When defensive back Brenndan Johnson made the decision to make a graduate transfer from Texas-San Antonio to the UL Ragin’ Cajuns, he didn’t know exactly what to expect.
What has transpired, though, has been even better than he imagined.
“When I first saw the Cajuns practice in the spring and I was getting a feel for things, I knew it was going to be a special team,” Johnson said. “I knew we were going to be good. But I didn’t think it was going to be like this. I’m just glad I made the decision to come here and be a part of something great here.”
As successful as this season has been so far, however, this is the time yet for the Cajuns (8-2, 5-1) to start dancing.
With the loss of redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Zi’Yon Hill for Saturday’s key Sun Belt contest against Troy, a larger burden falls on a …
For Johnson and his secondary colleagues, Saturday’s matchup with the Troy Trojans figures to be their stiffest yet.
Only Ohio State has scored more points than Troy over the past few weeks. Trojans’ quarterback Kaleb Barker is likely the most dangerous passer UL’s defense has faced this season with 30 touchdown passes.
“Troy, they do a lot of special things,” Johnson said. “They have really good athletes. I think as long as we keep our rules and we play like we know we can play, we can handle it.
“They have a real experienced quarterback with really great athletes around him. He knows how to get the ball to them. It’s going to be a chess match on keeping the ball out of their athletes' hands, because once they do, they can make plays.”
The secret to the success of UL’s secondary this season has been its quality depth. Johnson shares time at the "Star" position with Terik Miller and lately with former walk-on Kam Pedescleaux.
Meanwhile, the safety group of Bralen Trahan, Percy Butler, Deuce Wallace and Cameron Solomon have been interchangeable throughout the season.
Within that team concept, though, Troy’s offense typically makes it about individuals on any given play.
It was a huge part of the preseason excitement surrounding the 2019 Ragin’ Cajuns
“I think we have to key in on our assignments and we’re definitely going to have to win one-on-ones,” Johnson said. “They do a good job of putting their athletes in a position to be in a one-on-one and we just have to win it.”
The good news for the secondary in this matchup is veteran cornerbacks Michael Jacquet and Kamar Greenhouse are both expected back after missing the South Alabama game with injuries.
The news isn’t so good upfront, however, with defensive tackle Zi’Yon Hill not expected to play.
“The mentality is ‘next man up,’ ” Johnson said. “We’ve all been trained to do the task at hand. We know what we have to do. We believe in every single person that wears the Ragin’ Cajun red. You just have to step up when it’s your time to be called.”
In addition to Troy’s offense getting the attention of UL’s defense in film study this week, defensive coordinator Ron Roberts’ unit was going to be extra focused anyway after getting gashed by South Alabama’s offense last week to the tune of 23 first downs and 468 total yards.
“We definitely felt like we could have played way better as a whole unit,” Johnson said. “We kind of let things get away from us. We just have to get back to that winning type of ball where we’re physical and we stay on our assignments.”
Like so many around the country, I’ve gotten pretty immune to any excitement level when it comes to polls.
While Troy’s style of defense is totally different than South Alabama’s, UL coach Billy Napier is hoping for a greater attention to detail in this matchup.
“I think one of the reasons we’ve been playing really effective defense is we’ve made significant progress fundamentally — I think at all three levels,” Napier said. “Great communication, continuity, always on the same page, very coordinated in what we were doing. And that wasn’t the case Saturday. We were not nearly as effective, and if coach Roberts was up here he’d tell you the same thing.
“Fundamentally, we were not as good. We didn’t communicate as well, not as decisive, and missed more tackles. We allowed them to stay in the game and hang around and allowed them to play that brand of football.”
Perhaps it’s a measure of success for UL’s football team, or a sign of respect the Ragin’ Cajuns are receiving, that there are higher expectat…