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Football: Cajuns safeties Solomon, Pedescleaux took different routes to same place

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Oct. 28, 2020

They took different routes to UL.

But when the Ragin’ Cajuns visited UAB last Friday night at Legion Field in Birmingham, Kam Pedesleaux and Cam Solomon found themselves in the same place.

Both had to do a little extra with Percy Butler, the heart of soul of UL’s safeties unit, injured and out.

For Pescleaux, the journey started on the Cajuns’ scout team. For Solomon, it hit a speed bump and took a turn through a junior college.

For both, having to make a difference when someone was missing was par for the course that this season has become.

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“We’re not really surprised,” Solomon said, “because 2020 has been like a crazy year … so we know that we never know what’s gonna happen, tomorrow or today.

“So we just try to stay focused, and whatever happens happens.”

What happened last Friday was that the safeties group, minus Butler, seamlessly navigated around the pothole.

Solomon had one interception in the fourth quarter, Acadiana High product Bralen Trahan had another in the final minute and Pedescleaux helped glue it all together as the Cajuns beat the Blazers 24-20, sending UL to Texas State on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPNU) with confidence that they’re sound on the back side no matter who might be missing.

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Showing what he has

Pedescleaux, a product of Manvel High near Houston, came to UL with no scholarship in tow.

He had other opportunities, but his relationship with Effrem Reed – a former Cajuns running back who later worked as a recruiting staffer for UL – helped steer the Texan toward Louisiana.

Pedescleaux, who has family in the Baton Rouge area, got to know Reed, a Dutchtown High product now working as an offensive analyst at Michigan State, when Reed was UL’s o-coordinator under head coach Mark Hudspeth.

One thing led to another, and Pedesleaux – feeling underrated at the time – decided UL was the place he should be.

“I just knew I would have the opportunity to show what I have,” the redshirt sophomore said, “and Coach Toney (Patrick Toney, UL’s safeties coach/defensive coordinator) and the coaching staff gave me that opportunity.

“I was on the scout team my freshman year (in 2018), just showing the coaches I could hang with these guys.”

He could.

Patience is the key

So could Solomon, a product of Ashdown High in Arkansas, not far from Texarkana and the Texas-Arkansas border.

Before arriving at UL the fifth-year senior redshirted a season at Arkansas State in 2016, spent 2017 at Tyler (Texas) Junior College then played a largely reserve role for the Cajuns the past two seasons.

Now his time has come, and it’s because Solomon – a nominee for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes combined academics, community service, and on-field performance – drew on prior experiences while waiting.

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“When I went juco that taught me a lot of things, like just patience,” said Solomon, who got his second start of the season with Butler out.

“Patience,” he added, “has always been the key to me.”

‘A Swiss Army knife’

For Pedescleaux, it’s versatility that’s opened the door to more playing time.

After starting a couple of games in 2019, just like Solomon, he’s opened four this year, including three at safety and one at UL’s ‘Star’ nickel spot.

“Kam Pedescleaux is like a Swiss Army knife, man,” Cajuns coach Billy Napier said. “I mean, he can do about anything. He plays Star, dime, both safety spots.

“Really intelligent, and a really good communicator. He can cover, he can tackle and he has very good instincts for the ball. … I think Pedescleaux is a guy that probably can play any of the five positions in the secondary, truth be known. He’s kind of a jack of all trades.

“He’s … one of those heartbeat guys who came as a walk-on paying his way,” Napier added. “Earned his scholarship, and has never looked back.”

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Pedescleaux loves the knife comparison, leaving no doubt as to which utility tool he prefers to pull first on the field.

Corkscrew? Scissors? Tweezers?

“Straight to be blade,” he said.

“I always tell Coach, ‘I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I’ll learn it.’ I pick up on things fast, I believe. … It doesn’t matter where he puts me; I’m gonna give my all.”

‘Difficult times’

The Cajuns got maximum effort from all their safeties against UAB, much-needed for a defense decimated due to injuries and COVID-19 related absences.

“This whole year, we’ve been going through difficult times,” said Solomon, who missed UL’s win over Georgia Southern with COVID issues. “It’s like every week there’s another person out.”

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But because of the depth they have – especially in the back end, where Trahan has two picks and a unit-high 24 total tackles, Butler and Trahan each have five breakups, Butler has a couple of fumble recoveries and nickel Ja’Len Johnson has four starts this year – the Cajuns feel well-equipped to handle the tumultuous times.

“We’ve got lots of groupings in terms of how we play,” said Napier, who had high praise for Solomon, Pedescleaux and Trahan after Friday’s win.

“So, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a number of different lineups there in the secondary each and every week this year.”

And it doesn’t matter which route those asked to fill the roles took to get there.

“I just think that at this level the more people you’ve got on the bus headed to the stadium that are gonna play and gonna contribute,” Napier said, “the better morale, the better energy, the better buy-in (is for) the team.

“So we try to create as many roles as possible, and certainly those (safety) roles were bigger because of Percy’s absence.”

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