Louisiana-Monroe wide receiver Rashon Ceaser entered last season as a complementary piece in an offense led by senior standouts at quarterback with Kolton Browning and at receiver with Je’Ron Hamm and Tavarese Maye.

By season’s end, those three had suffered injuries, and the team turned to Ceaser, a sophomore, for production and leadership. He provided both.

“He was voted captain last year by the team, and that’s a tremendous credit to him considering he was thrust into that role to some degree,” coach Todd Berry said Tuesday at Sun Belt Conference media day. “We had a multitude of four-year starters last year that had been captains before, but the team still decides to elect him captain. That’s a great statement to who he is as a player and an individual.”

Ceaser, a former East Feliciana High standout, was voted preseason first-team all-conference after finishing with 65 catches, 964 yards and five touchdowns last year. He had four consecutive 100-yard performances against league opponents to close the year.

“What made his performances at the end of the season even more impressive was how our quarterback situation was never concrete,” Berry said. “We had one quarterback that couldn’t run because of injuries and one that couldn’t throw because of injuries. He had a great end to the season, especially for a guy that wasn’t on anybody’s radar going into the season.”

Said Ceaser: “It shows that all the hard work I put into this program is paying off. It means a lot to have the coaches you go against show you that kind of respect.”

Ceaser had his breakout game in a 21-19 victory Sept. 14 at Wake Forest — arguably the Warhawks’ marquee victory. He finished with 10 catches for 84 yards.

“I think that was his opportunity to show the world a lot of the things that we already knew,” Berry said. “I’m glad he had that opportunity to show everyone what he was made of, and I think the way he has worked this offseason, that he can do it all over again this year.”

With Browning, Hamm and Maye out of the picture, Ceaser understands the Warhawks need him to step up again if the team hopes to reach some of its goals.

“All the teams we play this year are going to know about me and are going to focus on stopping me,” he said. “I trust the guys around me to make plays when they need to, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”

ULM’s 6-6 finish last season was a disappointment for all involved, especially considering it was the co-preseason favorite (with UL-Lafayette) in the coaches’ balloting. Ceaser hopes to use that as motivation to do all the things this year that his team had hoped to do in 2013.

“We felt like we were the big dogs and that nobody would be able to hang with us, but then we didn’t show up like we expected to once the season got going,” he said. “But this season, (the coaches) say we’re going to finish fifth, so that kind of put a chip on our shoulders. I just want to go out there, compete and prove people wrong.”