Hudspeth Previews Spring Practice Priorities For Ragin’ Cajuns [VIDEO]
Football season is a long way away, but Spring Practice is an important part of the process. The Ragin' Cajuns have a lot of questions to answer, and the search for those answers starts today.
Louisiana Head Coach Mark Hudspeth is overseeing a lot of change this offseason. Not only does he have to find a new quarterback, a way to replace star running back Elijah McGuire, some leadership at linebacker and answers for other personnel issues, he also has to put an entirely new offense into place.
After hiring new Offensive Coordinator Will Hall in January, the entire coaching staff had to adjust to a new system and some new roles. Marquase Lovings went from coaching the running backs to the defensive side of the ball, former receivers coach Mike Desormeaux moved into Lovings' old role with the running backs, and former offensive coordinator Jorge Munoz moved back into his prior position coaching the receivers. There are a lot of moving pieces, and they're all trying to settle in.
Hudspeth said Hall runs a broad system that can morph to fit their personnel, but he's trying to get everybody, coaches too, up to speed with Hall's offense.
"We're hoping we can get a really good head start on getting this new offense installed," Hudspeth said. "We've got to get the offense down, all the nuances, and you've got terminology to learn."
The most glaring need on the team is the signal caller. There's a new offense, but who will be running it?
Hudspeth addressed the Ragin' Cajuns needs at the quarterback decision directly, and he indicated he would be leaning on the veterans during Spring Practice.
"Offensively, Dion Ray and Jordan Davis will come into camp leading the way," Hudspeth stated.
Ray can do incredible things with the ball in his hands, but Davis is expected to be the man who takes the reins on a regular basis, if he can handle the responsibility.
Hudspeth said he wants Davis to prove he can be consistent during Spring Ball, otherwise the team might be forced to look elsewhere for a transfer or another new face.
Davis will have his chance to earn the job though. It's up to him whether he can lock the spot down.
"After Spring ball, we will have a good idea if we think he's the guy," Hudspeth explained. He added, "I think he's a guy that can lead our team."
The quarterback position might be a question mark, but whoever gets the first snap will have plenty of support around them.
Not only do the Cajuns have one of the deepest receiving corps in the Hudspeth era, there is a solid bunch returning up front.
"Any time you return four starters on the offensive line, you have to feel pretty good about that," Hudspeth said with confidence.
The only spot on the line to fill is right in the middle. Hudspeth said Ken Marks is an impressive candidate at the center position, but he also named Cole Prudhomme as a "tough guy" the Cajuns could use up front. The job isn't solidified yet, but Hudspeth sounded pleased with the possibilities at the position.
There's another job up for grabs too, and there are a ton of players competing for it. Louisiana has a bunch of talented running backs, and the difficult decision is a good problem to have.
"The running back position is wide open," Hudspeth said.
Jordan Wright and Darius Hoggins are the veterans, but Louisiana also has a bruising back in Trey Ragas and a serious speedster in Raymond Calais Jr. to add to the competition. Calais won't be able to participate this spring because of an injury, but Ragas and Calais will absolutely both be in the mix.
Most of the focus this spring will be on the offense, specifically the QB position, but there are some major holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball too.
Losing Otha Peters and Tre'maine Lightfoot is a lot to compensate for. Not only were they talented linebackers, they were leaders and motivators for everybody on that side of the ball. Hudspeth named Tyrone Posey as somebody who is ready to take the linebacker position and the leadership role by the reins.
Posey is definitely going to be a key cog at linebacker, but there are still more positions to fill in that group. Hudspeth is hoping young talent like Tanner Holmes or Jacque Boudreaux will emerge to make plays and wreak a little havoc at the LB position.
"We will need for some of those guys to step up," Hudspeth said.
Posey is the leader at linebacker, but Hudspeth named veteran defensive lineman Taboris Lee as one of the alpha males on the roster.
"That guy, he's tough. He's got what we call clout," Hudspeth said.
Lee is one of several returning pieces on the defensive line. Lee, along with Kevon Perry, Trev Miller and Jarvis Jeffries, compose a solid front, along with Joe Dillon, who is coming off a campaign that earned him Freshman All-American honors.
The defense starts up front. If you can't stop the run or attack the quarterback, it's going to be a long season. Hudspeth sounded like he's not too worried about his men up front.
"You got a veteran defensive line coming back," Hudspeth said, but he also informed the public of a key piece they had to let go. "Back in January, we released Mario Osborne from his scholarship, and we are not going to bring him back."
Osborne was an exciting prospect when Louisiana signed him, but apparently he couldn't make things work and get with the program.
The last piece is on special teams. Stevie Artigue is the undisputed leader at kicker after a solid season in 2016, but they have a couple players competing for the punter position, including transfer Harry McCollum.
Hudspeth will have his eyes on the punters to see who emerges this Spring, and he will also be paying close attention to the returners.
The good thing is, Hudspeth has a lot of options. Whenever Calais returns from injury, he will join a deep pool of possible returners including Hoggins, Chris Collins and new additions Raheem Malone and Earnest Patterson. All of them possess explosive ability with the ball, but Hudspeth can't send them all back to return punts and kicks.
Not all the questions will be answered in Spring Practice. Hudspeth is hoping the players take matters into their own hands and make his decisions obvious.
With all the moving pieces and holes to fill, it should be an exciting spring session for the fans. Let's all just hope the team can stay healthy, knock on wood.