There was an unmistakeable pep in some players’ steps Thursday that only comes with rest.
Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth gave his players the day off Wednesday in order to let their legs recover from the grueling pace of camp.
“It was a noticeable difference,” Hudspeth said. “The day paid off.”
The Cajuns weren’t as sharp Thursday as they’ve been for the majority of camp thus far, but it was a welcome trade for Hudspeth.
“I thought we made some mental mistakes today, but our legs were way better than they were a couple days ago,” Hudspeth said. “Our speed looked a little different.”
The team will run through a simulated game Friday morning where the Cajuns will simulate everything from the pregame stretching routine to communicating properly from the press box to the sideline.
“Everything that can happen in a game,” Hudspeth said. “We’re going to cover a lot of situations. It’ll be a very important day as we sort of do a dress rehearsal.”
Twelve-year-old Thomas Cotton is battling cancer, but he was given something to smile about Thursday.
Both the football team and his family gathered around him as he was presented a photo collage of his late father Kenyon Cotton, a former Ragin’ Cajun running back who died four years ago after complications from a routine surgery.
Kenyon played two years in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, but Thomas was born after his playing career was over and had never seen his father from his playing days. The university’s communication department unearthed some photos of Kenyon from his playing days and ordered them neatly in a large frame before presenting it to Thomas in front of the team.
Safety T.J. Worthy was back at practice after he missed a lengthy stretch of time to recover from a concussion. Worthy, who entered the season as the top reserve at safety, was wearing an orange jersey to signal to other players that he’s still limited.
“I thought it was good to get him back out there. He was a little rusty, hopefully he gets caught back up in this next week and as the season goes we’ll get him back up to speed.”
Junior left tackle Mykhael Quave was still not practicing with the team as he recovers from what Hudspeth termed a “hairline” fracture in his hand. Quave’s hand was in a cast, but Hudspeth is not concerned about him missing any time.
“We’ve got that cast to help expedite recovery,” Hudspeth said. “But we think by the end of the week it will have been taken off or at least put in a splint.”
Scout teams set
The Cajuns were in full bore scouting mode Thursday getting ready for next Saturday’s season-opener against Southern. Both the first team offense and first-team defense worked against scout teams, which were operating in looks that coaches anticipate the Jaguars using.
“Now you’re working on another opponent instead of preparing for each other,” Hudspeth said.
Earlier in the day, Southern coach Dawson Odums announced that redshirt freshman quarterback Deonte Shorts would be the Jaguars’ starting quarterback.
The Cajuns had done their homework before practice. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Nixon, who is suspended for the year for an unspecified violation of team rules, was running the scout team offense wearing a No. 2 jersey instead of his usual No. 5. Shorts wears No. 2 for Southern.
Individual tickets go on sale
Individual game tickets for the Cajuns’ home opener against Southern University will go on sale beginning Monday at the Cajundome box office.
Tickets will be available for purchase at the box office daily from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. or online through Ticketmaster. Reserved tickets are $30 with general admission tickets $25.
On game day, ticket sales will be at the Cajundome beginning at 10 a.m., Gate D at Cajun Field at 10:30 a.m., and Gates A and D beginning at 11. For more information, contact the Cajundome box office at (337) 265-2100.
Meet the families
After Thomas Cotton was presented with the photo collage of his late father, the players stayed in the semi-circle as the coaching staff rotated through with their respective families in tow.
Hudspeth said it was something the team did every year at the end of camp.
“That sort of closes out our camp,” Hudspeth said. “We’ve got a lot of new players who don’t know all the family members.”
Three observations of note from Thursday’s practice:
1 Defensive back Montrel Carter handled the No. 1 kick returner duties during practice. Hudspeth said the kick returner job will come down to Carter and sophomore wideout Devin Scott, but redshirt freshman running back Darius Hoggins was also returning kicks in practice.
2 Speaking of returns, it looks like receivers C.J. Bates and James Butler are the next men up to return punts after sophomore Elijah McGuire.
3 Recent Arkansas transfer Otha Peters was not one of the players working with the scout team defense. He saw a lot of reps Thursday working alongside T.J. Posey. It still looks as though Peters will redshirt, but coaches are bringing him up to speed regardless.