LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette football team went on a tremendous run under coach Mark Hudspeth in which they went 56 consecutive games starting the same five along the offensive line that started at the beginning of each season.
That streak came to an end last week after senior left guard Mykhael Quave was lost for the year with a torn rotator cuff. The ensuing streak didn’t last nearly as long.
After moving Grant Horst from left tackle to center, Eddie Gordon from center to left guard and D’Aquin Withrow from the bench to left tackle for the Texas State game, the Cajuns are going to reshuffle the deck again this week.
Hudspeth and offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue agreed that Gordon was a better fit at center than left guard, leaving them to use the extra time to prepare for a Tuesday game to their advantage by finding out whether Horst can fit at left guard.
“We’re still not for certain there yet,” Hudspeth said after Tuesday’s practice. “We worked that today. I don’t know how Mitch felt about it. We need to go back and watch film from today’s practice and see how it looked. We’ll know more later in the week.”
When it became clear last week that Quave wasn’t going to be available, the Cajuns had to quickly assemble their new-look offensive line and get them familiar with playing new positions.
The results were solid, as the Cajuns did not allow a sack while rolling up 230-plus yards both through the air and on the ground.
But it still wasn’t quite right, and given the team has an extra three days to prepare, it decided to make the switch now to give the players time to work and the staff time to make a decision.
“It’s just a work in progress, but we’ve got a little extra time to figure that out,” Hudspeth said.
The only thing set in stone is that Gordon will move back to center.
The coaches determined he was a much better fit there than at guard, mainly because of the comfort Gordon has with the position.
Horst was also involved in a fumbled snap that killed a Cajuns drive on fourth down, though the snap came from directly under center, a tactic the Cajuns rarely — if ever — use in their usual shotgun and pistol formations.
“(Gordon is) used to making the calls,” Hudspeth said. “The center gets help from both sides, too … you’re always working in tandem with somebody, and I think there was a certain comfort level there that he had.”
That leaves the left side of the line unsettled for the moment.
Hudspeth said he wants to have a decision made by Friday, which will serve as the equivalent of the team’s Tuesday practice, or their first full practice of game week.
Hudspeth says he still wants his best five offensive linemen on the field, which would mean Horst and Withrow would occupy those spots based off his comments last week. But the team first has to figure out if Horst is capable of playing that spot.
They’re giving him a chance there because he’s proven to be versatile in the past.
“The thing he can do is he can pick it all up, scheme wise,” Hudspeth said. “He’s able to understand the entire scheme. There’s a lot on his plate, but if anyone can handle it, he can.”
If Horst does not show he’d be capable at left guard, Hudspeth said Jesse Freeman would likely fill the position.
None of this would be possible if D’Aquin Withrow didn’t perform well in his first career start, though.
The third-year sophomore’s only glitch of the night came on a penalty, and his name was otherwise not heard.
Anonymity is a good thing on the offensive line.
“I was really pleased with D’Aquin, especially in pass (protection),” Hudspeth said. “He’s 6-6 and he’s got long arms, he’s really good at pass protection. That kid, if he keeps progressing, I think he has a future one day.”