LAFAYETTE — In the opinion of University of Louisiana at Lafayette cornerback Dwight Bentley, the 2010 football season is nothing more than a canceled check.
It’s also an experience he doesn’t want to reference with any serious elaboration.
“Quite a few things were missing (in a 3-9 finish),” he said. “I don’t want to talk about last year. This a new year, a new team, new era.”
Bentley wants to improve a defense in which the Cajuns performed near the bottom of most Sun Belt Conference statistical categories.
“This year, the best way to describe our defense is it’s one beat, one sound. That means play hard, play physical, get after it,” he said.
First-year defensive coordinator Greg Stewart said Bentley has one clearly definable attribute.
“The love of the game,” Stewart said. “(Bentley’s) a great athlete who is going to be an NFL corner. But the great thing about him is he loves (playing football).”
Stewart, who coached Jacksonville State’s defense for 18 years before coming to the Cajuns, said he’s confident about the potential of the ULL secondary.
“I think we’re good there. Right now we’re pretty solid in the back four, but we’ve still got some work to do,“ he said.
Bentley, who has started since his freshman season, said ULL’s secondary contains three returning starters and newcomer Jemarlous Moten, who played last year at Mississippi Delta Community College.
Moten’s emergence at safety has helped it make it possible to move former safety Le’Marcus Gibson to outside linebacker.
“In the secondary, we’re passionate about the game,” Bentley said. “We just want to eliminate the big plays. If we do that, that keeps us in the game.”
Opposite Bentley at the other starting corner is 6-foot-3 senior Melvin White.
Lionel Stokes, also a senior, could share time with sophomore Cooper Gerami.
“Overall, this secondary is just stronger, smarter and better. Melvin is a big time player. He can let in a lot of things, but he also has the speed to make it up. He will come up when it’s time and make tackles. He makes plays. He’s a competitor,” said Bentley.
Stokes has the required instincts to play safety, Bentley said.
“One thing about Lionel Stokes, he’s a ball hawk,” Bentley said. “He’s going to make those plays on the ball.”
Moten was signed in February as a cornerback, but he’s played safety since the start of fall practices.
“He’s a guy who knows the game, and he’s been making a lot of plays in camp,” Bentley said. “He’s played before at junior college, and the JCs have some great athletes.”
Stewart said the motivating factor on ULL’s defense is the desire to improve.
“The seniors want to win so bad, and the way they’ve handled that so far, it shows,” he said.
“After all, it’s their team. It’s up to (the coaches) to put them in the right spots.”
Since the start of the preseason, the Cajuns have moved Gibson down to a linebacker, receiver Pierre Hills to a cornerback, and last week, running back Marcus Jackson was converted to linebacker.
Stewart said Hill has adapted to the move almost flawlessly.
“(Hill) is a pleasant surprise. He’s having some fun. He’s made some big plays,” Stewart said.
ULL ended its fall camp with a two-hour situational scrimmage at Cajun Field on Saturday evening.
Head coach Mark Hudspeth said he left the scrimmage somewhat concerned about the way quarterbacks Chris Masson and Blaine Gautier handled the ball.
“We turned the ball over at quarterback too many times,” Hudspeth said. “Both are probably pressing a little bit, wanting to be that guy who plays. I want a quarterback that is going to move the sticks and takes care of the ball.”
Hudspeth said the team has Monday off because of the first day of school. Practices will resume Tuesday afternoon. ULL will also practice Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. The Cajuns end the week with a Friday morning practice.