LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette spring game won’t just be a light practice this year. There’s too much riding on it.
Coach Mark Hudspeth said he could get away with running the 2014 squad through drills at last season’s spring game, because most roles were established and the key was simply getting through the spring healthy.
But some important decisions could be made — at least until the team starts fall camp in August — when the team goes through its closest simulation to actual game action 5 p.m. Saturday at Cajun Field.
“It’ll be a bigger evaluation this year than last year,” Hudspeth said. “It’ll be the third real, true scrimmage for us. Last year, we kept it really short, because we had a lot of guys that were two- or three-year starters, and it wasn’t worth the injury risk.
“This year, we’re going to have to work. Even the quarterbacks will be live.”
Most eyes will be glued to the three men directing the offense.
Junior Brooks Haack spent the entire spring working with the first-team offense, but Hudspeth insisted junior Jalen Nixon and redshirt freshman Jordan Davis have made up ground since the start of spring camp.
“It’s going just like I thought it would,” Haack said. “Everybody’s competing every day, coming out and giving it their best, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. If they have given me the lead, I want them behind me pushing me. I’m pushing them. It’s great to always have a battle.”
With fans in the stands and the pressure of this being the final chance to make an impression this spring, Hudspeth hopes to have his best gauge of where his quarterback race stands after the spring game.
“We want to see who can perform under pressure again, so after spring ball, we can really go back and evaluate the entire spring to see which quarterback we think is ahead,” Hudspeth said. “This is a true test run to see how they perform in the stadium in front of a crowd in a live environment.”
While the pressure might be greatest in the spring game, Haack said all three have been aware of the stakes since spring camp opened at the beginning of the month.
The pressure through competition might be why Hudspeth has backed off saying which quarterback is in line to seize the starting gig.
“It makes each rep that much more serious,” Haack said. “If you do make a bad pass, you get a little bit harder on yourself, because — you know what? — maybe when they go out there, they make that play. It just makes you fine-tune everything and really lock in every snap.”
Quarterback isn’t the only spot to be evaluated heavily based on the spring game.
Hudspeth said the entire defense will be monitored closely, especially at cornerback, where the Cajuns are replacing a pair of starters.
Juniors Troy McCollom and Simeon Thomas have spent most of the spring with the first team, but Hudspeth also named Jevante Watson and Christian Goodlett as players who will fight for positioning.
One player who won’t be out there Saturday but could be in the mix is JUCO transfer Savion Brown, who Hudspeth said will get a chance after he joins the team this fall as a late addition to the 2015 signing class.
The Cajuns will also take a close look at offensive tackle, where Grant Horst and D’Aquin Withrow have contended for a starting position.
Both have gotten reps with the first team at left and right tackle. Last year’s starting tackle, Octravian Anderson, has been out with an injury, and Mykhael Quave, who’s started the past 26 games at left tackle, has played left guard throughout spring.
“Right now, it looks like (Quave) will stay at guard unless some things change,” Hudspeth said. “Grant Horst has had a solid spring, so has D’Aquin Withrow. We’ll evaluate which one of those guys we think would be the left tackle if Octravian Anderson stays at right tackle.”
Hudspeth was hoping to get a look at some potential starters who have had to sit out because of injury.
“In a lot of ways we’ve developed depth, because a lot of guys got reps that they wouldn’t have gotten if all the guys who were injured were out there,” Hudspeth said. “A lot of young kids have gotten solid reps, solid work. But a couple guys are behind that were injured that we would’ve liked to have gotten a little work, especially some of the defensive linemen — the Rumaine Douglases, the Roderick Stephens, the Marquis Whites, guys that have played but not played extensively.”