Inclement weather forced Louisiana-Lafayette’s football team indoors for its first full-scale preseason scrimmage Saturday evening and also dampened some of coach Mark Hudspeth’s enthusiasm.
“I’ve learned to temper my comments until I’ve had a chance to grade the film without having too many preconceived notions,” Hudspeth said after the team scrimmaged for just more than two hours inside the Moncla Indoor Facility. “There was good and bad on both sides. We did some good things, but it will be good to see and grade where we are.”
Hudspeth, however, wasn’t short on enthusiasm for the scrimmage’s first series, in which the offense moved into scoring territory and returning junior kicker Stevie Artigue hit a 50-yard field goal.
“He nailed it and had about 10 yards to spare,” Hudspeth said. “That was great to see in a live situation, opening drive, to see the offense take it down the field.”
After that, it was the defense that came up with big plays including three of what Hudspeth called “forced turnovers” during the session that wrapped up the second week of fall camp.
“Those weren’t turnovers that were given to them,” he said. “That was the No. 1 point of emphasis for our defense. Last year, we were really sound, we just never gave our offense the short field. For us to score last year we had to go 80 (yards) every time because we never got any turnovers. If we can come away with two, three turnovers a game, that will be a big difference.”
Hudspeth said the takeaways included one individual effort on an interception, a tipped pass that led to another interception and a punch-out on a fumble. The Cajuns offense lost three fumbles last season.
“We’ve got to correct that,” Hudspeth said. “We’ve been too good at taking care of the ball in the past, and we’ve got to correct those things.”
The scrimmage was closed to the public and media and no statistics or performances were available.
Hudspeth did say that incoming freshman quarterback Kadon Harrison had a touchdown run. Starting quarterback Jordan Davis was not “live” during the scrimmage, and Hudspeth again praised incoming freshman Levi Lewis of Scotlandville for his performance.
“When he’s not live you take away from his ability to create plays with his legs,” Hudspeth said. “He did some nice things, made a couple of mistakes that he needs to come back and improve upon. Levi probably had the best night by far. He was live and that made a big difference but he looked calm, looked poised, made some nice throws and found the open guys. Kadon had a pretty impressive night and ran the ball extremely well. His athletic ability really showed up tonight.”
Many multi-year starters skipped or saw limited scrimmage action, with most of the snaps going to the No. 2 units and players who have limited starting experience or are newcomers anticipated to play this season. Defensive tackle Taboris Lee was among the regulars who did not hit the field, and the starting wide receiver corps went four series before being pulled.
Offensive line shuffle
Hudspeth said that there were no issues with center snaps, an issue early in preseason camp, during the scrimmage. He said no decision has been made on a starter in a competition between sophomore Cole Prudhomme and junior transfer Kordell Brewster.
“Right now it’s an open competition,” he said. “We didn’t have one missed snap tonight so that was an improvement. Overall, I don’t think up front we had a very good night. I expect a lot from our offensive line, and I didn’t think we were as good as we can be.”
Hudspeth then surprised a few when he said that two-year starter and preseason All-Sun Belt tackle Grant Horst has also delivered some snaps during practice. A shift of Horst, the acknowledged leader of the Cajuns offensive line, would also mean a move by likely starting left guard Robert Hunt to Horst’s right tackle position, and backup Staten Wade moving up to start at left guard.
“He’s swinging a little bit. That might be an option,” Hudspeth said of Horst, who saw limited time at center as a sophomore in 2015. “We’re still trying to figure out who the best five are going to be, and we’re going to put the best five on the field.”
The Cajuns’ Saturday scrimmage was originally scheduled on the artificial turf at Teurlings Catholic High. Installation of the new turf at Cajun Field is continuing, and the outdoor practice fields have been saturated by rain much of the past week.
Hudspeth said that little consideration was given to moving scrimmage day, and logistics also hampered chances of other schedule adjustments.
“We had all the equipment over at Teurlings ready to go,” he said, “and the storm hit here, about as hard a storm as I’ve seen in a long time. I had to make the call to get the stuff back, couldn’t risk. I didn’t want to get over there and get 10 plays into the scrimmage and get it rained out because we’re not going to come over here (indoors) and restart. That’s just asking to get somebody hurt.”
The Cajuns have their final full-scale scrimmage at 6 p.m. Saturday, with the site to be determined. Original plans were for the Cajun Field turf to be installed by then, but weather has also hampered that work.
Hudspeth said that he and the staff would be operating with a new depth chart effective Monday’s afternoon practice.
“Obviously that’s still fluid all the way up until the first game,” he said, “but we will put guys where they’re at and they will know where they’re at when they come back Monday. There’s going to be movement across the board, up, down, side to side, even in the kicking game.”