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Football: UL's Walker - 'We don't have those problems no more'

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Aug. 29, 2017

Words can be telling.

Some take time to digest, others not so much.

When spoken from the heart, they tend to favor the truth.

Consider all of that while pondering these words regarding things expected to be different in 2017 compared to 2016, gathered over the past month or so from a few key members of the UL football program as the Ragin’ Cajuns have prepared for a season that opens when Southeastern Louisiana visits Cajun Field on Saturday night:

1. WALKER: TEAM GOALS FIRST

For fifth-year senior safety Tracy Walker, 2017 is all about team first.

“I feel like this year, everybody has bought into one specific goal — and that’s to win,” Walker said, looking back to a 2016 season in which the Cajuns finished 6-7.

“I mean, it’s not about, ‘Oh, I need to have 10 tackles so I can be first team All-Conference.’ Those were the problems we were having.

“And we don’t have those problems no more, because we understand as a team that if we accomplish the team goals, the individualistic goals will come along with it,” Walker added. “So I say we’ve got to look for the team goals first.”

Related: Once a quiet freshman, Cajun defense leader learned from predecessors

2. HORST: THE PASSING GAME

Fifth-year senior tackle Grant Horst anticipates that changes at quarterback and in the passing game will make a world of difference this year vs. last.

Horst feels the fact the Cajuns “haven’t had really the most mobile quarterback, like we had when Terrance Broadway was here” from 2012-14 was “one of our biggest problems these past couple of years.”

Fourth-year junior Jordan Davis takes over as UL’s starting quarterback in 2017, and Horst feels Davis’ mobility can be game-changing.

“So, he, Jordan Davis, with his legs, adds a whole ’nother element to our offense,” Horst said.

“You’ll have to keep your eyes on him, for watching him scramble, while trying to cover Mike Jacquet, Keenan Barnes, all those guys.”

But the key, Horst suggests, is taking advantage of all the weapons he has, including receivers Barnes, Jacquet, Ja’Marcus Bradley, Ryheem Malone and more.

“We have a ton of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball,” he said, “so I really hope we can stretch the field this year.

“Because last year we did not throw the deep ball or anything like that, so I’m really hoping for a vertical stretch of the field.

“We really just need to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands,” Horst added. “I mean, Jordan Davis doesn’t have to be Cam Newton or something like that. … All he has to do is manage the game, make good decisions and let all the playmakers make plays.”

More: Horst overcomes scary medical matters to lead UL line

A season ago, former LSU starting Anthony Jennings joined the Cajuns as a graduate transfer just in time for the start of training camp.

Although many suspected Jennings would play ahead of Davis, Hudspeth didn’t officially name his starter until shortly before UL’s season-opening loss to Boise State — creating an element of uncertainty that does not exist this year.

UL also went back and forth between quarterbacks — Brooks Haack, then Jalen Nixon, then Haack again — in 2015, when it went 4-8.

This time, Davis was named UL’s clear-cut No. 1 coming out of spring practice.

“That just gives you more direction,” Hudspeth said of everyone knowing whom the starter will be.

“We’ve got direction right now, where in the past — when you don’t have a starter — you’re waiting to see what direction you’re gonna go in.”

Related: 'Hold me to a high standard'

4. LUCAS: FRESH LEGS

In 2017, UL defensive coordinator Mike Lucas vows he’ll rotate players in and out more frequently than last season.

In 2016, by his count, inside linebackers Tre’maine Lightfoot and Otha Peters — UL’s top two tacklers — sometimes played in excess of 80 snaps per game.

“Can’t do that,” Lucas said. “I don’t want to get a guy more than 55 or 60 snaps.”

Lucas cites a quadruple-overtime game at Tulane followed one week later by a double-OT game at New Mexico State — both UL losses last season — as a big part of his reasoning.

“We were exhausted in the fourth overtime (against Tulane),” he said, “and it was my fault for not rotating those guys early in the game.

“We have to be able to rotate those guys to have fresh legs in the fourth quarter to win those-type football games.”

Related: 'He brings it every day'

5. DAVIS: THE CHEMISTRY

After a 2016 season in which it didn’t always seem UL had everyone on the same page, quarterback Davis suggests he senses a truly different feeling around and about the Cajuns in 2017.

“I think the biggest difference is actually the chemistry,” he said.

“I think (we), as a team, are really growing together, coming closer. A lot of friendships are being made outside the field.

“I see that a lot,” Davis added. “I think that’s the biggest key a lot of us are trying to push with each other, is kind of just bonding and having that friendship off the field that will then translate on the field too.”

More: Position-by-Position Breakdown

 



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