One week into the season, and the Cajuns may already have a little bit of a shakeup going on at wide receiver.
Redshirt freshman Matthew Barnes’ hands and physical ability were impressive enough during fall camp to merit a switch to receiver from tight end, but he struggled in the opener Saturday against Southern. Barnes dropped two of the three passes thrown his way, and that might be the crease freshman Gabe Fuselier needed.
“Matt probably has a little room for improvement there, and I thought Gabe Fuselier came in and moved up the depth chart tonight,” coach Mark Hudspeth said. “He blocked well, he knew what to do, he was in the right position. … That was a big plus.”
Fuselier started strong in fall camp but faded as the season drew closer, eventually losing practice reps and a spot on the depth chart to Barnes. But with Barnes struggling against the Jaguars, Fuselier was on the field much more than anyone anticipated.
The former Catholic-New Iberia star didn’t record a statistic, but he impressed Hudspeth.
Fuselier wasn’t the only wideout who impressed Hudspeth. Sophomore receiver Jared Johnson appeared finally to show he understands how to use his 6-foot-5 frame, which could become a major weapon for the Cajuns in the red zone.
“You can’t teach 6-6,” Hudspeth said.
Johnson caught two balls, both times taking advantage of his size. The first was a sideline route where quarterback Terrance Broadway threw behind him. Johnson reached back with his long arms and snared the ball for a first down.
The second had to have been one the coaches have been imagining since Johnson was recruited. At the Southern 13-yard line, Broadway lofted a ball high in the air in Johnson’s direction. Johnson boxed out his defender and leaped to pluck the ball out of the air, well above the fray.
“It was big to see Jared make that play over two defenders; it was real big for our offense,” Broadway said.
Senior linebacker Trae Johnson said he found out he would be starting last Sunday, so at least he had a little time to prepare himself.
He was starting in place of junior Chris Hill, who Hudspeth said was held out for an academic reason. In Hill’s place, Johnson filled up the box score, leading the Cajuns with eight tackles, seven of which were solo.
“I thought he just needs to do what he did tonight,” Hudspeth said. “He tackled very physically, wrapped up, and that was really good to see. That’s what I expect from him, and I’m really glad to see him have that type of game.”
In the second quarter, Daniel Cadona drilled a 77-yard punt, the fifth-longest in school history. And if it weren’t for the goal line getting in the way, his punt might have rolled the length of the field.
Cadona kicked the ball Aussie-style, meaning he ran off to one side, allowing his coverage unit to get downfield before kicking on the run. The ball screamed downfield, only rolling about 10 yards before crossing the goal line for a touchback.