University of Louisiana at Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth said last week that he would need to review film from his team’s Saturday scrimmage before he’d be able to come to a conclusion on whether it would be redshirt freshman Grant Horst or junior Eddie Gordon as his starting center.
After looking at the tape, Hudspeth felt like he had enough material to make the call: Neither would start.
Rather than picking one of the two options at his disposal, Hudspeth chose to shuffle the deck, elevating junior-college transfer Donovan Williams to starting left guard and moving Terry Johnson to center.
“One of the things that became clear over the course of the last week was that Donovan’s one of our best five (offensive linemen),” Hudspeth said. “It’s imperative that we get our best five on the field, so we moved Terry (from left guard) to center, which he did all spring.”
Horst spent Monday’s practice as the second-team right tackle — what Hudspeth called the tall and lean Horst’s “natural position” — while Gordon remained at center as Johnson’s backup. Williams slid in at left guard between Johnson and left tackle Mykhael Quave on the starting offensive unit.
“Grant was doing well,” Johnson said. “He just doesn’t have the body type as a center right now. I think he’s a great tackle, and I think he can develop into a great tackle or a center. But as of right now it seems like I’m the best fit (at center).”
Hudspeth let Williams know about the decision Sunday evening.
“I was happy, but I knew the job wasn’t done,” Williams said. “I still need to work hard to stay there.”
Williams adds some beef to the Cajuns’ offensive line that it simply didn’t have with Horst, who had been taking the majority of the first-team reps at center. The 315-pound Williams outweighs Horst by 55 pounds and is now the Cajuns’ second-heaviest starter on the offensive line.
But it was his brutish strength, which Hudspeth noticed in one-on-one situations, that played a large part in sealing the starting gig.
“He’s very physical at the point of attack,” Hudspeth said. “He’s picked up what we’re doing quite well, and it’s really showing out there that he can get some movement up front, and he’s got good enough feet to be an effective pass protector.”
The physical tools are there for Williams, but he’s still got to pick up some of the finer points of playing guard in the Cajuns offense.
Williams didn’t go through spring drills with UL-Lafayette, so he has only a week of experience in the system. While he’s picking it up at a solid rate, he still has some learning to do.
“I feel like I’m getting a grasp of it, but there’s some stuff I still need to work on,” Williams said. “It’s not a complicated system, you’ve just got to get used to it and let it go from there.”
The move from left guard to center doesn’t bother Johnson, who spent most of the spring getting reps at center before suffering an ankle injury that required surgery.
Johnson spent a lot of time last season with Andre Huval, a four-year starter at center, often picking his brain about the position.
“I think this is a good move,” Johnson said.
The ankle surgery left Johnson unable to finish spring drills or participate in most of summer conditioning with his teammates. Through one week of camp, Johnson thought he’d found a way to work himself into game shape despite the injury, but after a day spent making calls to the rest of the linemen at center, Johnson might be reconsidering.
“At first I thought I was in game shape at guard because I didn’t have to talk that much,”Johnson said. “But now at center, I’ve got to have a higher lung capacity.”
If the Ragin’ Cajuns stick with their current offensive line, they’ll have five upperclassmen along the offensive line, all of whom are listed at 295 pounds or heavier.