Davis, Illini Await Running Ragin Cajuns

The Fighting Illini football team is looking to improve its run defense at the expense of Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend. The Rajin' Cajuns have a potent running game that will put great pressure on the defense. With a star quarterback and running back, Louisiana-Lafayette is a good early season challenge.

Coach Ricky Bustle's team lost big to Southern Miss in week one 51-21 but was off this past weekend. So it has two weeks to prepare for the Illini. Bustle coached with Ron Zook at Virginia Tech, so he is familiar with Zook's style.

The Ragin' Cajuns were only 3-9 last year, but over 50% of their squad was freshmen or sophomores. The 21 freshmen and redshirt freshmen who played now have experience under their belts. With two weeks to prepare, they will be fired up to play Illinois.

The Sun Belt Conference team boasts two outstanding offensive stars. Lefty quarterback Michael Desormeaux (6'-2", 220) gained 1400 yards passing and 1400 yards rushing last fall. Illinois' Co-Defensive Coordinator Curt Mallory knows Desormeaux will be a test for the Illini's speedy from seven, including end/tackle Will Davis.

"It starts with the quarterback. He is a tremendous runner. He's putting up at least 150 yards rushing, and he's a threat. He throws the ball well, and he's real dangerous when he runs the ball. They do some good things with him. They design a lot of plays that fit what he can do, and they run a lot of variations."

The other star is running back Tyrell Fenroy. The 5'-10", 205 pound senior is a Doak Walker Award candidate after posting three consecutive 1000 yard rushing seasons. He is second in career total yardage among active performers around the country.

If Fenroy attains 1000 yards this season, he will become only the seventh player in NCAA history to have four consecutive 1000 yard seasons. And he needs only 780 yards to become the all-time rushing leader in the Sun Belt Conference. Mallory respects him greatly.

"The running back's about to break every record and is an all-conference player for them. He's a real strong runner, a North-South type guy. You have to lower your pads and wrap him up. He's a good player."

Coach Zook knows what he is getting in the Ragin' Cajuns.

"That (running attack) is what you're gonna get. That's what they do. I know Rickey, I've coached with Rickey at V-Tech, and Rickey's gonna come in here and do what he does. They've got a quarterback and running back that are as good as anybody we're gonna see. They're gonna try to control the football and run the ball."

Jason Chery (6'-0", 190) and Derrick Smith (6'-1", 195) are two excellent receivers in a large group of experienced, speedy performers. Any team from Louisiana will boast speed throughout their lineup, and Louisiana-Lafayette (formerly Southwestern Louisiana) is no exception.

Richie Falgout (6'-0", 180), Louis Lee (5'-11", 190), Ross Goodlet (5'-11", 185), Lance Kelly (6'-3", 205) and Jawanza Mitchell (6'-4", 190) could all see playing time Saturday. Erik Jones (6'-6", 258) replaces two graduated seniors at tight end. With Bustle looking for Desormeaux to improve his passing effectiveness, these receivers will help the cause.

Center Chris Fisher (6'-3", 285) is on the Rimington Award watch list and leads the offensive line. Tackle Kyle Pirtle (6'-7", 300) and Coach Bustle's son Brad, a guard, are fellow juniors with talent and experience. The entire offensive line has started games prior to this season, and some younger players gained experience as several starters sat out spring ball with injuries.

Illini Offensive Coordinator Mike Locksley is developing a game plan to counter what the Ragin' Cajuns like to do defensively.

"They play a four down front but also have shown some three-three stack stuff, so we'll see a mixed bag of three down and four down. They'll close the middle of the field up. They're a zone pressure type team."

Louisiana-Lafayette is somewhat unsettled on defense, but their linebackers are set. Seniors Antwyne Zanders (6'-2", 220) and Brent Burkhalter (6'-0", 235) plus sophomore Grant Fleming (6'-3", 232) return intact. Zanders and Fleming were all-conference last year, and Fleming is a future star.

The defensive line is somewhat small by major college standards, and a shuffling of personnel suggests uncertainty. The same is true in the secondary. These are areas that are vulnerable to an offense capable of taking advantage of it.

Drew Emiston (6'-5", 208) is the place kicker, and he's a good one. Drew is a preseason All-Sun Belt kicker. Sophomore Spencer Ortego (6'-3", 185) returns as the starting punter.

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