Mark Hudspeth Press Conference-South Alabama [VIDEO]
The Ragin' Cajuns sit at 1-1 through two games, which is right where most people expected them to be. Next up is the Sun Belt Conference opener.
South Alabama is coming to town, and the Jaguars are 1-1 too. They pulled off the upset over Mississippi State, but the Jags didn't score a touchdown against Georgia Southern. They're a bit of a Jekyl and Hyde outfit to start the season, but Head Coach Mark Hudspeth is treating them like the dangerous team that toppled an SEC opponent.
Before moving forward to South Alabama, Coach Hudspeth wanted to point out a statistic. Melvin Smith's dismissal was a tough decision, but it's helping the defense. One week after letting Coach Smith go, the Ragin' Cajuns did something they hadn't been able to achieve in a while.
"It was the first game in two years that we did not give up a touchdown pass," Hudspeth said.
It's a good thing they tightened up their pass defense. The Jags are going to come into Cajun Field and air it out.
South Alabama's starting quarterback Dallas Davis has 76 passing attempts through two games, and the Jags only have 167 rushing yards as a team. Davis isn't scared to take off and use his legs, but Coach Hud isn't going to let him stand in the pocket and pick the Cajuns apart.
"He's a thrower. He can still scramble and get them out of trouble, but he can sling it," Hud said cautiously.
When you factor in his favorite target, tight end Gerald Everett, you start to understand how the Jags took care of Mississippi State.
Everett checks in at 6'5" and displays the athleticism of a much smaller man. Coach Hudspeth said Tracy Walker will get the tough task of trying to match up with one of the best tight ends in the country, but expect Walker to get some help. Everett took over the second half against Mississippi State, and he's going to be the number one player on the Cajuns' scouting report.
"You take a 6'5" kid and put him in space against guys not his size, it's hard to cover those big guys," Hudspeth explained.
One way to help out the secondary is with the pass rush, but the Cajuns might be missing their spark on the defensive line for the first half.
Trev Miller collected three sacks against McNeese State, but he also got hit with a targeting penalty, which requires a suspension for the first half of the following game. Coach Hudspeth said the team will appeal the suspension, and he said he doesn't like when players are punished for playing 100 percent.
Two other players are looking at time on the sideline as well, but it's due to injury. Hudspeth said linebacker Trey Granier is questionable for Saturday's game, and Alonzo Brown could possibly be out for the season.
Jared Johnson made his return from injury against McNeese State, but he only came in near the endzone for a fade route. Coach Hud wants to get him out there more moving forward.
"We need to increase his reps. We can't just throw him in on the goal line and throw him a jump ball every time," Hudspeth said.
Johnson is a huge target for Anthony Jennings. If Johnson comes back to compliment Ja'Marcus Bradley, who broke out for 96 yards and a TD last week, the Cajun passing game could take flight.
Speaking of Jennings, Hudspeth is more than pleased with the start to his season. The former LSU QB has less than two months with the team under his belt, but he hasn't turned the ball over a single time yet. His presence in the backfield next to Elijah McGuire is going to give defensive coordinators headaches, and Jennings is only going to get more comfortable as the season progresses.
Jennings hasn't been around the program long, but he's already having a major impact.
"He's setting the standard for the rest of the team for how we prepare," Hudspeth said.
Will he take another step forward against South Alabama, building off his three TD performance versus McNeese?
It's the start of a new season. In conference play, every game counts double. Not only do you pick up a win, your opponent gets a loss. Double whammy. When the Jags come to Cajun Field, both teams will understand what it means. The climb to the top of the Sun Belt starts Saturday.