So Many Unknowns Surrounding Cajuns – From the Bird’s Nest
"Well, Jay, you ready for the football season?"
I swear, I've been asked that starting the day baseball season ended.
And, until recently, the answer has been no.
And, honestly, from a professional standpoint, the answer is the same. There is still much work to be done before heading to the Cajun Field broadcast booth ten days from now.
But. otherwise, you bet.
I think what's intriguing me more than anything else is the unknown going into the season.
The publications have made their predictions. So have the coaches in the Sun Belt Conference. And, in many cases, so have the fans.
But the reality is, none of us know...because there's too much we don't know.
IS JORDAN DAVIS REALLY READY?--We can talk about the rest of the Cajuns' team all we want. None of it will matter if the answer to this question is no. By all accounts, Davis has matured greatly. His confidence and leadership abilities have been mentioned regularly by the coaches. That's a good part of the battle. The rest hinges on morphing that confidence into performance. Davis has been handed the job. Now he has to do something with it.
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT WILL THE OFFENSE BE UNDER WILL HALL?--Head coach Mark Hudspeth says the Cajuns will spread the field more in 2017 and work to get the ball into the hands of the playmakers. But at the same time, Hall says the Cajuns are going to run, and have to be able to run the football. Just how much is this offense going to open up? And is Hall ready to be an offensive coordinator at the FBS level?
WILL MARK HUDSPETH DELEGATE?--Hudspeth says this is Hall's offense to run. He obviously has confidence in the man who played quarterback for Hudspeth at North Alabama. But Hudspeth has always been a hands-on guy as far as the offense is concerned. While no one expects the head man to divorce himself from the offense, will he change enough to make it obvious through the play calling that he's turned the reigns over to Hall?
IS THE RUNNING GAME A CONCERN OR A STRENGTH?- The good news is, there's a number 15 on the roster and his name is Elijah. But his last name isn't McGuire. Elijah Mitchell is drawing very positive reviews in camp. So are Trey Ragas and Jordan Wright. But reality is, no one has stepped forward to be THE guy. And that is giving some fans pause. We're about to see if "by committee" works or if it's a synonym for "not quite good enough."
CAN THE DEFENSE SURVIVE THE LOSSES?--The Cajuns' have plenty of experience on the defensive line. And, they probably have the best safety tandem in the league. But let's be honest. Otha Peters and Tre'Maine Lightfoot covered up a lot of sins last season. Those guys are gone. No one can expect that kind of linebacker play this season, although T. J. Posey has plenty of experience. We still don't know who the starter is at the Will linebacker. Will the rest of the defense be improved enough to cover up the loss of the two leading tacklers on the club?
MORE SPECIAL?-- Stevie Artigue was one of the most accurate kickers in the country down the stretch, making his last nine attempts en route to 19-24, with nine field goals of 40 yards or more. He's solid...but the Cajuns would be happy if some of those field goals turn out to be touchdowns. Where the Cajuns really need improvement is in the return game. After Raymond Calais was injured, Louisiana didn't get much done in kickoff returns and the punt return game didn't yield much either. Hopefully improvement there will give the Cajuns offense better field position to start drives.
CAN THE CAJUNS BE BETTER THAN THE SCHEDULE?--If Louisiana is going to play in its sixth bowl game in seven years under Mark Hudspeth, they'll have to navigate a tough schedule. Not only to the Cajuns have only five home games and a pair of contests against SEC competition, they've also got their toughest conference games (App State, Idaho, Arkansas State, South Alabama) away from home. They'll probably be underdogs in all seven road contests. They'll need to pull an upset or two and do a really good job of protecting the house if they're going to play 13 games this season.
And, in order for that to happen, a lot of the answers had better be yes.
I'm ready to find out.