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Football: Coronavirus crisis costs Cajuns 10 football roster spots

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Aug. 14, 2020

In addition to non-conference games on the UL schedule, there is another Ragin’ Cajuns football-related loss than can be attributed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: roster spots.

UL coach Billy Napier said this week that UL’s roster size has been reduced from 135 to 125 by eliminating 10 walk-on spots this year.

The Cajuns typically carry 50 walk-ons. This season, according to Napier, they’ll only have 40 to go with their 85 scholarships.

Napier, whose team also lost 12 of its 15 spring practices to the coronavirus crisis, said the trim was made “strictly based off percentage capacity rules relative to the state guidelines” on return from stay-at-home orders.

“Those 10 additional players really hamstrung us a little bit in terms of our day-to-day process in how we have to operate within the facility,” said Napier, whose Cajuns opened preseason camp late last week.

“The actual ‘deciding we had to make a reduction’ was not hard. There’s nothing challenging about that decision,” UL athletic director Bryan Maggard added. “Certainly I’m sure coaches then would have to go in and evaluate who they would not invite in for the camp, but that was all driven by capacity issues that are set by the state.”

Napier indicated that he does hope to restore the 10 spots in the future.

UL lost all of four of its 2020 non-conference games — against McNeese, Wyoming, New Mexico State and Missouri — to the pandemic.

It has, however, replaced the Wyoming date with a Sept. 12 visit to No. 25 Iowa State of the Big 12.


Napier suggested there has been a spirited camp battle for the No. 2 quarterback job behind starter Levi Lewis, with last season’s top backup, juco-transfer Jaiave Magalei, and redshirt freshman Chandler Fields getting “about the same number of reps with the 2s and the 3s” and fellow redshirt freshman Clifton McDowell continuing “to get some reps with the 3s.”

“So we very much have a competition on our hand,” he said in the middle of the week.

“Jaiave certainly came in a little bit ahead because of being the backup last year, but I do think there’s some competition there and what we do and see going forward will affect that competition.”

Magalei is a redshirt junior from Tacoma, Washington, who played previously at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California.

Fields is an Archbishop Rummel product from Metairie and McDowell is out of Spring High in Texas.


Lewis this week was named for the fourth time to the national watch list for a major college football award.

The latest list addition: The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is presented to the nation’s top senior or fourth-year junior college football quarterback “who best exemplifies character, scholastic and athletic achievement.”

Lewis — one of 52 QBs on the list — also is on watch lists for the Davey O’Brien, Maxwell and Manning Awards.

The Scotlandville Magnet High product from Baton Rouge is one of just 15 senior/fourth-year QBs to appear on all four watch lists, a select group that includes fellow Sun Belt Conference quarterback Zac Thomas of Appalachian State.


Napier said Wednesday that juco-transfer linebacker Jasper Williams has a “lower body injury” and is “about a week away” from being able to full participate. … Napier also said then that freshman receiver Reginald Johnson has been out with a hamstring injury and that freshman tight end Christian Sabatini still was out with an undisclosed injury. … Napier said redshirt freshman Amir McDaniel has been working throughout preseason camp at receiver, the position the former defensive back moved to prior to spring practice.