The list of names most media members covering UL's football team, as well as Ragin’ Cajuns fans themselves, suspect are more vital to the program’s success this fall than redshirt junior linebacker Chauncey Manac isn’t a very long one.
Don’t try to convince the former Georgia Bulldogs signee of that, however. He’s simply not having it.
“It’s really not about me,” Manac said. “I can be 100 percent and the other 10 guys aren’t doing their jobs, it’s not going to be a good outcome. So I just feel like all 11 guys have to come in as one.”
Certainly, his team-first mentality is noble, and theoretically accurate.
UL coach Billy Napier has made it clear during August camp where the biggest upgrade in the Cajuns figures to be.
But not many of his teammates once signed with an SEC school and not many play a more crucial position or critical role than Manac does.
Sure the secondary should be vastly improved. And sure the linebacking corps is much deeper than a year ago.
But only so much progress can be made without pressuring the opposing quarterback and only so many prospects exist on this defense to make that happen.
“Last year, I was new to the defense and now it’s another year so, of course, yes, I’m caught up to speed,” Manac said.
With that said, don’t expect Manac to spend much time worrying about the statistics he didn’t post during last year’s first year in the program. For the record, the Homerville, Georgia native had 47 tackles, eight tackles behind the line and four sacks last season for the Cajuns.
“It wasn’t frustrating as far as my production. I’d rather to just win the ball game and get a ring,” he said.
UL sophomore cornerback Eric Garror may not have the perfect measurables, but the Mobile, Alabama native has sure been close enough to perfect…
UL coach Billy Napier has seen a different player in year two in the system.
“I think it’s across the board,” Napier said. “It’s more of a cumulative effect of those things. He’s been through his first significant year of playing time, so all those lessons he learned last year probably motivated a little bit better, knowing that year two I know I’m going to have a big role on the team.”
He also happens to be 6-3, 252 pounds with plus pass rushing skills.
“I think he’s bigger, stronger, leaner, certainly in better condition,” Napier said. “He’s practicing better. He’s straining and pushing himself, getting out of his comfort zone. Chauncey would be the first one to tell you that he was an inconsistent player. He probably didn’t have the best practice habits last year. He kind of learned on the fly. But that’s part of his journey.”
In other words, Manac’s ceiling is higher than most.
“He’s here and he’s done a really good job for us,” Napier said. “He’s a guy that as time goes if he plays the way I think he’s going to play and continues to practice at a high level and his actions match his words, he can become a leader for us. I think he’s that type of player for us.”
It’s an easy scene to picture.
It also doesn’t help in the quest to uncover his true potential impact that Manac isn't at all interested in hyperbole.
How much easier has your second camp been than the first one?
“I wouldn’t say easier,” Manac offered. “It’s just part of the grind. Whatever coach has for us for the day, we’re going to execute it.”
How much will it help having junior pass rusher Joe Dillon back on the other side?
He’s 6-foot-5 with enough speed and he's entering his fourth year in the program.
“Of course, it can help,” Manac said. “Where’s the quarterback going to go? You’ve got me on the one side and Joe on the other. I just feel like it’s going to be a good deal."
Indeed, if this season goes as well as UL fans hope for Manac, don’t be surprised if a few NFL eyebrows are raised.
“He’s a junior and maybe feels as if he’s getting overlooked,” Napier said. “The best test is going to be what type of film he puts out this year. I’m excited about Chauncey. I’m looking forward to watching him compete this year.”