It was bad news in waves for UL’s tight end position over the weekend.
The biggest, and most upsetting development, is red-shirt sophomore tight end Chase Rogers suffered another broken foot, likely resulting in him missing the entire 2019 season.
It’s the third major injury since signing with the Cajuns in February of 2017, not to mention also having shoulder surgery this past offseason as well.
“Chase is a tremendous competitor,” UL coach Billy Napier said. “He’s been an unbelievable teammate with what he accomplished last year and the way he went about his business. He’s going through some difficult times as we all would.
“We all should be thinking and praying for Chase as he goes through this tough deal.”
UL senior defensive lineman Bennie Higgins’ life received a giant jolt last Thursday when his family’s home was ravaged by a fire.
Earlier this spring, Rogers appeared healthy for the first time since arriving in Lafayette and said he was no longer even thinking about his numerous foot injuries.
“He’s been through quite a bit,” Napier said. “There’s nobody that wants to contribute to the team more than that guy. The big thing here is we want to make sure that Chase is right as a person. You get football taken away from you so many times, it can have a bad effect on you.
“We just want to support Chase in everything that he’s going through at this time. We’ll work on how we’re going to play offense. That’s the least of my worries right now. We’ll get a good plan for that. The most important thing is that we support Chase as he goes through a difficult time.”
While Napier’s primary focus is on the well-being of Rogers, the solutions on the field won’t be easy. Fellow tight end Johnny Lumpkin separated his shoulder over the weekend and is day-to-day.
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“Time will tell, but we’ll see what Johnny’s able to do,” Napier said. “This is probably similar to Zi’Yon’s situation last year. Probably be a little bit week to week depending on how he’s feeling. It’s going to challenge our creativity. The good thing is we’ve got a good running back room and a good O-line room.”
We’re just going to have to use some of the contingency plans that we’re always working on.
Furthermore, red-shirt sophomore tight end Hunter Bergeron “tweaked an ankle” and will be out for several days.
Helping fill the voids will be a pair of H-backs in graduate transfer Nick Ralston at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, as well as red-shirt freshman Pearse Migl at 6-1 and 230 pounds.
Freshman Neal Johnson has also showed positive signs in camp and red-shirt freshman linebacker Damani Burrell has been moved to tight end at least temporarily to help man that position.
Calais: Not a demand
UL senior running back Raymond Calais backed up what Napier, UL director of athletics Dr. Bryan Maggard and senior safety Deuce Wallace said last Friday concerning the RCAF player donation controversy.
“Coach Napier, he wasn’t demanding us to give money,” Calais said. “It was only like, if we felt we could or we wanted to, then yes. It wasn’t like, ‘Yes, you guys are going to' … nah. We know what they do for us and all the facilities and food and everything we’re getting now. He was just making a recommendation that if we wanted to maybe we can give back. It wasn’t like we have to.”
In last Wednesday’s news conference, the word “mandatory” was used. The university sent a released later Wednesday that it wasn’t required. On Friday, Napier, Maggard and Wallace also said it wasn’t mandatory when questioned about the new initiative.
Lewis better in scrimmage
In Napier’s mind, junior quarterback Levi Lewis did more than just solidify a starting role in the season opener.
As of now, Napier said Lewis would take 100 percent of the snaps if UL played a game today.
Lewis stood out in Saturday’s scrimmage, pacing the quarterback group’s improved effort in taking care of the ball.
Achieving goals is what UL redshirt sophomore running back T.J. Wisham was trained to do.
“Better,” Napier said. “I think Levi in particular was lights out. I think his QB rating was up 158 to 160, something like that, real high. He did have one interception, but it was a great play by the corner — just a small margin-for-error play. Just an unbelievable interception by A.J. Washington.”
The rest of August camp appears to be a matter of deciding who the backup quarterback will be.
“The next group, we still had a few of boneheaded plays — that are 100 percent decision-making that we need to get fixed,” Napier said. “We turned the ball over three times and they were all interceptions. Two of them were rookie quarterbacks that made bad decisions and one was just a great play by the corner.
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“We did do better. We still need to understand protection. We’re taking too many sacks. We’ve got to have a little bit more pocket awareness. These are all new players, so the game is fast for them right now. The ones that were here before, they’ve had time to adjust a little bit.”
Napier said Jai’ave Magalei showed progress in Sunday’s practice and his ability to hold off the freshman group will be decided soon.
“Let’s get the back-up plan ready to go,” Napier said. “If we were to get injured, we’ve got to have a guy ready to go in there and move the team.”
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