Football: Check out five things to look for entering UL's spring football season
Kevin Foote, The Advocate, March 13, 2019 email@example.com
Going into his second season as UL’s football coach, Billy Napier still isn’t completely satisfied with his roster.
“We’re still not quite 100 percent the way we’d like it (roster) to be,” he said. “We’re still a little depleted.”
The truth is Ragin’ Cajuns fans should only expect that to increase Napier’s intensity and preparation for the 2019 season, beginning with the first day of spring practice Tuesday.
“We’re very excited,” Napier said. “We’ll have all of the guys. Some will be modified because of offseason surgeries, but no one will be 100 percent out of spring drills. We want to get everybody as much work as possible.”
Tuesday will be the first of 14 spring practice sessions — each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday — culminating in the spring game on April 13, which Napier said will be an actual scrimmage.
Here are five issues to focus on heading into the 2019 season:
Isn’t that just an understood obligatory No. 1 … at least until there’s a no-doubt starter coming out of the previous season.
Junior southpaw Levi Lewis has every plan to be that guy come the spring of 2020.
Napier said Lewis will walk onto the practice field Tuesday as the No. 1 quarterback based on experience, but there’s still plenty of competition remaining.
The junior from Scotlandville High played 14 games a year ago , completing 37 of 59 passes for 585 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
Red-shirt senior Quentin Gibson is back after being the third-string quarterback last season.
“Quentin is a really sound kid who does a good job in the offense,” Napier said.
Others in the mix are Jai’ave Magalei, a 6-3, 235-pounder from Mt. San Antonio College who went to high school in Tacoma, Washington, and a mid-semester December signee Clifton McDowell (6-2, 200) of Spring, Texas.
“We still have a lot to sort out there,” Napier said.
2. WIDE RECEIVERS
It appears to be the best of both worlds at wide receiver .
For one, there’s terrific leadership at the top and two, there appears to be plenty of options besides those two standouts to provide quality depth.
The two leaders are seniors Ja’Marcus Bradley and Jarrod “Bam” Jackson.
Bradley emerged as the big-play receiver he hinted he would be as a freshman in 2018, finishing with 40 receptions for 608 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Jackson contributed 19 receptions for 325 yards and four scores last season.
“We’re very excited with that position,” Napier said. “We’ve got some very experienced guys back in Ja’Marcus and Bam — two guys with great leadership ability and great attitudes who can also make plays.”
While promising, the long list of reserves behind that duo may not lack in potential, but nearly every one does in experience.
Junior Calif Gossett did have three receptions for 43 yards. Junior Jamal Bell caught six balls for 38 yards. Junior Jalen Williams hauled in five passes for 56 yards.
The rest will still be looking for their first catches with the Cajuns, including sophomore Michael Orphey and December signees Brian Smith of Glendale Community College and Kalem Reddix from East Mississippi Junior College.
3. JOE DILLON
One of the biggest injury losses was losing pass rusher Joe Dillon all season long.
Dillon played in 11 games as a sophomore with 30 tackles, seven stops behind the line and 4½ sacks as a second-team All-Louisiana honoree in 2017. That came after a freshman season in 2016 when he played in 13 games, finishing with 51 tackles, 12 stops behind the line and was sixth in the Sun Belt with seven sacks.
Napier said he was told by a doctor that his football career was over. Then things changed.
“Then he went through a cutting-edge procedure,” Napier explained, “and it ended up working. He’s been a full-go since January 6.”
Despite missing all of last season, Napier is confident Dillon won’t be starting from scratch.
“Joe did a good job of being engaged through the season last year,” Napier said. “He kept up with what was going on in practice. He just wasn’t able to participate.
"Since being released, he’s shown that he has the ability and the work ethic that we’re looking for. We’re excited about Joe.”
4. COMPETITIVE SECONDARY
It’s possible the most competitive area will be in the secondary.
It’s got plenty of experienced performers returning, including cornerback Michael Jacquet, safety Deuce Wallace and sophomore cornerback Eric Garror, who came on big as a freshman last season.
Also, Napier warns against counting out senior Kamar Greenhouse.
“I think Kamar Greenhouse has had a really good offseason so far,” he said.
But figuring to compete for playing time as well are: Bralen Trahan, Schadarren Archie, Percy Butler, A.J. Washington and Daijuane Dorsey, says Napier.
“That’s quite a bit of competition,” he said.
5. DEFENSIVE LINE A CONCERN
The biggest concern going into the spring season is on the defensive line, where a long list of offseason surgeries will slow several of that unit’s mainstays.
That group includes: Bennie Higgins (wrist), Zi’Yon Hill (shoulder), Sammy Ochua (shoulder) and even newcomer Shomari Hayes from Phoenix had offseason shoulder surgery.
“Consequently, some of the younger guys, like Andre Landry, Masry Mapieu and Timaje Porter, are going to need to step up,” Napier said. “We’re going to need them to step up the plate this spring.”