Football: Hawkins eligible, but Magalei holds No. 2 Cajuns QB job
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Aug. 10, 2019
On the same day he addressed eligibility news regarding transfer-quarterback Brayden Hawkins, UL coach Billy Napier made it clear juco-transfer Jai’avi Magalei has a hold on the No. 2 job behind starter Levi Lewis.
“I think right now we’ve got a pretty clear 1 and 2, if I was betting,” Napier said before Friday’s preseason camp practice.
Hawkins’ appeal to the NCAA for a waiver that will allow him to play right away rather than sit out a season has been approved, Napier said.
It means he has four seasons left to play four.
“That was a positive for him,” Napier said, “and certainly our team.”
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Hawkins is a former UTEP signee who lasted only about a month there last summer, then instead spent last season as a redshirt at Maryland.
He left Maryland after the season and headed to Northwest Mississippi Community College, but rather than stay at the juco and play there this year he came to UL shortly after committing to the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“Brayden is a young quarterback who came over this summer,” Napier said.
“We’ve been giving him maybe one rack of team and one rack of 7-on-7, and certainly we’ll increase his reps a little bit going forward.
“It certainly increases the competition at that position, which I think will benefit our team,” Napier added. “We look forward to working with him and seeing how good he can get.”
Napier suggested Hawkins will battle with true freshman Clifton McDowell and Chandler Fields for the No. 3 QB job.
“All … we can do is give him opportunities, and then we’ll see where he’s at and we’ll evaluate him more and more as we go,” Napier said. “But he’s gonna reps, and I think just like Chandler, just like Clifton … that’s where the competition is at, is who’s the three right now.”
It remains to see if that will change later in camp for the Cajuns, who open their season Aug. 31 against Mississippi State at the Superdome in New Orleans.
“It’s early, you know,” Napier said, “and I think once we get into scrimmage situations, once we have more and more team settings, we’re gonna find out more about Chandler Fields, we’re gonna find out more about how much progress Clifton McDowell has made. All three of those guys in a little bit different place.”
McDowell enrolled early out of his Texas high school, Spring High.
“He’s probably a little bit ahead,” Napier said.
Fields – who has had positive feedback from teammates since his arrival – came in the summer, straight from Archbishop Rummel in the New Orleans area, and has been taking more reps than Hawkins.
And Hawkins, who played his senior season at Myers Park High in Charlotte, North Carolina, has a season of college redshirt experience under his belt.
“All they can control is to just try to be the best they can be every day,” Napier said, “and that’s the focus I hope they’ll take, and it’s the focus we’ll take.”
Napier suggested Magalei’s grip on the backup job is fortified by both his work during spring practice, when he was coming off a major knee injury that cost the Washington high school product all of last season, and his health now.
“He’s running around normal,” Napier said. “He’s back to himself from a mobility standpoint, and he’s been taking the 2 reps all summer and of the first six practices of training camp.
“But it’s early, and we’ve got a lot to do between now and when we make that decision.”
Only near the end of camp, Napier said, will the Cajuns set their “clear-cut rotation” as they install their game-plan.
That decision-make includes whether or UL will utilize the two-quarterback it used last season, when Lewis played every fourth down as the backup to then-senior Andre Nunez.
“As soon as we kind of narrow down the focus on Sunday-to-Saturday in-season routine,” Napier said, “that’s when the reps becoming very, very important.”
By coming in the spring, Napier also suggested, McDowell established himself as someone who will remain at QB.
“Clifton’s a quarterback,” the Cajuns coach said. “There’s no scenario where that guy will change positions. I mean, he’s showed in this training camp he’s a legit contender to be the No. 3 guy.
“I’ve been very pleased with the progress he’s made. He had a really, really good summer. He’s processing well. He’s more accurate. He’s throwing a more-catchable ball.
“I think his delivery has gotten more and more consistent, and you can see he’s exactly what we thought he was gonna be in recruiting,” Napier added. “He’s a big, 6-2½, 220-pound athlete that can take a run 50 yards to the house, but was going to be a developmental passer. We’re working hard on that each day.”
UL’s first scrimmage of camp, meanwhile, comes Saturday, and it could have a big impact how Cajun QBs fall on depth chart and are used in 2019.
“I don’t think it’s gonna make or break you,” Napier said, “but I do think that there is something to a competitive environment.
“Last year at this point we had a really good competition going on between two really good players, and ultimately Andre Nunez was more effective, slightly more effective, than Levi (Lewis).
“But,” he added, “there is that ‘body of work.’ We’re not just gonna say, ‘Who played the best in scrimmage 1 and scrimmage 2.’ ”