LAFAYETTE — Sophomore left tackle D’Aquin Withrow has been waiting patiently for the coveted starting spot he now possesses on the UL-Lafayette offensive line, but he would give it up in a heartbeat for one thing
That would be a healthy Mykhael Quave, the left guard whose torn rotator cuff suffered against Louisiana Tech is the reason Withrow’s in the lineup to begin with.
“Honestly, I was more mad that it happened to Mike,” Withrow said. “I had to step up, but I really wish that it wouldn’t have happened to him. If I could give up my starting spot to have him back, I’d give it up any day.”
The news that he would never work next to Quave again was devastating for new left guard Grant Horst, and not because it would throw him into a loop where he has had to switch positions twice since the injury.
“It hurt me pretty bad, just to see all the work that he’s put in, all the hours that he’s done for this program,” Horst said. “He was having a great year, so it hurt me and everybody else pretty bad to see him hurt.
“But he talked to us, and said we just had to pick up where he left out and get back to where we were before.”
The Cajuns have done their best to fill the void left by Quave’s injury, but it’s required some musical chairs in the offensive line room.
Two games into the Cajuns’ chemistry experiment trying to find the right mix and match of offensive linemen, the elements and their structure have been identified.
Horst, who has started games at left tackle, center and left guard this season, is staying on the interior in the place of Quave. Eddie Gordon, after a one-game stint at left guard, is staying at center. Withrow’s ability at left tackle is too good to take him out of the lineup.
Those three, along with right guard Donovan Williams and right tackle Octravian Anderson, form what coach Mark Hudspeth calls his best five offensive linemen And barring injury, the Cajuns will likely remain aligned this way until the end of the season.
“We’re sticking with that,” Hudspeth said. “Those are our best five. That leaves everybody in their same spots with the exception of Grant. We’re moving forward right there with the way we’ve got our (offensive) line.”
If there was any positive to take away from Quave’s injury, it’s that it occurred at a point in the schedule where the Cajuns were able to take a step back and figure out how to put the pieces together.
They had only a few practices to scramble a lineup together for Texas State, but after that, they had 10 days to prepare for Arkansas State, during which they flip-flopped Horst and Gordon, then another 10 days before Saturday’s game against UL-Monroe. It’s allowed the players time to understand how to play as a cohesive unit.
“Their production, their communication, their calls — that will only improve as the season goes along,” Hudspeth said.
Currently, the only two players who must adjust to new roles are Withrow and Horst.
Horst said his main concern about playing his third position this season wasn’t necessarily learning scheme or technique, it was developing the trust of the players next to him.
“I think most of it is getting trust from the other guys that I know what to do. … But all these guys trust me, so it’s been a lot easier than I thought it would be moving around.”
Withrow spent most of the fall camp working at right tackle, but the transition to the left side has come fairly easily thanks to his athleticism.
While Withrow’s move into the starting lineup came at a cost he wished didn’t have to be paid, Hudspeth thinks he has a bright future ahead of him. Withrow has bulked up to 310 pounds, Hudspeth said, while retaining the nimble feet required of the position.
“He’s got the tools to be a great pass protector,” Hudspeth said.
The circumstances of getting their new best five on the field aren’t the type the Cajuns hoped to find themselves in. In the middle of the season, there’s not really such a thing as replacing Quave.
“I don’t know if you ever replace Mike right away,” Hudspeth said. “That takes an offseason of summer workouts. That takes a little more than a couple of days to replace Mykhael Quave. That guy was a dominating player up front who was having a great year.”
That said, the Cajuns are hopeful that the new faces in new places can rally together.