UL cornerback Michael Jacquet admitted that even halfway into his 2018 season, he wasn’t sure that making the switch from wide receiver was the right call.
“I’m an offensive player at heart,” Jacquet said. “All I played was offense my whole life. At first with the switch, I was still thinking I was a receiver, and I wasn't sure if I would be that good at corner.”
When he walks in the room, his smile is infectious.
Jacquet said he started gaining more confidence as he saw himself improving. He finished 2018 with 35 tackles and two interceptions. Now, entering his senior season, Jacquet said switching to corner was a no-brainer.
“Throughout the season, I saw myself getting better and better,” he said. “I said well maybe this is the position I need to play. There’s not a lot of corners 6-(foot)-2 and run a 4.4 (in the 40-yard dash), but there’s a lot of receivers that do. I think I have an advantage.”
Cajuns coach Billy Napier said the best cornerbacks he’s seen through his career — especially when he was at Alabama under Nick Saban — had an offensive background.
“We would flip guys on a pretty consistent basis,” Napier said. “One of the things I look for when we're evaluating defensive backs is does the guy play offense, does his coach make an effort to get him the ball and is he a returner — kickoff returner or punt returner? We're going to try to recruit guys who have experience on that side of the ball. It tells you a lot about their versatility.”
It all makes perfect sense, especially if you’re used to coach-speak.
Defensive coordinator Ron Roberts said Jacquet is more comfortable in the defense during the first few spring practices. Roberts said a lot of what Jacquet displayed last season was raw athleticism, whereas now he's becoming a true cornerback.
“Last year, he was really a rookie corner,” Roberts said. “Fundamentally and technically, he wasn't where he needed to be. He has all the features you want in a corner, though. If you’re trying to dial up a corner — if you could recruit Michael Jacquet at corner every year, you’d have an A-1 recruiting class with top-notch corners.
“It’s his second year now, and you already see he's a little more comfortable defensively and he understands his tool bag and the things he needs to master his own craft and what he's got to do to play corner. I think you’re going to see a huge progress come spring.”
UL quarterback Levi Lewis has big plans for his junior season.
Jacquet said his year of experience playing corner has helped him to understand how to play defense. He said this year, he has a better idea of his strengths and weaknesses.
“I'm a lot more confident and more fluent than I was last year,” Jacquet said. “Last year I feel like I was going in blind, but this year my IQ is way higher and it’s better for me now.”
Napier said Jacquet has the potential to make the biggest jump of anyone on the Cajuns’ roster. Napier said he knows Jacquet was learning the ropes last year, whereas this spring, he has already shown tremendous improvement.
“I think he's already improved from a technical standpoint,” Napier said. “Mike is a big picture guy. He’s got an offensive background as a receiver, and that was a new world for him. As he becomes more comfortable with the techniques and fundamentals and seeing things from a defensive perspective, his playmaking ability will improve.”
Jacquet said now that he’s fully accepted his role as cornerback, he is extremely thankful to have made the transition and is looking forward to showcasing what he’s learned on the field.
Going into his second season as UL’s football coach, Billy Napier still isn’t completely satisfied with his roster.
“I'm just very blessed to be able to transfer my abilities as quick as I did,” he said. “Everybody is not able to go from one side of the ball to the other and be able to make an impact that fast. I was just blessed to have coaches and teammates in my ear pushing me every day for me to put the work in.”