Football: UL's Jacquet - 'He's got all the tools' to play on next level - includes more FB links
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Aug. 17, 2018
When UL head coach Billy Napier and Ragin’ Cajuns defensive coordinator Ron Roberts look at cornerback Michael Jacquet, they see the same thing.
Starts with "N."
That’s right: NFL.
“Jacquet is a huge asset, just as far as him on a physical standpoint,” Roberts said. “He’s got all the tools to be an NFL corner.
“So, with him, it’s just more so playing catch-up, you know? He’s raw at the position. He can do some things that are pretty freakish, athletically.”
Roberts laughs, a little like a mad scientist does when he sees all the pieces and imagines the possibilities.
The key to making it all work, Roberts said, is “getting him caught up now to be a student, a master at his technique, master his skills, and know the position within the coverage, and how can he maximize his ability when he’s out there.”
This is correct as well:
The talk even before UL’s preseason camp opened earlier this month was that Jacquet has primo potential as a pro prospect, and the fourth-year junior still hasn’t played in his first college game at cornerback.
Yet, first-year UL coach Napier, a former offensive coordinator at Arizona State and Clemson and a former receivers coach at Alabama, readily agrees with Roberts’ assessment.
“Great ball skills. Definitely … an NFL-type cornerback with his length and speed and athleticism,” said fellow corner Kendall Johnson Jr., a UL graduate transfer who started two years at Nevada.
“I’ve practiced against several NFL corners in my time, and I think he has the tools,” Napier added. “He’s 6-1 and change; he’s 195 pounds. And he’s got length. He’s got great speed. And I think he’s very instinctive.”
Jacquet was a quarterback at Beaumont Central High in Texas.
He was ranked as the No. 148 “athlete” in the nation by 247Sports.com.
And he played initially as a receiver at UL, redshirting in 2015, making 15 catches for 206 yards and a touchdown in 2017 and pulling in 31 passes for 288 yards and two TDs over 11 games including eight starts a season ago.
Then a coaching change was made, and last spring Jacquet started working at cornerback in addition to receiver.
The Cajuns still plan to utilize Jacquet on offense this season, but just how much remains to be seen.
“He’s gonna go back and forth,” first-year UL offensive coordinator Rob Sale said earlier this month.
“I think it’s gonna be game-specific,” Napier added, “but I do think that in every game the guy can play both ways.”
Much may depend on UL’s health at receiver, where the Cajuns are loaded with a group led by Keenan Barnes, Ja’Marcus Bradley and Ryheem Malone.
When potential starting slot receiver Jarrod Jackson sustained a toe injury and was taken off UL’s 110-man early in camp, Napier said that “makes you think we might play him a little bit more” both ways.
“I feel it’s up to the coaching staff,” said Jacquet, who is versatile and knowledgeable enough to play any of the Cajun receiver positions.
“Whenever my number is called to go in at offense, I’m gonna go in and do my job. It’s not for me to say how much I should play or how much I shouldn’t play offense.
“Whenever Coach Napier says, ‘Mike, go in,’” he added, “I’m gonna go in and I’m giving it my best.”
The thought of using Jacquet a lot, wherever, is tantalizing indeed.
“He’s pretty electric with the ball,” Napier said.
But, by the same token, UL evidently needs Jacquet more on defense — and that’s where long-term pro possibilities seem to suit him best. Jacquet, in fact, went into preseason camp pegged as a starter by Napier.
“On a skill standpoint, physical asset, he walks in this room, he’s an NFL corner,” Roberts said.
“You put him on the field, and what he does from a movement standpoint — flip the hips, just speed, quickness, all that stuff — and demeanor, the way he handles himself on a daily basis, is good, too.
“But whether he does it, produces on the field — that’s the way he can be seen,” added Roberts, who calls Jacquet a “rangy” corner. “That’s on him.”
Jacquet readily accepts the challenge.
“The transition has been very exciting,” he said.
“I’ve been picking up a lot of things at receiver and implementing them at corner. The coaches have been talking to me and coaching me throughout the process.”
Fellow Cajuns have extended helping hands, too.
“I spend a lot of time in the film room with him, making sure we’re on the same page with the plays,” senior starting safety Corey Turner said. “We do spend a lot of time with Coach Etheridge (Zac Etheridge, UL’s new cornerbacks coach) together as well.”
But that’s not all.
Jacquet has reached out to two former teammates, both now rookies in NFL training camps.
The Detroit Lions selected Tracy Walker in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft. Cornerback Simeon Thomas went in the sixth round to the Cleveland Browns.
“I call Simeon Thomas and Tracy Walker and ask them for things all the time,” Jacquet said. “They’re like the big-brother role to me right now, so they kind of make the transition a lot easier.”
Much like Thomas, who had "potential NFL corner" written on him from the day he stepped on UL’s campus, Jacquet very much looks the part.
And his ears are open to anyone willing to make him better.
Most of his learning, however, comes on the practice field.
That's what preseason camp is all about for Jacquet and the Cajuns, who hold their second scrimmage of August on Saturday and open their season Sept. 1 against Grambling before facing Mississippi State, Coastal Carolina and Alabama later in the month.
He is recovering from a concussion that caused him to go through last Saturday's wearing a non-contact jersey.
But it’s there that Jacquet picks up nuances of the position others can only tell him about, and that he must experience first-hand before everything falls into place.
That process started in the spring.
“I notice when corners tend to be aggressive … and you miss at the jamming point, you mess up everything,” Jacquet said. “You’ll get beat quickly. So I learned to be very patient at the line, coming from receiver.”
Roberts, a former head coach Southeastern Louisiana, likes what he’s seen since the move was made.
“I think he’s very football-intelligent, so that’s been huge,” UL’s d-coordinator said. “And that’s what’s gonna allow him — it’s very hard for anybody to do it — to be able to play both sides of the football.
“That’s why it’s not very common — for somebody, mentally, to be able to handle the concepts you’re doing on both sides of the ball.
“He has done a good job of that,” Roberts added. “I mean, he’s a football-intelligent guy.”
Having played other positions has to help with that. Then there's the physical part.
“I feel l like I have some really loose hips, just by coming from receiver,” Jacquet said. “You know, we do a lot of hip turns, a lot of synching our hips at receiver.”
“He’s a quarterback in his background,” Napier added, “so I think he’s a guy who really could make that transition.”
Whether the transition has staying power all the way to the NFL, though, remains to be seen.
Jacquet, after all, has not just this season but also next left to play at UL.
But just knowing what his coaches think — “all the tools to be an NFL corner” — makes so much moving around worthwhile.
“I didn’t really know how good I can be at the position,” Jacquet said.
“But with Coach Roberts and Coach Napier and Coach Etheridge all in my ear telling me how good I can be if I just put the work in,” he added, “it gives me a lot more confidence.”