Preview 2017: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
Breaking down, previewing and looking ahead to the 2017 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.
When will the Ragin’ Cajuns be in the Sun Belt title chase again?
One of the conference superpowers in 2013 and 2014, they came up with a clunker in 2015 and – sort of – rebounded last year. Along the way, though, some of the league’s new stars have made ULL a bit of an also-ran.
It was still a good team last year – it got to a bowl game – and the infrastructure appears sound, but how does it get back among the elite? How does the ground attack turn into the fearsome weapon that rocked a few years ago? When will the wins over the big boys start coming again?
The program might not be that far away.
Two of the losses last season came in overtime on the road, four of the losses were against the bigger boys on the slate – Boise State, Appalachian State, Georgia and in the bowl to Southern Miss – and there was one home clunker against an Idaho team that came up with a hot year.
The defense will be in place this year, but the offense has to replace all the top skill guys to work around a great line. If both sides come together, there’s a chance to be in the hunt for the title again.
It’ll be hard to endure a third straight sub-par season for a program that saw what it was like to win big.
What You Need To Know About The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun Offense
There’s plenty of work to do around new offensive coordinator Will Hall. How’s he going to change things up? It’ll be adaptable and flexible, but he needs the parts to make it fly. Everything starts around a terrific O line that gets back four starters, but has to come up with a center to lead the way.
The receivers are fine for an attack that didn’t do enough for the passing game, and a rotation is there at running back to take over for Elijah McGuire, but who’s going to be under center? With Anthony Jennings done, it’ll be a battle for the gig throughout the offseason.
Biggest Key To The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun Offense
There has to be more of a passing attack. Ragin’ Cajun passers have combined for 25 touchdown passes and 25 interceptions over the last two years, and while Jennings had a few nice moments last season, there weren’t enough of them. The offensive line will pave the way for another good ground attack, but after cranking up just four touchdown passes over the last eight games, there has to be more balance.
What You Need To Know About The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun Defense
The D came up with a terrific season, allowing just 129 rushing yards per game and holding its own just enough to carry an inconsistent O. It should be among the Sun Belt’s best defenses again, starting with a terrific front four with Joe Dillon a strong pass rusher on the outside around a good pair of tackles. The linebacking corps needs to find new playmakers around promising outside hitter Damar’ren Mitchell, and two new corners have to emerge, but the safeties will be among the league’s best.
Biggest Key To The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun Defense
The secondary has to hold its own with the new corners. Overall, the defense did a nice job, but the Ragin’ Cajuns also got lit up far too often, giving away 250 yards or more seven times, and got destroyed by Arkansas State and Southern Miss late in the season. The pass rush should help, now the defensive backs have to do their job.
The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns Will Be Far Better If …
They can start converting more third downs. Two years ago – when the Ragin’ Cajuns went 9-4 – they had a roaring running game that offset the mediocre passing attack, helping the O convert 42% of the time on third downs. The last two years, though, have been an issue when it comes to moving the chains, struggling way too often last year to keep drives going.
It all works together – average ground game, no passing, no third downs, no big drives, an offense that averages just 357 yards and 24 points per game.
Best Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun Offensive Player
WR Keenan Barnes, Jr. – Al Riles led the team with 60 catches, but it Barnes was a consistent No. 2 guy with a team-high six touchdown grabs on his 31 catches. The 6-3, 208-pounder now has to turn into a No. 1 receiver who can crank up even more deep plays. He was solid, but he has to be sensational from time to time.
2. OT D’Aquin Withrow, Sr.
3. RB Jordan Wright, Soph.
4. QB Jordan Davis, Jr.
5. RB Darrius Hoggins, Sr.
Best Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun Defensive Player
DE Joe Dillon, Soph. – The defensive front needed pass rushing help, and it got it from a freshman. The 6-3, 215-pound Dillon might be undersized for an end, but he’s got a quick burst into the backfield, coming up with a team-high seven sacks with 51 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss. ULL has a veteran, solid line, but he’s the star.
2. S Tracy Walker, Sr.
3. S Travis Crawford, Sr.
4. DT Taboris Lee, Sr.
5. NT Kevon Perry, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Jordan Davis, Jr. – Or Dion Ray. It was supposed to be Davis as the main man last season, but he was just okay in practices, Anthony Jennings fell into the team’s lap from LSU, and that was the end of that. The 6-3, 205-pound Davis has good size and a decent enough arm to go along with a wee bit of experience. For a passing game that struggled last year, whether it’s Davis or Ray, the offense needs more pop.
The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun Season Will Be A Success If …
There’s another trip to a bowl in a winning season. With Arkansas State, South Alabama and Appalachian State on the road, winning the Sun Belt with the team coming back might be a bit of a reach, but there’s enough winnable games to hope for at least six regular season wins, and then it’s off to another post-season game.
Key Game To The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns Season
At Arkansas State, Nov. 19 – The Sun Belt season could and should come down to a two-game road stretch against Arkansas State – with a week off – and then South Alabama. Win both of those, and the Ragin’ Cajuns will be deep in the Sun Belt title hunt. It starts with the date in Jonesboro, needing to beat the Red Wolves again after coming up with a 24-19 victory last season.
2016 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns Fun Stats
– Punt Return Average: Opponents 24.38 – Louisiana 5.44
– Fumbles: Louisiana 12 (lost 4) – Opponents 20 (lost 8)
– Passing Yards Per Game: Opponents 249.9 – Louisiana 178.2