LAFAYETTE — There were a lot of repetitions to be had in the first few weeks of spring practice for Louisiana-Lafayette redshirt freshman running back Jordan Wright, and he appears to have made the most of those.
“He’s probably been the biggest surprise of the spring,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “He’s probably been one of the most improved players this spring, too.”
With rising seniors Elijah McGuire and Jalen Nixon out of the mix — McGuire was on the basketball team for the first few weeks of spring practice and Nixon was hurt — Wright was one of just three healthy running backs on the roster.
He largely split first- and second-team reps with Darius Hoggins, and an extra-heavy dose of practice time brought him around quickly.
“That really expedited his progress twofold,” Hudspeth said. “He’s really turned into a dependable back. Not just dependable in that he can get the job done. He can really make some explosive plays.”
Perhaps more important, he also showed Hudspeth and the Cajuns coaching staff an improved ability to hold onto the ball — something he struggled with last season as he redshirted last season.
“Before we put a freshman (running) back on the field, most of those guys don’t really understand how to take care of the football,” Hudspeth said. “He’s been really solid in that aspect.”
Nixon played quarterback his first three seasons with the team, and though Hudspeth moved him to running back this offseason, Nixon has worked with the quarterbacks since he returned to practice Tuesday.
Hudspeth reiterated Thursday that he still thinks Nixon will end up playing mostly at running back.
“That’s where I envision him most likely ending up, but you still are going to want Elijah McGuire on the field as much as possible,” Hudspeth said. “We just hate to leave one of our best football players on the sideline getting about 20 percent of the running back snaps.
“That’s the juggling act we’re worried about right now. We need him on the field somewhere.”
Southeastern added for 2017
The university announced Thursday that it would open its 2017 season at home against Southeastern Louisiana.
“The ability to schedule in-state opponents for non-conference games at Cajun Field is something that has been key for us for the past few years as it helps create a great college football atmosphere for both fan bases,” athletic director Scott Farmer said in a statement. “Southeastern has done a tremendous job since re-instating their program (in 2003).”
The Cajuns now have three nonconference games scheduled for the 2017 season, including Tulsa and Texas A&M, both of which will be in September.
The Cajuns and Lions used to compete in the same conference but have not faced each other since 1981.
Beamer ball (and boil)
Former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is scheduled to arrive in Lafayette on Friday afternoon to serve as the keynote speaker in the Cajuns’ “Ball and Boil” coaching clinic, which began Thursday. Beamer is scheduled to address the coaches shortly before a group crawfish boil.
Thursday night, the Cajuns coaching staff hosted the coaches who attended the clinic at Evangeline Downs.