UL football coach Billy Napier certainly expected it, but the Cajuns’ two graduate transfers — Texas-San Antonio defensive back Brenndan Johnson and Arizona State tight end Nick Ralston — are working out very well so far.
“We’re very pleased with both of those guys,” Napier said. “They’re both intelligent. Both mature. Brenndan, I think, was a 3.8 GPA and college graduate. Nick’s a 4.0 in the business school at Arizona State, so both are intelligent, mature kids. That’s allowed them to transition quicker maybe than most. I think they’re going to help our team.
“Nick in particular stands out just watching the first few practices as a guy who is going to have a major role on our team, not only on offense but on special teams.”
The 2018 season couldn’t have ended much worse for the UL wide-receiving group.
Johnson joins senior Terik Miller in the star safety spot.
“I welcomed him with open arms,” Miller said. “It’s competition and competition makes the room better. It’s not really a bad vibe. It’s really welcomed. The more weapons we’ve got, the better we’ll be.”
Also making it a smooth transition is that Johnson was with UL safeties coach Patrick Toney at UTSA and Ralston was at Arizona State during Napier’s short stay there as offensive coordinator.
“I’ve been around him for a year, so there’s some similarities there, and certainly for Brenndan, coach Toney was at UTSA and there’s some commonalities there,” Napier said.
Past helping future
As UL’s Napier plans for what’s ahead in his second season at the helm, he’s still utilizing what took place before as a helpful tool.
Time will tell how many wins it produces as the 2019 fall schedule unfolds, but Napier is certainly thrilled with the team’s overall structure and chemistry three practices into August camp.
“I’m pleased with the attitude of the players so far,” Napier said in his first official report to area media since Thursday’s UL media day. “It’s very obvious that we had a tremendous summer. We have a core group of players who understand what it’s about. It’s very evident that the coaching staff is in its second year.”
When the UL Ragin’ Cajuns lost to Tulane 41-24 in the Cure Bowl last December, it did quite a few things.
The first weekend also produced motivational speeches from all-time UL quarterback greats Brian Mitchell on Saturday and Jake Delhomme on Sunday.
“Jake really said some things that I thought were relevant to our team,” Napier said. “He feels like any good football — championship-caliber football team — has great chemistry. I think that’s where our team is at. We have developed a certain level of chemistry, togetherness, unity and I think that’s going to affect how we play. We need to continue to build that.
“Good things will come from that.”
Recruiting always in forefront
As UL’s coaching staff is just beginning to learn what it got in the 2019 signing class, the 2020 version is already 14 commitments into it.
“It’ll be a little smaller group than maybe we had last year,” Napier said. “But it’s important that we fill critical needs. That’s part of what we’re doing right now. We’re evaluating the roster that we do have. Certainly getting the chance to work with the 50 new players that we added to our team. That’s going to give us an indication of where we’re going to go.”
No single Ragin’ Cajun football player is more excited about the start of the 2019 UL season than Joe Dillon.
Of the newcomers so far, Napier singled out receiver Cassius Allen, senior tackle Robert Hunt said quarterback Chandler Fields made some “unbelievable” plays and cornerback Amir McDaniel also has teammates talking.
Healthy so far
Sunday was the first day in helmets and shoulder pads for the Cajuns. The team’s first scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday.
Most importantly, Napier had zero injuries to report after three practices.
“And really don’t have many players who are modified,” he added.