LAFAYETTE — Jorge Munoz is experiencing something of a role reversal this spring.
The longtime Louisiana-Lafayette football assistant coach was promoted to offensive coordinator this offseason. After coaching the Ragin’ Cajuns wide receivers for the past five seasons, Munoz was going to get his opportunity to guide the team’s new more up-tempo offense.
Then, two weeks before the start of spring drills, Munoz’s replacement, John Simon, took a position at Arizona State, leaving the team without a key position coach. Munoz quickly found Simon’s interim replacement internally in the man he has answered to for the past five seasons: head coach Mark Hudspeth.
“It’s funny,” Munoz said. “Before we hit the field the other day, I had to ask him, ‘Coach, when are you the head coach, and when are you going to be the receivers coach?’ ”
“I might just freakin’ take over the receiver job,” Hudspeth laughed. “It is a lot more fun to be the receivers coach.”
Munoz and Hudspeth have found a balance. Hudspeth meets with the receivers every day, and Munoz or a graduate assistant helps out during a few of the practice drills.
“I am glad he decided to bite the bullet,” Munoz said.
For Hudspeth, the decision to help Munoz with the receivers — and, more importantly, the decision to promote the 41-year-old — was an easy one.
“It’s been a great working environment with George,” Hudspeth said. “We are very familiar with one another, having been on the staff together for five years. We think the same, and we work well together.”
With Munoz running the offense, the Cajuns hope to return to the prolific form that helped them claim four straight New Orleans Bowl championships. During the team’s 4-8 season a year ago, the Cajuns averaged 26 points and 380 yards, which ranked near the bottom of the Sun Belt Conference.
“We are tweaking it,” Munoz said. “There are going to be times that people look at us and say, ‘Wow, that is totally different.’ And there is going to be times they look at us and say, ‘Yeah, I remember that.’ We still went to four straight bowl games, and we are still a really good football team. We don’t want to lose some of those core things that we did, but there is also other aspects that we felt we could expand on.”
The main emphasis this spring is speeding up the offense. Munoz said adopting that philosophy will give the offense more opportunities to put together scoring drives.
“When you are playing at a fast tempo, what you are trying to do is make the defense more vanilla,” Munoz said. “The slower that you play, the more calls they can get in from the sideline. That means different kinds of fronts and blitzes that they can get in. If you have a threat of playing fast, then you force defenses to play more in their base set.”
Who will run Munoz’s offense has yet to be decided.
Quarterback Brooks Haack transferred to Northwestern State, and Jalen Nixon is making the transition to running back. That leaves five quarterbacks on the roster, but the group lacks experience.
“The bottom line is that we have five guys on our roster right now, and they have combined (for) a game and a half starts,” Munoz said. “That can be good or bad. The good thing about that is that they are young, and now they are hearing a whole new philosophy. It’s not like they are four-year guys that are more set in their ways. So now hopefully that can make more of an impact with how we want them to think, how we want them to talk and how to run this offense. The flip side is that they are young and we will need to be patient with them.”
Munoz previously served as offensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois and Anderson. He’s grateful to be given that opportunity again — from the guy who’s currently making time to teach route-running to the players, no less.
“I was very excited and very humbled that Coach Hud gave me this chance and that he believes that I can get it done,” Munoz said. “My mindset has always been that every day I am working for the guys around me. I always wanted to make sure that they knew that no job is too big or too small for me to handle.
“I think I have accomplished that for five years and, when this chance came around, I think Hud felt that I could handle it.”