Football: Ray no longer working as a full-time quarterback
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Aug. 6, 2018
Dion Ray’s run as a full-time quarterback under new UL coach Billy Napier did not last long.
Although he still will spend occasional time at QB, Ray was moved to slot receiver on the Ragin’ Cajuns’ second day of training camp, Napier said Monday.
Napier, who didn’t meet with media members on the night of UL’s first three preseason practices, revealed the position switch on the fourth day of the Cajuns’ closed camp.
“We will work him at quarterback a little bit from a spot-play standpoint,” Napier said, “but he has made that move to receiver and really has been productive so far.
“He’s very well-respected by his teammates. He’s very intelligent. And he’s a class-act young man,” Napier added. “So I think getting him in position to where he can contribute to the team was part of the factor.”
Ray, a scholarship player with two seasons of eligibility remaining, had been a Wildcat quarterback under ex-Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth.
He ran 16 times for 27 yards and four touchdowns over nine games last season, and in 2016, a 119-yard rushing season, the product of Helen Cox High near New Orleans played quite a bit in UL’s final five games, including a New Orleans Bowl loss to Southern Mississippi in which he ran four times for 11 yards including a 12-yard touchdown.
Previously, especially under Hudspeth, he was adamant about not wanting to change positions.
But with his arm holding him back, Ray never emerged as a contender to start under Napier, who still hasn’t decided between senior Andre Nunez and sophomore Levi Lewis for the No. 1 job.
“I do think that Dion has proved to be very effective with the ball in his hands – his history here as a Wildcat player, and certainly what we’ve observed him do when he scrambles as a quarterback,” Napier said.
But, the first-year Cajuns coach added, “You know, he’s really struggled to be an effective passer.”
THE JACKSON-INJURY INFLUENCE
With just one attempt, the 5-foot-11, 204-pound Ray hasn’t completed a pass in 15 career games as a Cajun.
Now, though, he’ll have a chance to catch way more balls than he’s ever thrown in a game.
The move comes as the Cajuns opened camp last Friday without injured receiver Jarrod Jackson, who coming out of spring practice had been listed as a co-starter in the slot along with Jalen Williams.
Jackson has a toe injury and was not on UL’s 110-man roster for the start of camp.
On Monday afternoon, Napier — who didn’t plan to make himself available after Monday night’s practice or on Tuesday night either — suggested he wasn’t sure if Jackson would be ready for UL’s Sept. 1 season-opener against Grambling.
“I think it’s to-be-determined based off of what we see the next couple of weeks,” Napier said of Jackson’s potential return date.
“It’s really gonna be a pain-tolerance deal. It’s gonna be how much volume can the guy handle, and how will he be the next day after he does a good bit of work?
“So,” Napier added, “I think it’s gonna be ‘time will tell.’ But it will be a while before he’s back.”
GIBSON'S AND BLAZEK'S IMPACT
UL moved Ray with that in mind.
But there was yet another reason too: Napier evidently is pleased with the two other contenders for the Cajuns’ No. 3 QB job, walk-ons Quentin Gibson and Wesley Blazek.
Gibson is a juco-transfer who began his college career at Toledo, where he didn’t play in two seasons. Blazek is a freshman who started full time at quarterback only during his senior season at Teurlings Catholic High.
With former quarterback Kadon Harrison moved to receiver early in spring camp and Jake Arceneaux injured prior to the start of preseason camp, Gibson, Blazek and Ray opened this month as UL’s top three contenders for its No. 3 job.
Ray isn’t totally out of the running for the 3 role, at least for the time being, but it’s clear where his focus will be for the foreseeable future.
“I think Dion can always do what he’s done in the past (at QB),” Napier said. “If anything, this (moving to receiver) will get him more-prepared to do that. He’ll be in better condition.
“The thing about Dion is he’s very intelligent, so he’s very capable of handling a lot of volume at multiple positions.”
During “about every third day” of camp, Napier added with reference to Ray, “we’ll put him back at quarterback.
“But he’s certainly in that competition (for the No. 3 job),” Napier said, “and a lot of that has to do with the two newcomers there — Quentin (Gibson) and Wesley (Blazek) — and if we get those guys to make progress.”
NUNEZ'S AND LEWIS' PROGRESS
Napier, meanwhile, seems quite happy with the progress of Lewis and Nunez early in camp.
Last week, he didn’t rule out the possibility of playing both early in the season — and indicated he trusts both as well.
Over the weekend, he evidently liked what both had to show.
“I’ve been very pleased,” Napier said.
“I don’t think there’s any question: Their knowledge and overall understanding of the system, I think fundamentally they’ve made improvement.”
Napier said Nunez and Lewis are getting an equal number of reps with UL’s first-team and second-team offenses for now.
He suggested one or the other might starting get more reps with the starters around the week of Aug. 19, but also indicated that doesn’t mean he will necessarily by ready to name a starter by then.