Notebook: Cajuns begin to game plan for opener against Wildcats _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Mark Hudspeth, Head Coach of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin' Cajun football team, talks to players at the conclusion the team's final spring practice

Kentucky has been on the minds of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team since the 2015 schedule was announced, but Tuesday’s practice session was the first that was aimed primarily at the Sept. 5 opener against the Wildcats.

The Ragin’ Cajun offenses and defenses worked for the first time against scout-team competition during much of Tuesday’s two-hour and 20-minute session, and Cajun coach Mark Hudspeth said he was happy with the first-day performance — except for the final few minutes.

“We exchanged scouts, and that’s always a big day when you do that,” Hudspeth said of the Cajuns’ top two units working against scout teamers from the other side of the ball. “Our ‘Cajun Look’ team did a nice job. It takes work being a scout-team player. That’s the role of a young player ... pay your dues, work hard, give a great look on the scout team and then when you get your opportunities, make the most of them.”

Hudspeth used himself as an example, dating back to his playing career at Delta State where he played both at quarterback and in the secondary — a secondary coached by current Cajun defensive coordinator Melvin Smith.

“I tell our guys I would never ask them to do anything I’ve never done,” Hudspeth said. “I was a scout team guy three years, that’s why I ended up playing. I was eighth-team quarterback, and by the time I got through playing, two had quit, two transferred, two graduated, one got kicked off the team and lo and behold I was starting quarterback.”

Long season

Even though the temperature at the start of practice was 84 degrees, the coolest for a UL-Lafayette session since the start of preseason drills, Hudspeth said his squad didn’t carry its intensity all the way through practice.

“The first three-quarters was really strong,” he said. “I thought we faded late. It was a long practice, longer than we’ve had lately, but the air sort of went out of the field the last 10 or 15 minutes.

“We addressed that after practice, the importance of finishing. We’re going to make that a huge priority tomorrow.”

Definite outs

Hudspeth effectively eliminated senior running back Effrem Reed of Dutchtown and a pair of true freshmen from Texas, receiver Michael Jacquet of Beaumont and offensive lineman Robert Hunt of Burkeville, from the travel list for the opener because of injuries.

“Not that we would have used Hunt or Jacquet anyway, but Effrem obviously would have played,” Hudspeth said. “But we’re really deep at running back, so I feel good about where we’re at there.”

Reed, last year’s fourth-leading rusher with 138 yards and one touchdown and regarded as one of the team’s best quarterback protectors in pass blocking, has been hampered by a shin injury since early in preseason drills.

Junior college transfer Raynard Ford returned to work in the offensive line on Tuesday after missing last week with an injury.

On the agenda

Three items relating to the UL-Lafayette football staff are on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting of the Athletic Committee of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors.

Up for approval are the extension of Hudspeth’s contract through the 2020 season and extensions for offensive coordinator Jay Johnson and offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue through the 2017 season. The extensions for Hudspeth and Johnson are at the same terms as their current contracts, while Rodrigue’s includes a salary increase to $135,000.

Also on the agenda for approval is a new contract for Cajun men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin.

Student practice

UL-Lafayette students will get to go through some drills with the Cajun football team on Thursday at an inaugural “Student Appreciation Practice.”

The practice is from 3-4:30 p.m. at Cajun Field, just before the first night of the Kiwanis Club Jamboree, and students will be admitted with their ID through Gate D on the northeast corner of Cajun Field.

Students will get to enter the field through the player tunnel and be able to watch a “mock-game” drill from the sideline. Students who choose to participate will also be allowed to do light drills at the end of the session, including kicking field goals, catching punts and kickoffs and catching passes from Cajun quarterbacks.

Hudspeth said that after the session with the students, the team would return to the regular practice field to finish off drills.