LAFAYETTE — The 2014 season was quietly an abysmal one for Louisiana-Lafayette’s return men.
The Ragin’ Cajuns ranked 110th nationally in kick return average at 19.0 yards last season. It was the first time since 2000 that the team didn’t have at least one return of 40 or more yards.
Even with breakaway threat Elijah McGuire returning punts, the Cajuns didn’t fare much better there, with their 6.9-yard average ranking 80th nationally.
The bet is that McGuire, who only had a chance to return 15 punts as teams either kicked it short or away from him, will break one sooner or later. On the kick return side, the Cajuns are hoping some new faces can jump-start the unit.
Wide receiver Gabe Fuselier and cornerback Jeryl Brazil are battling for the top spot, and both bring an element of speed that was missing in the return game a year ago.
While prepping at Catholic-New Iberia, Fuselier ran a career-best time of 10.78 seconds in the 100-meter dash. Brazil ran for the Cajuns track team during the spring, and he clocked a season-best 10.52 in the 100 at the Sun Belt outdoor championships.
Fuselier isn’t planning on beating Brazil in a footrace any time soon.
“I think he would get me — I’m not going to lie,” Fuselier said. “I think I could get him off the line. But straight up, I don’t think I’d be able to keep up with him.”
Fuselier is currently the top option at the position, but Brazil has been pushing him in practice. Both said they’re looking forward to the opportunity to do something special with the ball in their hands.
They also both argued that successfully returning kicks depends on more than just fleet feet.
“It has a lot to do with vision and following your blocks; there’s always a hole or a seam somewhere in that wedge,” Brazil said. “You have to find it and hit it hard.”
Battling for a spot
The first round of NFL roster cuts is looming, and nine former Ragin’ Cajuns are looking to make one last solid impression.
Christian Ringo, Alonzo Harris and James Butler (Packers); Charles Tillman and Melvin White (Panthers); Justin Anderson (Saints); Jacob Maxwell (Lions); Justin Hamilton (Bills); and Boris Anyama (Falcons) were slated to play in preseason games this weekend. NFL teams must trim their rosters to 75 players by Tuesday; the final cutdown to 53 is due Sept. 5.
Season tickets mailed out
The athletic department mailed tickets to season-ticket holders Friday. Associate Athletic Director of External Affairs Rob Stewart said some could arrive later than others because of the high volume of tickets being sent.
“It may take a post on Friday and some on Monday as well,” Stewart said. “The actual mail drop may be divided into two days. Somebody’s season tickets may get mailed out (Friday), and their neighbors’ get mailed out Monday.”
Stewart said roughly 13,000 season tickets were being distributed via mail. The window to purchase season tickets is still open, Stewart said.
Enjoy the weekend
With this being the last weekend before the start of the regular season, the Cajuns are easing into their normal game-week routine.
After an early workout Friday morning, the team was given the rest of Friday and all of Saturday off.
The Cajuns will return Sunday evening for a walk-through.