Mid-major teams' often-wacky schedules can be tricky when it comes to conditioning around open weeks.
In October, the UL Ragin' Cajuns only played two games, which means lots of time to heal and work on future opponents.
In November, though, UL will play five games — including two in a five-day span that begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, when the Cajuns face Texas State for homecoming.
It obviously wasn’t a question UL coach Billy Napier wanted any part of answering.
“I’ve been very pleased with how we’ve held together from a physical standpoint,” Napier said. “We’ve benefited from a 10-day turnaround, eight-day turnaround, and we’re kind of getting halfway through the 16-day turnaround. But it is going to be unique in that we’re going to play five weeks in a row.
"This five-day turnaround after this game is a little bit unique and we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that and planning that the right way. But I think our team is in good position.”
From the press box, physical conditioning has appeared to be a strength of the Cajuns going all the way back to the season opener against Mississippi State.
“We always say, hey, regardless of where we’re at, it’s pretty common in this game for you not to have your full lineup each and every week,” coach Billy Napier said. “People are going to get injured, and certainly the opponents are dealing with the same types of problem. Everybody’s got problems; it’s more about the solutions and having the right perspective and attitude I think at this time of year.”
As for specific injuries, Napier said running back Trey Ragas has practiced in a modified format and should be ready to go Saturday, and banged-up receivers Ja’Marcus Bradley and Jamal Bell are ready.
“We’re healthy at running back and receiver; no issues there,” he said.
Freshmen still freshmen
The Cajuns have gotten quality snaps out of first-year players on both sides of the ball.
True freshmen Peter LeBlanc and O’Cyrus Torrence have made multiple starts on offense, and freshman Kendall Wilkerson and Dalvin Hutchinson and sophomore transfer Ja’Quane Nelson have enjoyed some big moments on defense.
But just because the young players have contributed, Napier said, they're not necessarily polished.
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“We’re not there yet,” Napier explained. “We’ve got lots of new players, or maybe even they’ve been here a year or two, but they’re inexperienced players, and we’ve seen incremental improvements. That’s kind of what I’m talking about.
"Our entire team is built up of a lot of players that haven’t played before or they’re young — they’re freshmen, they’re sophomores — and that’s the part of our team where we need to make improvement.”
Just like any game
Saturday’s game is unique in that it will happen five days before the Cajuns' next contest, a road game against Coastal Carolina on Nov. 7.
But Napier said the tight turnaround won't affect his personnel decisions in Saturday’s game.
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“I don’t think that’s part of the thought process at all,” Napier said Monday. “Our entire attention right now is on Texas State. We have a plan that we’ve put in place, but our players, they don’t know what that plan is. They know today’s going to be a Tuesday practice, even though it’s Monday. We take it one week at a time.”
Open week fun
Napier jokingly only revealed so much about the family fun he enjoyed during the open weekend.
“Carved a handful of pumpkins Saturday; that’s for sure,” he said. “We did some trick-or-treating early this week. We hooked up with coach Des (Mike Desormeaux) and coach (Rob) Sale, took our crew over to New Iberia and did some early trick-or-treating, so it was good. I think any time you can double dip on trick-or-treating, everybody benefits. We’ll do some more later this week.”
It’s not technically the midseason point.
So what, exactly, were the costumes?
“You can talk to my wife about that,” Napier laughed. “She’s in charge of that.”