He can really change the game with his legs also. Those things are pretty noticeable throughout the spring.”
Hudspeth said he was pleased with how quickly his players meshed with an entirely new defensive coaching staff this spring.
“I thought they really bought in quickly, probably the quickest I’ve seen any group of players buy into a staff,” Hudspeth said. “I think it started with the way these coaches earned these kids’ trust and the way they saw them interact daily.”
Three of the coaches — co-defensive coordinators Melvin Smith and Charlie Harbison and defensive line coach Levorn Harbin — came to the Cajuns from Auburn. The other, Mike Lucas, was Northwestern State’s defensive coordinator last season.
“They know these coaches wouldn’t have been at the places they’ve been and wouldn’t have coached in the national championship game (after the 2013 season) unless they were pretty good coaches,” Hudspeth said. “I think they’ve brought a lot of respect, Day One, when they walked in the door.”
As far as what sort of schematic changes the defense might undergo?
“Yep, I’m going to announce it today,” Hudspeth joked. “You ready? We’re going to be a multiple scheme.”
Hudspeth is keeping that one close to the vest until his team reaches Lexington.