Louisiana-Lafayette is one of the few Sun Belt Conference teams that can rest easy when thinking about its quarterback situation this fall.
Senior quarterback Terrance Broadway, one of a handful of returning SBC signal callers, is back to full strength after breaking his arm near the end of last season and looked solid in his first practice of the year.
But, as UL-Lafayette found out last season, having a solid backup plan in order is necessary.
“Behind him, we’ve got to find some answers,” Cajuns offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said.
As of the first day of camp, the top option appears to be sophomore Brooks Haack, who filled in after the Broadway injury with mixed results.
“We’ve got to keep developing him,” Johnson said. “He’s a good football player, I have no problem with Brooks, he’s got to have a great fall camp.
“Then it’s who’s next? We’ve got to find that question out.”
If any positive could be taken away from the Broadway injury last season, it’s that coaches were able to evaluate the quarterbacks on last year’s roster in a way they would not have ordinarily been able to.
Both Haack and sophomore Jalen Nixon received some game experience, and Broadway’s reps during bowl practice were dispersed among the backups as Broadway’s playing status was in the air.
The afternoon practice featured a couple freshmen quarterback leading the offense through drills in Dalvin Populist and Jordan Rice.
“We need to see what those guys can do to give us some depth there,” Johnson said. “That will be a big task of mine as we enter into fall camp.”
Veteran vs. newcomers
The atmosphere was completely different between the morning and afternoon practice sessions.
The morning session was reserved for veterans and select newcomers, like junior college transfers C.J. Bates and Eddie Gordon, and moved at a brisk pace as the coaches caught the players up to where they were at the conclusion of spring practice. The afternoon practice was noticeably more intense as newcomers got used to the pace at which they were expected to move.
That was by design, and the purpose was two-fold. One, coach Mark Hudspeth didn’t want the vets to be slowed down as newcomers learned their respective places, and two, it allowed the coaches an opportunity to see their new players in a football environment.
“We’ve seen them lift weights, and we’ve seen them run, now we’re going to see who can block, catch, throw and break on the ball,” Hudspeth said. “It’ll give us a great evaluation early. I would like, after this week, to be able to evaluate our new players.”
Speaking of those new players, Hudspeth didn’t mention many by name — mainly because he had yet to see them practice when he met with the media — but he did mention freshman wideout Gabe Fuselier “looked really good in the offseason program.”
The white (and black) stripes
The Ragin’ Cajuns are adding another motivational wrinkle this season.
Freshmen were distinguished from the rest of the team by a black stripe running down the center of their helmets in place of the white stripe returning letter-winners wore. By showing the characteristics Hudspeth and the coaches demand of them, or through a voucher from an experienced teammate, a freshman can earn his white stripe.
There were plenty of great one-liners from Hudspeth on Monday, here were some of the best.
“We like our team, we like our players, we like our depth — but that doesn’t always mean you’re going to have a great year. Now it’s our job to put the pieces together to form this puzzle. I really like the pieces that we have.” — Hudspeth on his team’s composition during his media day news conference
“Sometimes, the first practice looks like the first practice. But today, I thought we looked a little bit ahead of schedule.” — Hudspeth after the morning practice, which featured mostly veteran players.
“What are you doing? Take the field like you own it!” — Hudspeth setting the tone to his afternoon practice players, mostly composed of newcomers.
“You better have a roman candle up your rear!” — Hudspeth colorfully explaining to a player how fast he wanted him to move.