LAFAYETTE — A plethora of injures to the Louisiana-Lafayette offensive line has limited live contact during the Ragin’ Cajuns’ spring practices and threaten to limit how much full-contact work the Cajuns can have in the final week of spring drills.
“We’ve had four guys that have had to miss time,” coach Mark Hudspeth said. “They will be back, but right now we’re really thin, and that’s really limited our scrimmage time that we could put in.”
Terry Johnson, who started all 13 games at left guard last year, was expected to move to center for his senior season to replace graduated three-year starter Andre Huval. But Johnson had already been shifted back to guard before he had ankle surgery this past week.
“That one didn’t hurt as much since Terry has so much experience, and he got about three (spring) weeks in,” Hudspeth said. “He’s a natural at guard for us and, if we can keep him there, we have four returning starters at their same spots.”
Returning backups Jeremy Sparks (neck), Jarad Martin (foot) and Ethan Rosenbalm (foot) have been sidelined for most or all of spring drills. Hudspeth said their absences have been just as damaging for a defensive unit that has to replace two of its front seven.
“It’s hurt our defense more than the offense because we didn’t give them enough time to scrimmage against live competition,” Hudspeth said. “We didn’t do as many full-speed tackle days as we normally would do. We got in a lot of great individual work and worked hard on fundamentals, but I would have liked for us to go live a little bit more.”
The rash of offensive line injuries is unusual, considering the Cajuns started the same fivesome for all 13 games last year and no Cajun offensive lineman has missed a start for three seasons. The five that started the opener in 2011 and 2012 started all 13 games in both of those seasons.
Hudspeth was high on redshirt freshman Grant Horst of Spanish Fort, Ala., who has worked at center throughout spring drills. UL-Lafayette also signed Eddie Gordon (6-0, 315) of Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College in March to shore up the center position.
The Cajuns’ two mid-term signees going through spring drills, teammates C. J. Bates and Antoinne Adkins of East Mississippi Junior College, recently switched positions.
Bates, who was a receiver at East Mississippi before shifting to cornerback before spring practice, was moved back to join the wide receiver corps. Adkins, who like Bates had 53 catches to share EMJC’s team lead last year, moved to cornerback for the final two weeks of spring drills.
Finally, safety Al Riles of Mandeville, who started five games in the secondary last year, moved to wide receiver.
“Moving Al over there was a great move,” Hudspeth said. “He has great ball skills, great speed and he’s tough. Moving Antoinne to corner and C. J. to receiver, both of those moves have been great. They’re going to have roles for us this fall, and they’re going to help us tremendously.”
One week left
UL-Lafayette has held 12 of its allowed 15 spring practice sessions and is scheduled for afternoon workouts Tuesday and Thursday. The Cajuns will wrap up spring drills at noon Saturday with their Red-White spring game at Cajun Field.
With the injuries to the offensive line, the format for Saturday’s game could change, Hudspeth said. The session is scheduled to open with an extensive field goal session, with returning kickers Hunter Stover and Stephen Brauchle vying for this fall’s placement job.
No contract yet
Hudspeth said after Friday’s practice that no agreement has been reached between him and the university on an extension to his current contract, which runs through 2016.
“Nothing has changed,” he said. “We’re still close to wrapping it up. But the final salary structure, bonuses — none of it is finalized. Nothing’s been signed.”
CBSSports.com reported Friday that UL-Lafayette could approve a six-year deal for Hudspeth “as early as next week.”
Hudspeth’s current contract is $750,000 in salary and benefits, not including other incentive bonuses, and runs through 2016. He said his agent may meet with Athletic Director Scott Farmer next week.
UL-Lafayette will hold its annual pro day for selected seniors Monday. Activities will begin at approximately 2 p.m. in the weight room.
Director of football operations and pro liaison Troy Wingerter said representatives from approximately 30 NFL teams are expected to be on hand. When asked how many scouts have attended pro days in the past several seasons, Wingerter said, “Nowhere near that.”
The team’s “up and coming” pro day for underclassmen is April 16.