New Orleans Bowl photo gallery _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Simeon Thomas 

LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette football team finally has a return date for defensive back Simeon Thomas, but he still may not see the field this season.

Thomas, who was penciled in to start for the Cajuns at cornerback in preseason camp, has not played this season while dealing with an academic eligibility issue.

Coach Mark Hudspeth said the NCAA got back to the Cajuns and said Thomas would officially be eligible to compete for their Week 10 game against New Mexico State, meaning Thomas could play the Cajuns final three regular season games and a bowl game if the Cajuns earn bowl eligibility. He would then have one more year of eligibility remaining.

The flip side is that if Thomas doesn’t play this year, he will have two years of eligibility remaining. The decision isn’t set in stone yet, but Hudspeth let Thomas know his opinion on the matter.

“Me and him have already met about it, and I honestly feel like the best thing for him would be to come back two years,” Hudspeth said. “No question.”

It might be hard for Thomas to resist the temptation of getting back on the field, especially considering he missed all of last season while dealing with a similar academic eligibility issue combined with a suspension for violation of team rules.

“I think he wants to play. Who wouldn’t want to play?” Hudspeth said. “But I think the maturity of him now, where he’s at in his life, (he) knows the best thing would be to come back for two more years.”

Hudspeth said there’s a possibility his hand could be forced in the matter “if a bomb goes off” and the Cajuns secondary becomes even more depleted than it already has been by injury.

But there’s also the future to consider.

“To have him back for two years? Woo, you’re talking about feeling good about your secondary,” Hudspeth said. “Tracy Walker back for two more, him back for two more? Wow.”

Brazil back on returns?

Junior defensive back Jeryl Brazil was removed from the kick-return spot last week after he fumbled a kickoff out of bounds, but he could be back in that spot against Georgia State, giving the Cajuns a chance to use his electrifying speed to full effect.

“I may give him a chance because it’s indoors,” Hudspeth said. “It’s a dry ball, it’s a fast surface.”

Of course, it may not matter who the Cajuns have back deep.

“Their kicker in the (Georgia) Dome has kicked them out of the back of the end zone, so I don’t anticipate us getting a return,” Hudspeth said.

Short-week preparation

The Cajuns will have a short week ahead of them after the Georgia State game, as they’ll turn right around and travel to Mobile to face South Alabama next Thursday.

While they’re not looking past Georgia State, the Cajuns are trying to get a head start on the challenge of playing two road games in five days.

“We cut practices today. Practice was about 15 minutes shorter,” Hudspeth said. “Workouts tomorrow won’t be in the a.m. Normally they’re 5:45 and 7 o’clock — two early morning workouts — but we’re going to let them get a shorter workout tomorrow before practice so they can get extra sleep. Next week we’ll only lift once instead of twice.

“We’ve got to take something off their bodies somewhere. Practice times will be cut down next week dramatically. To me, in a short week like that, it’s about whose horses are the freshest.”