The top 10 Louisiana-Lafayette football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. RB Elijah McGuire, Sr.
One of the best all-around backs in the Sun Belt, McGuire is a terrific receiver as well as a tough runner, taking over the job in an even bigger role even after earning Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. The 5-11, 208-pounder ran for 1,264 yards and 14 touchdowns two years ago, while leading the team with 45 catches, and last year he ran for 1,058 yards and 13 scores – averaging over five yards per carry – while catching 33 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. He hit the 100-yard mark three times, with 170 yards against Texas State, 159 against New Mexico State, and with 162 yards and five touchdowns against Northwestern State.
The three-time All-Sun Belt star can run with a little bit of power, but his game is about his quickness and speed, doing a great job in the open field. He’s not really a true workhorse, and he was closed down a bit too often last year, but when he’s on, he’s unstoppable.
2. CB Savion Brown, Sr.
A very big, very good corner who has the size and hitting skills to play safety, the 6-2, 218-pounder came in from the JUCO ranks and gave the Ragin’ Cajuns exactly what they needed right away. He moves well, attacks the ball, and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty, making 42 tackles with three picks and six broken up passes. ULL lost, but he kept the game interesting against South Alabama taking an interception 85 yards for a score – he’ll always be around the play and will get physical to muscle his way for the ball.
3. LB Otha Peters, Sr.
One of the team’s best all-around defenders for the front seven, Peters made 69 tackles with six tackles for loss, doing exactly what he needed to do after sitting out a year. The former Arkansas Razorback saw a little bit of time in the SEC – making 32 tackles as a freshman – and last year he took over as an undersized man in the middle using his great range and sure-hitting ability to do his job. While he’s just 6-2 and 228 pounds, he can provide a pop, making 13 tackles against South Alabama and 11 against Arkansas State.
4. S Tracy Walker, Jr.
Able to play either safety spot, Walker is a long, lean defender who spent most of the year as a strong safety, but he can play free safety with enough range and corner speed to be strong when the ball is in the air. Terrific as a freshman, he made 44 tackles with two interceptions in his first season, and last year he came up with a huge year making 74 stops with a pick and five tackles for loss. He came up with 23 tackles in back-to-back weeks against Louisiana Tech and Texas State, but he was missing at times late in the year.
5. DT Taboris Lee, Jr.
The man in the middle, Lee worked on the nose making 40 tackles with a sack and five tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 284 pounds he’s a short, compact interior defender who can move a wee bit, but will mostly be asked to hold up on the inside against the run. Built for the position, he’s tough to move off his position, but there are some games where he does nothing but occupy blockers. Ten of his tackles came against South Alabama, nine against Appalachian State – he made just 11 tackles over the first eight games.
6. S Travis Crawford, Jr.
The team’s fifth-leading tackler, Crawford is a corner-quick free safety who made 45 tackles with four broken up passes and a key fumble return. At 5-11 and 193 pounds he has decent size and was steady throughout the season making six tackles three times and finishing up the year with nine stops against Troy. A pure tackler for his size, he doesn’t bring the huge hit, but he doesn’t miss in the open field.
7. QB Jordan Davis, Soph.
If he’s not the main man for the offense, the team might be undergoing a bit of an overhaul. With Brooks Haack transferring, and with Jalen Nixon going to running back, it’s Davis who has moved up with solid passing skills and just enough mobility to take off from time to time. At 6-3 and 205 pounds he has decent size and a live arm, and now he has to steadily move the offense until he gets his feet wet as the main man. Last year he completed 27-of-42 passes for 267 yards and a score, and ran for 29 yards and a touchdown doing most of the work in the regular season finale against Troy.
8. WR Al Riles, Sr.
The team’s second-leading receiver last season, the veteran caught 46 passes for 477 yards and four touchdowns, highlighted by an eight-catch, 103-yard, one score day against Georgia State. A tough 5-10, 215-pound force, the former defensive back is tough enough to have seen time at linebacker early in his career making 39 stops as a freshman. He made the move to receiver, and has been a strong playmaker for the last two seasons. This year he has to become a No. 1 target.
9. P Steven Coutts, Soph.
The freshman came up with a phenomenal debut turning into a tilt-the-field weapon who took control of the punting game. The Australian native blasted away for 42.39 yards per kick putting 22 inside the 20 and forcing 27 fair catches. Counting the four touchbacks and one block, Coutts allowed just five punt returns.
10. OT D’Aquin Withrow, Jr.
Only two starters are back up front, but Withrow is back at left tackle where he has to be the star to work around. A right tackle early on, he took over last year with the 6-6, 304-pound size to generate a strong push who can get out on the move. This needs to be his line.