Cajuns camp report: Defense struggles early — and Mark Hudspeth notices _lowres

Advocate photo by BRAD KEMP -- UL-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire breaks the tackle of safety Tracy Walker during Saturday's scrimmage at Cajun Field.

It only took a few seconds for Mark Hudspeth to get the attention of one segment of his Louisiana-Lafayette football team Saturday.

Just after the Ragin’ Cajuns offense had put up a touchdown during Saturday’s controlled scrimmage, on a makeshift dump-off pass from Brooks Haack to Elijah McGuire that went for a 42-yard score, Hudspeth lit into his defensive huddle.

When the shouts and screams subsided, the coach kicked the ball from the line of scrimmage all the way to the sideline in frustration.

“We have a very talented defensive line,” Hudspeth said, “and I just didn’t think that we were giving the effort that we should have ... taking too long to get down, not sprinting off the field after a series. When you have a talented group like that, I hold them to a higher standard.

“It’s been a long two weeks of camp, and I know they’re leg-weary and I know it’s hot, but that’s no excuse. There’s going to be hot games. I think they understand that I want them to be great, and that’s why I push them as hard as I do. I think they got the point and played much harder.”

It may have been harder on the defensive unit than the offense in Saturday’s scrimmage format. While the No. 1 units were on the field, there was no tackling to the ground, and plays were blown dead early in series with other units.

“It’s hard to be as relentless as you want to be when you’re not letting the ones tackle full-speed,” Hudspeth said. “You’re at a controlled tempo, so it’s not really fair to them. When we turn the lights on, they’re going to be ready to go.”

Saturday’s morning scrimmage at Cajun Field wrapped up the second week of camp and marked the halfway point of preseason drills. The Cajuns host Southern in their opener Aug. 30, and Hudspeth said serious work on preparation for the Jaguars would start when the team returns to work Monday.

“We’re going in right now and grade the film,” he said. “We want to really see where we are on special teams, because after seeing a couple of guys we’re going to make a couple of changes to the depth chart.”

One player who won’t be moving on any depth chart is senior quarterback Terrance Broadway, who played three series with the No. 1 unit and was 11-of-15 for 82 yards. Haack’s scoring pass to McGuire was the scrimmage’s only touchdown in non-goal-line situations.

“When he was in, he executed very flawlessly,” Hudspeth said. “He made some nice throws, some good catchable balls. I thought when he was in, we really looked sharp. We had some mix and match with our quarterbacks and running backs, but overall I thought the ones executed OK and did some pretty good things.”

The Cajuns held several players out of the 2-hour, 15-minute session with minor injuries. Running back Alonzo Harris (strained groin) and tackle Mykhael Quave (hand) are expected to return for Monday’s final day of two-a-day sessions.

No injuries were apparent during the controlled scrimmage, leaving the UL-Lafayette two-deep still intact heading into the final two weeks of camp

“That’s what I liked the most,” Hudspeth said. “We came out of this again healthy. I’m proud that all of our guys have come out without any season-ending injuries. That’s what would be disappointing when you work this hard and something happens just before the opener.”

Eli’s coming

McGuire didn’t get many touches with the Cajuns’ use of a number of backs on Saturday, but when he did he made the most of them. Two of his five rushes were for double-digit yards including an 18-yard burst, and he also had the 42-yard touchdown catch on a dump-off.

“I think he still might be running,” Hudspeth said. “He’s probably out on I-10 now. That guy, he had some phenomenal runs today with acceleration, lateral cuts, he’s going to be outstanding if he stays healthy.”

The new face

Linebacker Otha Peters, who transferred from Arkansas this week, saw his first scrimmage action Saturday, playing a couple of series with both the No. 2 and 3 defenses. Peters was in on at least one tackle from an inside linebacker slot.

UL-Lafayette has applied for a waiver to restore Peters’ eligibility for this year, but Hudspeth said Saturday the plan is for him to redshirt and have two seasons remaining in 2015 and 2016.

“Otha made some plays today,” Hudspeth said. “We’re really glad he’s here. He’s going to fit in well here, he’s a good person and a hard worker. All of our guys there (at linebacker) can play inside or out, but he’s going to be an inside guy for us.”

Jake sighting

Former UL-Lafayette quarterback Jake Delhomme talked to the squad on the field just prior to the scrimmage.

“I just wanted Jake to come get in the huddle with us,” Hudspeth said. “He told the guys that this was the seniors’ last scrimmage, and that you’re going to be remembered by what you do your senior year. He told them to take advantage of the opportunity. Jake’s over here all the time ... he’s a big part of our program.”

Quick read

1. It’s obvious the 20 pounds Elijah McGuire added in the offseason haven’t slowed him down. On three different runs Saturday, he was as elusive and explosive as last season when he lead the country in yards per carry.

2. The kicking situation is still up in the air. Hunter Stover made a 42-yard field goal during the scrimmage, and Stephen Brauchle was short on a 46-yarder, but Brauchle nailed a couple of long ones in a scrimmage-ending kick series.

3. The Cajuns will have some closing speed in the secondary. Cornerbacks Corey Trim and Montrel Carter each made up ground and broke up apparent completions on attempted downfield throws.