Hudspeth Solidifies Playmakers At Ragin’ Cajun Scrimmage [VIDEO]
Ragin' Cajun Football is in the middle of grind time, and Head Coach Mark Hudspeth is happy to see certain players step up.
In a scrimmage that lasted a little over two hours, Coach Hudspeth thought the team's understanding of the schemes improved from last scrimmage. With the crowd noise pumped in as loud as can be again, both sides of the ball stepped up the communication. There was the understandable, occasional slip-up though.
"We had a couple of holding calls, some penalties, some motions we got called on that we have to clean and correct," Hudspeth said.
Cajun Nation is looking hard at a few positions: Quarterback, D-line, and Wide Receiver. How did the key question marks perform in the scrimmage?
The battle between Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon at the QB position rages on. Hud thought he would have his mind made up by the end of Tuesday's scrimmage, but that wasn't the case.
Instead of naming his starting QB, Hud decided to keep the smokescreen up for Kentucky and praise both of his men.
"Our play action, tonight, worked extremely well," Hudspeth said. "I thought our QB’s, thought they zipped the ball around really well."
The poker face continues for Coach Hud as the Cajuns prepare for Week One against Kentucky. Reading between the lines is required if you're trying to project your own depth chart.
Both QB's are mobile, but Nixon is clearly the better runner with the ball. With Elijah McGuire and a crew of speedy backs behind him, the option game will be an important deciding factor when it comes to the starter. Putting the defense on its heels leads to eventual deep strikes. The run and pass scratch each other's backs.
"I thought our read option tonight was fast, and then, when we did throw the ball off of play action, I thought we were strong there too," Hudspeth said.
Don't expect to hear who the starter is for quite some time. Just because Kentucky named their starting QB doesn't mean Hud will do them the same favor.
New Defensive Coordinator Melvin Smith wants to stop the run. It all starts with the defensive line. If this new defense is going to succeed, this unit needs to step up.
The improved defensive backfield with Simeon Thomas and Tracy Walker at the helm won't be able to shine if there is no pass rush. Likewise, the beefed up linebacking corps can't roam around and make tackles if there is no push up front. See how this works?
Coach Hudspeth likes the progress in one department, but there are still some red flags to address.
"They got after the run a little bit, and that’s what they try to do," Hudspeth said. "I would like to see a little more pressure on third down."
Last season, Justin "Juice" Hamilton and Christian Ringo combined for 29.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks (half the team total for sacks). Losing both of them in one offseason is an event that no Coach expects to mend immediately. It will take time to develop the depth chart, and it will be all hands on deck.
"We’ll rotate a lot more," Hud disclosed. "Last year, Juicy and Ringo played a lot of snaps, and we didn’t have quite the depth we have now, so it will be a little more by committee.”
No D-line, no defense. The QB battle is getting the most attention, but the defense hinges upon the big men up front.
Whoever the starting QB is will need somebody to catch his passes. He can't just throw the ball to himself, like freshman WR Gary Haynes.
Speaking of the freshman, several youngsters are stepping up. The buzz around Haynes continues to grow as the shifty slot receiver is making the best of his reps on offense and special teams. Keenan Barnes, who Hud said is in the "same mold" as star receiver Jamal Robinson, is another freshman garnering praise from the head coach on a regular basis.
Fellow freshman Ja'Marcus Bradley impressed Hudspeth so much that his track is about to get a little bit faster.
"[We're] fixin' to expedite his development," Hudspeth said. He added, "Just about all our freshman wide receivers are going to play."
On top of the freshman, the usual suspects were in on the act as well. Gabe Fuselier's ascendance in the offense and special teams was on display again, and Al Riles and Devin Scott grabbed some kind words from the coach as well. Most fans want to know though, how healthy is Jamal Robinson? Is he ready to dominate again? Hud saw some glimpses in the scrimmage.
"Just about back in full stride," Hud said. "He was the Jamal Robinson we’ve been missing."
A healthy Robinson, along with a diverse set of weapons operating in his wake, could change the dynamic of this offense severely. Without pass catchers, it's impossible to throw. It's simple logic.
Final Scrimmage Notes
A few last odds and ends remain to be tied up from scrimmage, and one of them has to do with another freshman.
Former Lafayette High standout and now freshman kicker Stevie Artigue is slowly earning the place kicker job throughout camp and fall practice. Hudspeth admitted that senior kicker Carlos Alvarez could very possibly still handle the kickoff duties, but it appears the field goals will be up to Artigue.
"Stevie is getting way more height off the tee…he hits it high, right off the bat," Hudspeth said. "There’s no way anybody can block his kicks."
While the freshman is earning his keep, veteran running back Torrey Pierce was turning heads as well. One of three backs behind Elijah McGuire, Pierce's speed and agility will be called upon to save "The Prophet's" legs. If he comes out on the field and gashes the defense, everybody wins. Hudspeth was proud of his scrimmage performance, but didn't speak at real length about it.
Last but certainly not least, SEC transfer linebacker Otha Peters is looking mean. Operating in the middle of Coach Smith's new defense, the newcomer is already emerging as a surprising leader on this squad. Hud put on a grave look when he spoke about his new shark in the water.
"He is playing very physical and lights out," Hud said with a ton of intensity.
Peters could be turning the lights out on a lot of opposing offenses if he continues to digest the playbook and adjust to his environment in Cajun country.
Scrimmages are held to see who wants to step up and get noticed. If the young recruits keep coming in to push the veterans, competition breeds improvement. It appears all the right things are happening for the Cajuns at Fall Practice.
INJURY UPDATE: TJ Worthy (blister) was back in action during the scrimmage.