LAFAYETTE — With the pass rush bearing down on him at practice Thursday, Louisiana-Lafayette sophomore quarterback Jordan Davis nimbly avoided his defensive teammates, his eyes scanning for receivers downfield before he heaved a pass on the run.
The ball sailed, and it was gone.
Davis chucked it right over the partition between Cajundome Boulevard and the Cajuns’ practice field.
“That’s the second day in a row he’s done that,” one onlooker remarked.
An equipment manager tossed in a fresh ball while another scaled the fence to secure the old one, before someone came away with a souvenir.
“A lot of learning,” Davis said, describing his spring so far. “A lot of progress has to be made and is being made.”
At this moment, that is Davis in a nutshell. The potential is obvious — the speed, the agility, the arm strength. All that’s lacking is the result.
“If you look at Jordan Davis and you watch him practice, watch his work ethic, you’ll see Jordan Davis has all the ability and the talent to be an All-American quarterback,” senior receiver Al Riles said. “The dude got potential out of this world. It’s scary seeing it with him being so young.
“That’s why I think the coaches have so much faith in him, and it’s why we want him to get it so bad because we know how much of a lethal weapon we’ll be as an offense if he learns it and we get it going.”
The path to the starting quarterback job was cleared for Davis this offseason when Brooks Haack transferred to Northwestern State and Jalen Nixon shifted to running back.
He has not quite been handed the keys to the offense — coach Mark Hudspeth is making Davis battle redshirt freshman Chris Weaver for the starting job — but so far he has been the only quarterback to work with the first-team offense.
His practice performance has been a bit uneven as he adjusts to his new role and gets accustomed to the pace the coaches want him to be working at — which is much faster than the pace at which he’s currently working.
“He’s still a work in progress,” Hudspeth said. “He’s getting better each practice, but he’s just got some mechanical things we’ve got to work on and his confidence in the pocket. He’s got to get more confident in the pocket.”
That’s part of the reason Davis received some playing time at the end of last season. The 4-6 Cajuns, about to see their slim bowl hopes vanish late in a loss to Appalachian State, decided to get a head start on the future by letting Davis direct a late drive.
What started as garbage minutes turned into intrigue. Davis was 7-for-7 through the air and added a 21-yard touchdown run. The Cajuns’ only score of the game came against the Appalachian State reserves, but it was impressive nonetheless.
The next week against Troy, the season finale, he got a lot more time. He took over for Haack on the third possession and never gave the offense back.
The performance still left plenty to be desired: The Cajuns were throttled 41-17 at home. Davis showed his potential, completing 20 of 34 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown, but he also was sacked four times and fumbled twice, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Those experiences — the good and the bad — were important for Davis as he approached the offseason.
Before those two games, nearly two years had passed since the last time he played a meaningful snap.
“It was great to be able to get that, just be able to get out there and see everything live, fast,” Davis said. “Be able to get my feet wet so when I come back I can say, ‘OK, I kind of know what it’s like.’
“In practice, I can visualize. This is going to happen when I’m in a game, versus being out here and saying, ‘Oh, last time I played was in high school.’ ”
Davis has one more week of spring practice before the Cajuns wrap it up with their spring game Saturday. He’s the odds-on favorite to be the starting quarterback when the Cajuns line up against Boise State on Sept. 3.
As of now, he’s also still seen as untapped potential. He might send a few more passes to Cajundome Boulevard before he realizes it but, for those around him, it’s unmistakable.
“We just started,” Riles said. “We’re three weeks in to him taking on the head quarterback role and competing to be the starting quarterback. I’m going to keep encouraging him. I believe in him, and I can’t wait to see how much he progresses from here on to camp, to see how much he takes everything in and how much he matures.”
Riles paused, then continued.
“You can’t help but see it in him: He can really be a great quarterback.”