With only nine days between now and the season opener, most of the Ragin’ Cajuns starters are set, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still competition for some important backup roles.
A handful of receivers have had nice performances in camp as they battle for snaps behind presumed starters Jamal Robinson and James Butler on the outside and the combination of Al Riles and Matthew Barnes in the slot.
Sophomore speedster Devin Scott hauled in a long touchdown pass late in Tuesday’s practice off a desperation throw from backup quarterback Brooks Haack. The defensive players lining the sideline made it impossible to see from the vantage point available to the media, but it elicited a big cheer from the offensive players, and practice momentarily stopped while Scott celebrated with teammates and coaches.
Coaches have been high on Scott since the early parts of fall camp. Scott might have the best speed of any receiver on the team, and the Cajuns could utilize that aspect in the return game.
Not to be outdone, sophomore Jared Johnson has come through with a couple highlight-reel catches of his own lately. He closed Monday’s practice emphatically with a leaping touchdown grab on an overthrown pass, also from Haack. He also snared a touchdown pass in the Cajuns’ last scrimmage, using his 6-foot-5 frame to pluck the ball out of the air over the outstretched hands of the defensive back.
“That’s a weapon, especially when you throw up the fade routes to the corner of the endzone,” Hudspeth said. “He is a 6-foot-5 kid who was a basketball player and can really go get the ball.”
Johnson started off slowly in camp, but has been coming on strong lately. Hudspeth thinks he knows the reasoning behind that.
“I think the way some of these younger receivers in Devin Scott and Scott Austin have come on has lit a fire under him a little bit,” Hudspeth said. “That tends to happen every once in while.”
Austin, a redshirt freshman, was a bit of a mystery heading into this season. He’s a gifted athlete who wasn’t able to put it together last year, but so far has shown off his physical tools numerous times in practices and scrimmages.
“Scott Austin has really made strides,” Hudspeth said. “I was really beginning to wonder if he was gonna be able to make a push to play — to even make a contribution. He has certainly proven us wrong, and has had a very surprising and outstanding camp thus far.”
Junior college transfer C.J. Bates, who spent the spring working as a defensive back, has also had a strong camp.
Freshman DBs need work
Hudspeth hoped that by the end of camp he’d have seen enough from freshman defensive backs Corey Turner and Travis Crawford to merit making them part of the Cajuns main defensive back rotation, but the young corners didn’t develop as fast as he’d hoped.
“They’re trying, they’re working hard, but they’re not ready yet,” Hudspeth said. “They’ve got a lot of learning to do scheme-wise and adjusting to the speed of the game. We would shuffle some guys around before we went that direction (putting them in the game).”
Don’t go busting out the redshirts yet, though.
“They could be ready before the year’s out,” Hudspeth said. “I think they’re progressing quite well, but they’re not ready yet.”