LAFAYETTE — You may have a hard time recognizing the UL football team that takes Cajun Field on Saturday.
Gone: A handful of high profile players, including quarterback Terrance Broadway, running back Alonzo Harris and those big single-digit-jersey-wearing defensive linemen Justin Hamilton and Christian Ringo.
Replaced: The entire defensive coaching staff, either because they weren’t retained or because they left for loftier positions elsewhere, ushering in a new era on the defensive side.
Absent: Star running back Elijah McGuire, and likely star wideout Jamal Robinson, who won’t take the field as they recover from injuries. Joining them are the less heralded but also important Octravian Anderson, Taboris Lee and Rumaine Douglas.
What does this all mean? There will be plenty of things to be on the lookout for when Saturday’s spring game rolls around.
THREE MEN WILL ENTER …
But will one emerge? The race to take control of the starting quarterback job has been the talk of the spring camp, and coach Mark Hudspeth has been playing this one tight to the vest.
Brooks Haack has impressed with his downfield throwing ability and his commitment to being a team leader, but Hudspeth isn’t ready to tab him as the starter, even after his impressive play in spot duty last season, when he completed 20-of-23 passes for two scores.
Jalen Nixon offers the closest dual-threat approximation to Broadway, if the Cajuns are looking for continuity. Jordan Davis, while lacking the experience of the other two, may be the most physically gifted of the trio.
Hudspeth said the race is too close to call earlier this week, but he’ll weigh the spring game heavily against the other 14 spring practices to possibly determine a winner — for now, at least.
ABOUT THAT DEFENSE …
Hudspeth said his defense will employ a new scheme in 2015, but he’s been incredibly guarded about what that scheme may be. It looks as though he’s doing everything in his power to make his season-opening opponent, Kentucky, completely clueless as to which way the Cajuns will line up September 5.
But they can’t just run out for the spring game using the same scheme they used last year if they’re intending to run something different, right?
New co-defensive coordinators Melvin Smith and Charlie Harbison have been vocal throughout spring practice, and both have extensive experience coaching defensive secondaries. Perhaps we won’t see any new defensive formations Saturday, but Smith has insinuated his corners will be playing closer to wide receivers than they did last season. It’s worth watching at the spring game.
SON OF KARL …
Buffalo Bills defensive line coach Karl Dunbar was a guest for practice this week, both in official capacity as a scout at pro day and in a fatherly capacity. He’s been watching his son, junior defensive lineman Karmichael Dunbar, and it might be a good idea for you to watch him, too.
Dunbar hasn’t played much in his first couple seasons, but Hudspeth said he’s come on strong this spring while Lee, Douglas and Marquis White missed time because of injury. Hudspeth even went as far as saying Dunbar has had the best camp on the team.
With the Cajuns replacing two stud defensive linemen and with the people in front of him on the depth chart being unable to play, Dunbar has made the most of a golden opportunity. How will he handle his chance at the spring game?
SPEED KILLS …
And Devin Scott has speed to burn. He used his wheels to haul in three touchdown passes in last week’s scrimmage, though one was called back because of a penalty.
Scott had five catches for 87 yards in his sophomore season. His primary role was to stretch the field, but the Cajuns rarely connected on deep balls thrown his way. He appears to have made sprinter’s strides heading into his junior season, though.
The deep ball has been a missing part of the Cajuns arsenal lately, but if Scott can turn his potential into production, he’ll be a huge weapon for the Cajuns passing game, especially once Robinson is ready to go full speed.