ULSpringFootballGame10.041419

UL running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, shown here celebrating with running back Elijah Mitchell after his game-winning touchdown plunge won the spring game for the Vermilion squad, shares a close bond with the Cajuns' running backs corps loaded with homegrown talent from Louisiana.

Talent has a lot to do with how highly regarded UL’s running back corps is, but that doesn’t mean position coach Jabbar Juluke doesn’t also deserve credit.

“It’s really just his personality,” senior running back Raymond Calais said. “We can relate to him. He’s from New Orleans.”

With five of UL’s top six running backs from the state, there’s definitely a Louisiana connection there. Trey Ragas is from New Orleans, Elijah Mitchell from Erath, Calais from Cecilia, and Ashton Johnson and T.J. Wisham from Baton Rouge.

Chris Smith, of Louisville, Mississippi, is the only “outsider” among the group.

Juluke, meanwhile, played at Southern and was a high school coach at Karr, Brother Martin, O.P. Walker, McKinley, St. Augustine and Douglass.

On the college level, Juluke has now coached at Louisiana Tech, LSU and now UL, in addition to a stint at Texas Tech.

“He’s really kind of a funny guy,” Calais said. “He’s real fiery too. He gets us going every day. Even in the meetings, he’s not all serious. He has moments when he’s like goofy where you can laugh and clown, but then there’s also parts where he’s serious and we take notes and we do our job efficiently.

“I really love how coach Juluke coaches.”

Accepting the challenge

It wasn’t difficult to see in Monday’s news conference that UL coach Billy Napier has concerns about how injuries have affected the depth at tight end.

“That’s what I woke up about 3 (a.m.) thinking about last night,” he said.

Napier seems to relish the challenge, however.

“But you know that’s what’s great about college football,” Napier said. “Every team we play this year, they’ve got some type of issue that they’re working their way through. As my dad would say, ‘You’ve got to coach what you’ve got.’

“This is where you’ve got to be at your best to put the players in position to have success. This is just another challenge for the staff and we look forward to that.”

The staff’s decision to bring graduate transfer Nick Ralston to Lafayette from Arizona State seems to be paying off now.

Humphrey wait continues

The Cajuns have been awaiting word from the NCAA on the eligibility of 6-5, 350-pound defensive tackle Tayland Humphrey, who transferred from Florida International.

But don’t get the impression Napier has been sitting on the edge of his seat agonizing over the waiting process.

“To be very blunt here, we didn’t anticipate Tayland being able to play,” Napier said. “(UL compliance director) Tom (Burke) felt like maybe there was a chance for a scenario where a waiver might be passed. If we get him eligible, it’ll be icing on the cake.

“But certainly, if he’s not eligible, then he’ll be here and practice with us and make a tremendous impact next year. So either way, we’ve got a good thing there.”

Humphrey would give the Cajuns experience on the defensive line as the defense tries to improve upon last year’s eighth-place finish against the run last season at 219.1 yards a game.

“The cutoff for this thing is kind of game week,” Napier said. “We may know sooner than that, but that’s kind of the ending point.”

August camp over

Tuesday's evening practice is the official end of August training camp. Wednesday begins preparation for the Aug. 31 season opener against Mississippi State at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“Our team has a good look in their eyes,” Napier said. “I really was impressed, not only with Saturday practice, but last Wednesday night. We’re growing up a little bit. We’re more prepared to play in this opener. We still have lots of work to do and I think the leadership on the team understands that.”

The staff held guard Kevin Dotson, cornerback Michael Jacquet, offensive guard Ken Marks and running back Elijah Mitchell out of Saturday’s scrimmage to deal with bumps and bruises.

The final media availability before the start of actual game week on Monday will be Thursday.

“We need more players that can play winning football in the second and third groups,” Napier said.

Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.