UL defensive end Andre Landry, left, shown here celebrating a tackle in last year's win over South Alabama, continued to contribute to the Cajuns' defense with a start and two tackles in last Saturday's win over Iowa State.

It has not been a smooth, straight path to playing time for former Acadiana High player Andre Landry with the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.

But the winding road is beginning to work for Landry, who earn a start in the win over Iowa State on Saturday and contributed two tackles.

“When we first got here (before 2018 season), Andre was a tight end who played a little bit of defensive end in high school,” UL coach Billy Napier said. “He made the move maybe after spring practice. Andre is 6-4 and he’s gotten close to 270 these days — a lean 270. He’s got natural strength; he can anchor. He’s got length. We played him in the bowl game, and he played relatively well.”

Landry also had to make up ground in following the protocols brought by Napier’s new staff.

“Andre was probably in the doghouse a little bit that first year we were here,” Napier said. “Last year, I thought he took a step forward. He’s learning how to be a consistent, dependable, accountable guy.”

But the redshirt junior hung in and impressed enough during training camp to earn the start when an injured Zi’Yon Hill missed the season opener.

“There’s work left to be done with his game because he’s new at the position,” Napier said. “But there was a stint in training camp where (Hill) was a little banged up and he had to go with the ones every day and he did a decent job. We’re pleased with Andre,, and certainly he’ll have a big role on our team this year.”

Napier said Monday that Hill is expected to return to the starting lineup Saturday in Atlanta.

Good O-Line too

For the second straight week, Napier has a personal relationship with a key member of the opposition.

Last week, he had recruited Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy during their days in Arizona, with Purdy going to high school there and Napier as the Arizona State offensive coordinator.

This week, the relationship is with Georgia State offensive line coach Thomas Austin.  The Cajuns travel to meet the Panthers at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN2 in a Sun Belt Conference opener.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for how their offensive line played last year,” Napier said. “Thomas Austin is their offensive line coach. He’s a former player at Clemson that played there when I was the coordinator. He’s not only a good coach, but he’s a great human being. He comes from an unbelievable family. It’s great to see his players playing well.”

After UL’s defense had its way with Iowa State’s offense in the second half of the Cajuns’ 31-14 win last week, Some are assuming an even easier time against the Panthers.

Napier warns against that assumption.

“They’re going to challenge you up front with the way they rush the ball,” Napier said. “Thomas has done a great job there. That was his first year last year and I thought they played well and took a step forward. I think that’s a good matchup in the game, and certainly one we’re going to have to be ready for.”

One of the biggest beneficiaries of Georgia State's large group of returning starters, which includes eight on offense and eight on defense, is the offensive line. Four of the five starting offensive linemen and both tight ends return. The Panthers have averaged 232.5 yards rushing per game over their past 18 games.

Special teams talk

The whole college football world saw the replays of UL’s 83-yard punt return by Eric Garror and 95-yard kickoff return by Chris Smith, and Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott was in that number.

“Those were two explosive plays, and to be honest with you it put them over the top and derailed that Iowa State team,” Elliott said. “It was kind of shocking. It’s not in the back of your mind, it’s in the forefront, but we’ve got to go out and prepare just like we do each and every week. We’ve had a lot of time in this camp to finalize some things special teams-wise, and I think we’ll have a good plan going in.”

A down side for UL’s special teams in the opener was graduate transfer Nate Snyder missing two of three field goals. The Panthers have a graduate transfer as well in Noel Ruiz from North Carolina A&T, where he was an FCS All-American. Ruiz made 23 of his 27 field goals last season, including 12 straight and 15 of his final 16 attempts.

“What a great young man,” Elliott said. “He’s come in and worked extremely hard, done everything we’ve asked of him. He’s a guy that has a plan in pace and goes out and executes it every single day. He has a concentration level. "He hasn’t been a surprise but a great addition to our football team. He’s going to have a heck of a year.”

More tight ends?

Much of the pregame conversation last week was about Iowa State’s tight end trio. As it turned out, the best one — Charlie Kolar was hurt and didn’t play.

Georgia State also sports two talented tight ends in Roger Carter and Aubry Payne. The duo combined for 41 catches, 538 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

The Cajuns had no receptions from their tight ends last week.

Time will tell how effective the duo will be Saturday with redshirt freshman quarterback Cornelious Brown IV making his first collegiate start.

Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.