LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette’s already-thin receiver corps took another big hit over the weekend.
Junior Jared Johnson, the rangy 6-foot-5 target who caught three fade-route touchdown passes last season, went down with an injury to his left knee in Saturday’s late practice. On Sunday, that injury was diagnosed as a torn tendon, and the Minden product will have season-ending surgery this week.
Johnson, who was listed as No. 2 at the “Z” receiver on the preseason depth chart behind returning starter Devin Scott, was on crutches on the sideline during the latter half of Monday’s drills.
“He was going to be right in the mix,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “It’s really disappointing for him, but we’re hoping he can be back at full speed for the spring.”
Johnson was in a battle for the outside receiver spot opposite senior Jamal Robinson, himself returning to action after missing last year’s final nine games with a leg injury. Johnson had 10 catches for 96 yards in a part-time role last year along with the three scores — two of those in one game against Sun Belt Conference member New Mexico State.
With Johnson’s departure, Hudspeth said that St. Martinville and Catholic-New Iberia product Gabe Fuselier will move from his slot receiver role to a starting spot outside.
“He’s got no problem there,” Hudspeth said. “He’s smart and he’s so fast, he was a track guy in high school and he’s really coming on strong out there.”
“I like it a lot more,” Fuselier said of the full-time move to the outside receiver slot. “You get single coverage, and you don’t have to worry about blocking linebackers.”
Fuselier had a nifty touchdown catch late in Monday’s practice from the wide-out slot. Cajuns coaches had stressed his versatility across all the receiver positions during spring drills.
“I’m glad that I’m in the one position now and don’t have to worry as much about the differences inside and outside,” Fuselier said. “But nothing’s guaranteed, and I still have to make sure I know my stuff.”
Hot in pads
Monday’s practice was the first in full gear for the Cajuns, and Hudsepth said the stifling heat — heat indexes were over 100 degrees most of practice even with a 6 p.m. start — had an effect.
“It was hot early,” he said. “We got a little break the last 45 minutes when we got a breeze, and that helped us. I thought we finished with some pretty good juice.”
The Cajuns have two workouts set for Tuesday, one of only three days in the preseason that they will work twice.
“We’ve scaled back the number of periods we’re going to go, trying to get in and get quality work and get them off their feet,” Hudspeth said.
Senior defensive back Jevante Watson, who sat out Sunday’s drill after a Saturday injury, was back on the field Monday going through individual and limited team drills ... Hudsepth said that none of his three quarterbacks stood out in the first full-pads workout. “We have to do a better job of pushing up in the pocket,” he said. “Sometimes we’re looking to bounce everything, we have to push up in the pocket and make good throws.”