LAFAYETTE — As the UL-Lafayette football team reached the final stages of its Saturday practice leading into a Tuesday night Sun Belt game at Arkansas State, kick coverage and field position came into focus.
After kick returner Jeryl Brazil and the rest of the first team went through a return, coach Mark Hudspeth had the Ragin’ Cajuns run the scenario again.
Brazil made his way upfield for the second time on a middle return, Hudspeth chimed in: “Good job, boys! Much cleaner.”
When the Cajuns travel to Jonesboro, Arkansas, they’ll face the best kickoff-coverage team in the conference.
“We are going to have our two best returners in there to help us get even better field position,” Hudspeth said, referring to Brazil and Gary Haynes. “Our coverage units have to do a good job, too. They have solid special teams.”
Brazil gained a bit of momentum in the first week of conference play on the strength of a 100-yard kickoff return for a score against Texas State. The key to taking that on the road is partially dependent on Brazil’s view before the ball comes soaring toward him.
“I always do a pre-play envision of what I want to do and how the return is supposed to look,” Brazil said. “Our scheme doesn’t change from practice to game. I try to hit it like at practice and see it for what it is at practice.”
The formations that Arkansas State employs will be the wild card in the equation that might require in-game adjustments.
“They give you a lot of stuff to prepare for,” Hudspeth said. “You saw last year they run a lot of fakes, so you have to be ready for all kinds of fakes and deceptions.”
Brazil said last week’s big return came at the right time, giving him a much-needed boost.
“I knew I just needed to make a big play somewhere on the field to get my confidence where it needed to be,” he said. “That return happened at the right time in the right game.”
UL-Lafayette ranks second in the Sun Belt in kickoff returns (23.6 yards per attempt) but only seventh in punt returns (6.1 yards).
Hudspeth ruled out cornerback Troy McCollum (ankle) and linebacker Tre’maine Lightfoot (shoulder) for the Arkansas State contest. Starting safety T.J. Worthy will play, but Hudspeth was uncertain if Worthy will start as the Cajuns “get him back into the game plan (gradually).”
Lights, camera, action
With the ASU game set for ESPN2, Hudspeth is confident the unfamiliar environments his freshmen faced against Kentucky and Louisiana Tech will have them ready for this next step of a road conference contest on national television.
“Every time there have been big games, they have risen to the challenge,” Hudspeth said. “They are excited about this opportunity.”