Wednesday, September 5, 2012

From the other side: Ragin' Cajuns

This week, Louisiana-Lafayette play-by-play announcer Jay Walker, who has more insight into the Ragin' Cajuns than anyone I know. You can read and/or listen to Jay HERE. A big thanks to Jay for his contributions.

1. What can you take from the opening victory over Lamar?

It's difficult to say what the good things really are when you have your opponent outmanned.  I think the biggest thing for Louisiana is they got to play a lot of people and some players got a lot of playing time who are going to be counted on at some point in time this season.  One thing we can say regardless of the opposition:  The Cajuns' kicking game is outstanding.
2. Saw where preseason all-conference pick Alonzo Harris wasn't even the starter in the opener. Has he fallen back, or other running backs stepped up, aside from starter Montrel Carter's injury?

In Mark Hudspeth's first recruiting class, he signed four running backs.  Last year they played Harris and Q'yen Griffen (now at linebacker) with Harris winning the job and leading Louisiana in rushing with 700 yards.  But the staff knew Carter and Reed could really play as well.  Harris missed some time in camp and that gave Carter an opportunity.  He had the ability to make people miss and enough speed to run away from the defense.  With Carter out for the season, Harris and Reed will split duties, at least early.  Harris is better between the tackles.  Reed is better in space.  My guess is the bulk of the carries will go to the player who does the best job of valuing possession of the football.  But they're really going to miss Carter (torn ACL/torn LCL).

3. Looks like plenty of experience returns on offense, but what are some weaknesses/question marks?

I think the question for the Cajuns' on offense is will they run the football better this season? The offensive line has more quality depth and that will help.  With Ladarius Green gone to the San Diego Chargers, the Cajuns have to be able to do more than just throw it.  The other question is, what does Blaine Gautier do for an encore?  He played at an extremely high level the last ten games of the season.  Can he duplicate that?  He certainly has the weapons to get it done.  This is the deepest receiving corps Louisiana has ever had.

4. How about the defense, what are some strengths/weaknesses?
The Cajuns lost seven starters from last season, including third round draft pick Bill Bentley, now with Detroit.  There's plenty of talent here.  The defensive line is deep and should do a better job of getting to the quarterback.  The linebackers are solid in the two deep.  There's a question about depth in the secondary.  The biggest issue, early in the season, will be the lack of experience.  I think this will be a much more physical defense than Louisiana had a year ago.  But inexperience usually yields big plays and that's a big concern, at least early in the season.  By the second half of the year, I think this defense will be better than what the Cajuns had in 2011.

5. How do you feel like the game will turn out? 
I think Troy has all the intangibles in its favor this week.  They've never lost a home opener at Veterans Memorial Stadium, the Cajuns have lost 21 road openers in a row (albeit mostly against really good teams) and Troy will look for a little payback after being pretty much dominated at Cajun Field last year.  And, the Cajuns have never won at the Vet.

Frankly, I think Louisiana has better personnel.  But that doesn't mean they'll win the game.  I think Troy will come out ready and punch the Cajuns in the mouth early.  For the Cajuns to have a chance to win, they'll have to be able to counter-punch.  If they can, we'll have ourselves a football game.

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