Ragin’ Cajuns Break Out Full Pads, Barnes Shines
The Ragin' Cajuns held what Mark Hudspeth referred to as a slobberknocker of a practice Saturday, and the physicality brought out some playmakers.
Before suffering a season ending injury last year, Jamal Robinson was embarrassing opposing defenders in single, and sometimes double, coverage. Facing the first team defense toward the end of practice, Robinson posted his man up at the front pylon to snag a fading catch as he fell to the grass. It was a thing of beauty, but Coach Hudspeth wishes his senior WR would show that flash more often.
"He's been very inconsistent, so hopefully that will be something to build on," Hudspeth said.
Tough love from the Head Coach for his star wideout.
Robinson spent a good deal of time at practice coaching up the young receivers, specifically 6'3" 200lb freshman Keenan Barnes. With Jared Johnson out with an injury, the Cajuns will be looking for another big target to plug into the offense. Gabe Fuselier, Al Riles and Gary Haynes will provide a ton of gadgetry in the offense, but Barnes fills a specific size need the previous three candidates don't qualify for.
Barnes snagged a pair of TD passes at the end of practice to catch the staff's attention. He toasted some single coverage for a ball over the top the first time, then freed himself up in the redzone for another easy read and score. It was enough for Coach Hud to single him out after the final session.
"He's going to help us this year," Hudspeth said.
Another group that is sure to make an impact will be anchoring the defensive side of the ball. Dominique Tovell is tagged as the leader of the linebacking corps, but the entire bunch could be playmakers. SEC transfer Otha Peters, Darzil Washington, and Tre'Maine Lightfoot complete the 3-4 look with athleticism and explosiveness.
Coach Hud even thinks they could have contributions off the sideline too in the form of Kevin Fouquier, Tyren Alexander and TJ Posey. With a ton of changes on defense, it will be the linebackers steering the ship.
“Our lineackers’s are as good as anybody right now,” Hudspeth said. “We got some depth, and we got some guys that will hit you.”
Physicality, athleticism and size only matter so much. Understanding the scheme leads to team chemistry. The last piece of the puzzle for the players lies in the playbook.
"Mental part is not quite ready yet," Hudspeth said. "When they know what to do, and the coach is telling them exactly what do to, we're doing pretty good .When we have to decipher the code ourselves, then execute, that's when we have a little work to do."
There was even an update on the QB position. Hud said he wants to have the decision made by Tuesday, but the staff has narrowed the selection process down to two. He wouldn't clarify which two QB's were in the running, but some simple reading between the lines will answer the mystery for you.
During the final drills of practice, Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon took reps with the ones, while Jordan Davis came behind them with mostly backups. Also of note, Haack was the first one out. Keep dancing that two-step, Hud. We all know it's been Brooks' job to lose from the beginning.
That being said, Hud did provide a satisfyingly ambiguous answer to what he is looking for in a starting QB.
“For us, it’s taking care of the ball and it’s making plays,” Hudspeth said.
Getting to the final nuts and bolts, freshman kicker Stevie Artigue's foot continued to look promising in special teams and the team worked on physical drills like tackling, breaking contact and blocking. Safety TJ Worthy wasn't participating fully, and was wearing a medical jersey (black shirt with red cross). No update was given on his status. Several other players were wearing the same jerseys, but Hud reiterated that everybody was simply "banged up." No injuries appear to be long-term.
P.S.-Australian Punter Steven Coutts is entertaining to watch warm up. He spent a long time before practice even started punting wiffle balls.