UL’s 2019 Position Breakdown
Quarterback: Coming out of the spring, there was still some question whether coach Billy Napier would still utilize a modified two-quarterback system this season. After August camp, all doubt was eliminated. Junior Levi Lewis is expected to take every meaningful snap this season, as long as he stays healthy.
Running backs: This is obviously the strength of the team. The Cajuns didn’t have a running back rush for more than 1,000 yards in the program’s history until Tyrell Fenroy did it four times from 2005-08. Now UL has three — junior Trey Ragas, junior Elijah Mitchell and senior Raymond Calais — all capable of doing so.
Napier showed how a three-headed monster could work last season. Ragas is powerful; Calais is lightning-fast; and Mitchell does a little of everything.
Bringing an even bigger smile to position coach Jabbar Juluke’s face is if any of the trio gets injured, the staff is also high on the reserve trio of senior Ashton Johnson, sophomore T.J. Wisham and freshman Chris Smith.
Wide receivers: As with the running backs, there are clear-cut leaders at wide receiver in seniors Ja’Marcus Bradley and Jarrod Jackson. But unlike the running back posotion, exactly who will end up providing the depth behind that duo remains a question.
Junior Jamal Bell is the favorite to be the No. 3 receiver, but he only had six receptions last season.
Fourth-year junior Calif Gossett hopes his 6-foot-6 frame can help him emerge as well. Brian Smith shined in the spring game. Junior Jalen Williams hopes he’s healthy enough to make a run at snaps. There’s also a talented freshman class, led by Cassius Allen.
Tight end: Not since Ladarius Green left after the 2011 season has UL sported a true receiving threat at tight end. Chase Rogers broke his foot again and has left the program. Johnny Lumpkin had high hopes for the fall but separated his shoulder in camp.
An old-school fullback/H-back in Nick Ralston may have to play more tight end than he ever imaged as a graduate transfer from Arizona State. Walk-on sophomore Hunter Bergeron and true freshman Neal Johnson could also be pressed into duty.
Offensive line: Going into the spring, this was going to be a unit with five starting seniors in tackle Rico Robinson, guard Kevin Dotson, center Cole Prudhomme, guard Ken Marks and tackle Robert Hunt. Prudhomme exited spring with a knee injury and has been replaced by sophomore Shane Vallot.
That’s still a ton of experience on the line to block for UL’s talented backfield. The staff insists it will play more linemen this season. The top candidates for that include sophomore Max Mitchell, freshman O’Cyrus Torrence and sophomore Spencer Gardner.
Defensive line: Officially, the Cajuns run a 3-4, but the exceptions are numerous. Call it what you want, but the three mainstays expected to have their hands on the ground are tackle Zi’Yon Hill and ends Bennie Higgins and Chauncey Manac.
With more Division I bodies around them this season, veterans like Higgins won’t have to play as many snaps this season. Sophomore Masry Mapieu, sophomore transfer Ja-Quane Nelson, freshman Shomari Hayes and sophomore Timaje Porter provide much-needed depth to a unit that’s probably the biggest preseason question mark.
Linebackers: At times, UL may have four linebackers on the field; at others, team will use just three. However you slice it, the corps will be anchored by senior inside linebackers Jacques Boudreaux and Ferrod Gardner in the middle. As critical as that duo is for the defense, it has quality reserves in Lorenzo McCaskill and Jourdan Quibodeaux.
On the edge is the expected return of junior Joe Dillon to provide outside pressure. Sophomore Kris Moncrief moved from inside to outside and is expected to have a big impact there.
Also expected to impact this group are sophomore Andre Jones, sophomore Andre Riley and freshman Tyler Guidry.
Cornerbacks: Emerging as starter through August camp are senior Michael Jacquet and sophomore Eric Garror. Jacquet exited camp banged up, but he’s expected back.
Senior Kamar Greenhouse appears ready to provide depth at corner, as does sophomore A.J. Washington. True freshman Amir McDaniel and sophomore Mekhi Garner could also provide relief if needed.
Safeties: The leader of this group is senior Deuce Wallace, but he’s got far more talent around him in sophomore Bralen Trahan, sophomore Percy Butler, junior Cameron Solomon and sophomore Ja’len Johnson.
Then there’s the nickel safety duo of Terik Miller, who is essentially a starter, and graduate transfer Brenndan Johnson to provide experience and versatility to the secondary.
Kicker: The duties here will likely be split. Senior Stevie Artigue will probably handle the placekicking duties after strong performances in the spring and summer, while redshirt freshman Kenneth Almendares and freshman Grant Paulette are options for kickoff duty.
Punter: There’s no mystery here with sophomore Rhys Byrns back.
Snapper: Sophomore Paul Boudreaux is expected to handle these duties.
Returners: Calais is expected to be the No. 1 option on kickoffs, Eric Garror is the primary punt returner. Chris Smith should also be involved.