Melvin Smith likes what he’s seen from Cajuns defense _lowres

Photo by Brad Kemp/RaginCajuns.com -- UL-Lafayette defensive coordinator Melvin Smith watches as defensive back Simeon Thomas goes through drills earlier this month. Thomas, who missed all of last season because of academic issues, will not play in the Cajuns season-opener Saturday against Kentucky for the same reason.

LAFAYETTE —Melvin Smith likes what he sees from his defense.

Louisiana-Lafayette’s defensive coordinator-secondary coach said the Ragin’ Cajuns defensive unit has a better understanding of his scheme more this spring, and it has shown on the field so far through the first two practices of spring football.

“I like the fact that they are confident group,” Smith said. “They understand my lingo more. This group understands the most important thing about defense. That is the character of a defense. Once you have the character built, then you can better fit the schemes to the plan.”

“Year two is always a lot easier,” Ragin’ Cajuns coach Mark Hudpseth said. “They are more familiar with the scheme and more familiar with the coaches.”

That character of the Cajuns defense that Smith wants his unit to possess is having tenacity for running towards the football. According to Smith, that tenacity will allow the Cajuns to further improve executing the team’s 3-4 base defense, which is a challenge in the era of up-tempo offenses.

“We have to have our defense be able to counter the modern offenses that we face in this conference,” Smith said. “These modern offenses go so fast with tempo now and what that does is it constantly places defenses in bad matchups. That makes our job difficult.”

Smith is looking for his guys this coming season to improve on giving up big plays and forcing more turnovers. In 2015, the Cajuns surrendered an average of 32 points and 421 yards per game and forced only 11 turnovers.

To ensure that happens, Smith said the defense needs to master three things this spring.

“We want to show you one thing because everything we try to do is post-snap,” Smith said. “We are trying to perfect three things this spring: Have good alignments, good adjustments and maintain gap integrity. I like what I have seen so far, but we’re not perfect, and that means we still have work to do.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns return to practice on Saturday with a morning workout in pads.

Who has impressed Smith so far?

The Cajuns have only had two practices this spring, but that doesn’t mean that players, especially those on the defensive side of the ball, haven’t made an impression.

Smith took notice of several players after practice wrapped on Thursday.

Across the defensive line, Smith pointed to the efforts of Mario Osborne and LaDarrius Kidd, heralded the performance of linebacker Joe Dillion, and heaped praise on defensive backs Savion Brown and Simeon Thomas.

“There are plenty of young guys on defense that we are excited about,” Smith said.

Hudspeth’s impressions

Despite being forced to play inside because of the severe weather on Thursday, nothing was going to dampen Hudspeth’s spirit following practice.

“Tempo wasn’t as good as it was on Tuesday, but the effort was there,” Hudspeth said. “When you are putting in more new stuff, it tends to slow you down, and that was a big reason for the tempo today. But I love the vibe of the team, but we are not where we need to be yet. We will know a little more come Saturday.”