Ragin’ Cajuns’ Darzil Washington trying to make up for lost time _lowres

Associated Press photo by OTTO KITSINGER -- Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Darzil Washington, right, tries to chase down Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick during their game Sept. 20. Washington, who didn't join the team until just before the Boise State game, is working mostly as a pass-rushing specialist.

It took a while for Darzil Washington to make it to the UL-Lafayette football team — but now that he’s a full participant, coaches are making sure there aren’t any wasted minutes.

Washington didn’t officially join the team until just before the Boise State game, as he was waiting on academic clearance, but has been working his way up the depth chart since. Last Saturday, he was on the field for the first series as part of a package designed to get after the quarterback.

It looks as if that’s how the Cajuns will deploy Washington. The junior college transfer split reps between the outside linebackers and the defensive linemen in Tuesday’s practice.

“He’s a guy that can be the standup rush end and he can also drop into coverage,” coach Mark Hudspeth said.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder has a knack for getting after the quarterback, but his time away from the team left him a bit behind in terms of knowing the ins and outs of the defense.

“He’s a good pass rusher,” senior linebacker Trae Johnson said. “He’s got active hands and feet. Once he learns how we do stuff, he’ll be a great asset to our defense.”

There’s also the issue of what happens to a body when it’s away from football for a while.

Washington was with the Cajuns throughout preseason camp but had to leave the team once school started because he wasn’t officially a student yet.

When he came back, he wasn’t in great condition.

“We’ve got to get Darzil into shape,” Hudspeth said. “He’s not in great shape right now. When he’s in good shape, he’s a guy that can really help you. He’s an athletic guy that’s really big and physical.”

Getting there

One surprise contributor to the Cajuns’ 34-31 win last week was Johnson, who played a handful of snaps and made one tackle.

It wasn’t the big statistical game that Johnson’s become accustomed to putting up this season — but just his presence on the field was a good sign.

“I didn’t practice until Thursday, and I took like two reps,” Johnson said.

He missed the Boise State game with a knee injury, and late last week, Hudspeth wasn’t optimistic that Johnson would even be available. But Johnson improved late in the week, and with Georgia State carving up the Cajuns’ zone defense, Hudspeth needed him in to stabilize the unit.

“We didn’t really plan on playing him Saturday but we got a little banged up,” Hudspeth said. “We also felt like we needed him in the game because we were missing a couple of drops. We put him in to try to help us.”

The nature of Johnson’s injury made the Cajuns exercise caution.

“It was a bruised bone,” Johnson said. “You’ve kind of got to be careful with it, because any little bad movement will flare it back up.”

Despite missing one game and playing only a handful of snaps in last week’s contest, Johnson is still second on the team in tackles with 29.

He was back out at practice in an orange no-contact uniform Tuesday, and Hudspeth is hopeful he’ll be 100 percent for next week’s game against Texas State.

Seeing red

The Cajuns have scored points on all nine of their red-zone possessions in their two wins. Better yet, eight of those nine possessions have ended with a touchdown.

They scored touchdowns on all three attempts last week, including two 1-yard touchdown runs by running back Alonzo Harris.

The Cajuns have scored on eight of 10 red-zone possessions in their three losses, but three of those eight scoring drives have resulted in a field goal.