Other than some group workout sessions and the extra opportunity for lifting and conditioning, participation in next weekend’s AutoNation Cure Bowl won’t result in the extra practice sessions for UL-Lafayette.
In fact, the Ragin’ Cajuns had just one full-scale practice this week; it was held Wednesday. The players’ weekend schedule will also be light because most of the coaches are tied up in their only full weekend of official visits.
The early signing period begins Dec. 19.
Cajuns coach Billy Napier said he’d prefer more practice time to prepare for next Saturday’s game with Tulane in Orlando, Florida. But with the combination of final exams this week, the restricted recruiting time and next Wednesday’s departure, time is not a luxury.
“This is a much quicker turnaround relative to what most bowl games are,” Napier said after Wednesday’s workout. “It’s a two-week window after the conference championship game, and we’re in a little bit of a crunch with what we have to accomplish on recruiting.”
The Cajuns’ first bowl practice Wednesday looked more like a spring session, with no specific work aimed at preparation for the Green Wave. That lone full-pads session of the week was surrounded by players working mostly on their own Tuesday and Thursday and working around finals.
“Wednesday was an opportunity for us to continue to stay sharp — but at the same time, it’s an opportunity to recover,” said Napier, who with his staff spent most of the week on the recruiting trail and returned for Wednesday’s drills.
“We did a lot of focus on school, and we had some free time to get treatment and get healthy,” said sophomore running back Trey Ragas, who had a school-record seventh 100-yard rushing game in last weekend’s 30-19 loss to Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Conference championship game. “With just the one practice, we didn’t have a lot of wear and tear.”
Will Hall won’t have a definite role in Tulane’s preparations for the Cure Bowl, but he'll be the Green Wave sideline, and he'll be familiar to many Cajuns players.
Tulane head coach Willie Fritz filled his empty offensive coordinator slot Tuesday with the hiring of Hall, who spent the 2017 season in the same role at UL-Lafayette.
“I’m excited for Will to get the chance to call plays again,” Napier said. “He’s a friend and I’ve known him for a long time. One of the harder things I’ve had to do was not retain him here, and I was happy that he landed on his feet at Memphis.”
Hall spent this season as associate head coach and tight ends coach with the Tigers, helping them reach the American Athletic Conference title game (they lost to UCF).
Hall’s offense at UL-Lafayette averaged 28 points and more than 400 yards in 2017 — both significant increases from the previous season. The Cajuns finished 5-7, and coach Mark Hudspeth and his staff were terminated.
“Known him for a long time,” Napier said of Hall. “I would think he would have some input going into the bowl game.”
Hall will not have a specific role for Tulane for the bowl game. Fritz fired offensive coordinator Doug Ruse at the end of the regular season. Offensive line coach and running game coordinator Alex Atkins will act as offensive coordinator for the bowl game.
The Cajuns, who were almost shut out of the All-Sun Belt team announced last week, had five players named to Pro Football Focus’ All-Sun Belt offensive list. Ragas and fellow running back Elijah Mitchell, wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley and linemen Kevin Dotson and Robert Hunt were on the first team.
Center Cole Prudhomme, defensive lineman Bennie Higgins and return specialist Raymond Calais were picked to the second team by Pro Football Focus.
Dotson was the only Cajuns player picked to the 28-man official all-league first team, while Mitchell and Hunt were on the second team. UL-Lafayette had only those three picked among the league’s top 56 on the first and second teams.