Cajuns Look to Keep Streak Alive in 2015
Dave Parks, Louisiana Gridiron Football Intern
The Ragin’ Cajuns are coming off an incredible four straight bowl wins, each coming in the New Orleans Bowl. A feat only four other teams in the nation can claim. Last year the Cajuns started slow with one win in their first four games, but finished strong by winning eight of their last nine games. Head Coach Mark Hudspeth returns for his fifth year after four-straight nine-win seasons. He knows that expectations are high and recently told NOLA.com that, “Four years ago we picked this challenge of turning this program around. After four straight bowl wins, we’re fixing to have another big challenge. It’s another big opportunity.”
On offense, the Ragin’ Cajuns lost two important playmakers, quarterback Terrance Broadway and running back Alonzo Harris, to graduation, but reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year Elijah McGuire is back and ready to carry the load. McGuire also won the Sun Belt’s Offensive Player of the Year. He had 1,848 all-purpose yards last season and could have his sights for over 2,000 this season. Senior running back Effrem Reed will help take some of the load off McGuire in the backfield. The Cajuns will have a nice combination of size and speed this year at the receiver position with Jamal Robinson standing over 6’4” as a nice end zone target and speedy Al Riles making plays in the open field.
At quarterback, Brooks Haack looks to be the starter after backing up Broadway the previous two years. The quarterback position also includes dual-threat Dion Ray, who headlined the Sun Belt’s top-ranked recruiting class for the Cajuns. The offensive line will return three starters and looks to continue its solid play from previous years.
On the defensive side, there will be many changes and plenty of new faces. The Cajuns will be playing under their third defensive coordinator in five years. This year’s Co-Coordinators, Melvin Smith and Charlie Harbison, will be sharing play calling duties. Both bring impressive resumes with experience from coaching at top SEC schools.
The linebacker core will be strong with Dominique Tovell, nine tackles for loss last year, leading the way. Tre’maine Lightfoot and Otha Peters are also there adding support. The defensive line may not have much playing time under their belts, as of yet, but they have great size and will be hard to push back. The secondary will rely on strong safety T.J. Worthy for big plays. This defense looks ready for the challenge after showing signs of improvement during spring practice.
There will also be new faces at kicker and punter this year with two strong footed freshman taking over each spot.
The season opens up with a big game in Lexington versus the Kentucky Wildcats. The Cajuns will have in- state showdowns with Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State, and UL Monroe. Sun Belt Conference games include match-ups with Appalachian State, Arkansas State, and the season finale against Troy at Cajun Field could determine if UL can claim the top spot in the Sun Belt this year.