The first few days of preseason camp have been a critical time for the Ragin’ Cajuns, as newcomers get accustomed to their surroundings and coaches implement schemes.
But Friday’s the day when teeth hit meat.
The Cajuns will go through their first fully-padded practice Friday morning. After a brief practice in shells Saturday morning, the team will reconvene for a scrimmage Saturday night at Cajun Field, where coach Mark Hudspeth hopes he can establish the majority of his depth chart.
“After the scrimmage, we’ll come in the next day and put a really hard grade on (the scrimmage),” Hudspeth said. “From that point on, we’re going to step forward with what we feel like is our two-deep. We may have some guys at some positions that may not be solidified that could carry on into the next week. At some positions, we already know who it is.
“It’ll be interesting to see. We’ve got a lot of candidates, we’ve got a lot of guys working hard, and I’m anxious to see them going against live bullets Saturday night.”
One of the most crucial positions yet to be decided is center, where redshirt freshman Grant Horst and junior college transfer Eddie Gordon are duking it out for the starting job. Horst was taking first-team reps again Thursday.
Hudspeth said that position battle might draw out longer than others, though he’d like to arrive at a conclusion quickly.
“I don’t know,” Hudspeth said. “I’d like to be able to make that decision after Saturday. But both guys have done some really good things, and both are capable of being a starting center. That’s a good problem to have. We’ll see after Saturday.”
Saturday night’s scrimmage is closed to the public.
Earning their stripes
Every Cajuns player has a stripe on his helmet, though some are different than the others. All the true freshmen currently have a black stripe running down the middle of their helmets in place of the white stripe veterans wear.
“They have to earn the right to get their black stripe off their helmets,” Hudspeth said. “They have a big brother, and when the big brother recommends that he loses his black stripe, he’ll get to take the black stripe off. If he doesn’t work hard and he misses meetings and he’s not accountable, he might have the black stripe all year.”
Hudspeth said the only way a freshman can earn his white helmet stripe is through the testimonial of his appointed “big brother.” None of the current freshmen has earned his white stripe.
“We’re going to make a decision and announce the first ones — if we have any — after the scrimmage on Saturday night,” Hudspeth said.
Beat the heat
The Cajuns practiced inside for the second consecutive day, and for the second consecutive day they emerged from practice without heat-related injuries.
The indoor facility isn’t air-conditioned — Hudspeth was still beading with sweat as he gave his post-practice interview — but it does keep players out of the sun.
Three observations from Thursday’s practice:
1. Brooks Haack showed off a big arm on a couple occasions in Thursday’s practice. He heaved a fly down the sideline to a streaking C.J. Bates, who had beaten his man by a step, but just overthrew him. He did it again when Dylan Bossier came open on a deep post. The throws were incomplete, but the talent is obviously there.
2. The defense has been ahead of the offense the first few days as the offense installs its playbook. The Cajuns’ defenders blew up screen pass after screen pass Wednesday afternoon, but the offense started catching up Thursday as it had more plays to work with.
3. Senior safety Trevence Pratt was gift-wrapped what would’ve been the day’s biggest play, but he dropped an interception that hit him square in the gut. The defense groaned loudly from the sideline when it saw the ball hit the ground. These guys are obviously playing for some unit pride out there.