Football: Cajuns offensive line may shuffle, but goal remains the same
Cody Junot, The Advertiser, Sept. 4, 2019
When starting left guard Ken Marks went down with an injury in the first half of UL’s season opener against Mississippi State, there wasn’t panic or fear on the Cajuns sideline. It was simply next man up. In fact, it’s a scenario the team has been preparing for all camp.
The next man up was Max Mitchell — well, sort of.
Mitchell, a sophomore from Monroe saw playing time in 14 games a season ago, started the Saturday’s contest at left tackle. The plan was to play Mitchell and senior Rico Robinson at left tackle in a similar rotation to what play-caller and head coach Billy Napier and offensive coordinator Rob Sale used in 2018.
“We ended up using some of our contingency plans in the game,” Napier said Monday afternoon. “We always talk about if this guy gets hurt, what do we do? We talked about it that morning at 6:30 in the staff meeting, Max (Mitchell) slid right in there and played left (guard) and did a really nice job.”
Then there was the insertion of true freshman O’Cyrus Torrence into the mix. Napier had raved about Torrence for a good portion of preseason camp and it was expected that the Pearland, Texas, native was going to see playing even if the Cajuns had stayed injury-free on Saturday.
With the addition of Torrence into the lineup and redshirt sophomore Shane Vallot starting at center for the injured Cole Prudhomme, suddenly the Cajuns offensive line looked very different from what Napier and Sale may have envisioned heading into the 2019 season.
UL was set to enter the season with one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country, together the group anchored by seniors Kevin Dotson, Robert Hunt, and Prudhomme, along with Marks and Robinson had combined to start 130 games in their college careers.
But just because the lineup may look different, the Cajuns don’t expect the play to be any different. The goal is the same: five men acting as one, keeping quarterback Levi Lewis clean and opening holes for the team’s trio of running backs.
“We pretty much already had the mentality that if somebody goes down, the next person is going to have to step up and I told them (Mitchell and Torrance) as soon as they got in 'there can't be a drop-in our play,'" Dotson told reporters Monday afternoon.
An injury update on Marks is expected Wednesday, but the Cajuns are confident that no matter who lines up on the offensive line, they will be prepared to do their job and execute at a high level.
“We've got some really capable freshman and young people; they're pretty sound when it comes to the playbook,” Dotson said.
Should Marks be unable to go on Saturday against Liberty, expect to see Robinson, Mitchell and Torrence rotate throughout the contest, with Mitchell moving back and forth between left guard and left tackle. When Mitchell is at tackle, expect Torrence to play left guard.
“I've never seen him get too high or too low; he stays at the same intensity at all times. He's a strong, big, physical guy. He's faster than most people think he is,” Dotson said of Torrence. “He can play at any level, he makes sure he knows what he's doing before the play starts. You knew what was going to happen when he went in.”