Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
2008 record: 6-6 (5-2 Sun Belt)
Head coach: Rickey Bustle (32-50, 7 years)
Returning Starters: 17; 7 offense, 9 defense, punter
Leaders on Each Side: QB – Brad McGuire, LB – Antwyne Zanders
It will be a tall task for Rickey Bustle to get ULALA back to the mark they set in 2008 – where the team finished second in the Sun Belt with a 5-2 conference record and became bowl eligible.
The three starters lost from the offensive side – Tyrone Fenroy, Michael Desormeaux and Jason Cherry – accounted for 3,600 yards and 44 touchdowns, the mark of the most productive offense in the conference.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will get their shot at an upset when they face Kansas State in Lafayette the week prior to their date with the Tigers, so momentum could ride on their side if the pieces fall perfectly.
Yet, with a young offense and a defense that has not hit in stride in some time, the outlook remains grim.
Brad McGuire – 6’3”, 215, So.
Chris Masson – 6’2”, 200, So.
The battle to replace Desormeaux at quarterback is between a pair of underclassmen, Brad McGuire and Chris Masson.
McGuire was the pick by most around the Lafayette campus, yet a strong spring has moved Masson onto the heels of the 6-foot-3, 215-pound gunslinger.
Who will suit up come three games into the season for Bustle? The race will be one to keep an eye on as the Ragin’ Cajuns open the season Sept. 9 against Southern.
Undrea Sails – 5’8”, 200, Sr.
Draylon Booker – 6’0”, 176, Fr.
Replacing the production of Fenroy and Desormeaux – the team’s top two rushers – will be the tallest task for the offensive unit. The pair combined for 1,410 yards and 24 touchdowns, and both were lost to graduation.
Undrea Sails appears to be the first option out, with Draylon Booker on the senior’s heels. The pair is unproven, as Sails logged just 19 touches in 2008, while Booker was still in high school.
The one bright spot: the group will run behind five returning starters on the offensive line.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
Louis Lee – 5’11”, 190, Sr.
Verlin Moore – 5’10”, 175, Jr.
Vernon Wolfe – 6’0”, 180, Jr.
Marlin Miller – 5’10”, 185, Jr.
Ladarius Green – 6’5”, 220, So.
Cherry, who pulled in a team high 46 catches for 656 yards and seven touchdowns in 2008, is gone – leaving a cast of inexperienced talent in his wake.
Louis Lee is the lone returning starter, but the senior nabbed just one touchdown grab last fall. His numbers will need to increase if the offense, run by an unproven quarterback, hopes to keep the defense off the field.
The shining light is tight end Ladarius Green, the leading pass catcher behind Cherry last fall. The sophomore had a breakout freshman campaign with five touchdowns, and he will be relied on to produce once more for a corps that will be looking for leadership.
Kyle Pirtle – 6’7”, 300, Sr.
Brad Bustle – 6’4”, 295, Sr.
Chris Fisher – 6’3”, 285, Sr.
Ian Burks – 6’5”, 295, Jr.
Jonathan Decoster – 6’5”, 302, Jr.
ULALA has the best line in the conference, which should help stabilize an inexperienced group of skill players on the offensive side of the ball.
Guard Brad Bustle and center Chris Fisher are first-team all-conference selections, which should bode well for Sails and Co. when they make their moves out of the backfield.
With upperclassmen lined up in the trenches across the board, the Ragin’ Cajuns will look to capitalize on the ground as much as possible.
Hall Davis – 6’6”, 262, Sr.
Derreck Dean – 5’11”, 295, So.
Jermaine Rogers – 6’5”, 285, Jr.
Terrell Richardson – 6’6”, 252, Jr.
The Ragin’ Cajuns were one of the league’s worst defensive sides in 2008, ranking seventh out of eight teams in the Sun Belt in scoring defense (33.7 points per game).
Though the unit returns nine starters, progress will need to be made in a hurry. The work begins at the line, a group that allowed more than 200 yards a game on the ground last fall.
Derreck Dean is the lone new face to the scene, as Hall Davis, Jermaine Rogers and Terrell Richardson all return to their starting spots from 2008.
The trio combined for 56 tackles last fall, a mark they hope to best in a hurry. If Davis struggles, look for Nate Douglas – who logged 26 stops in 2008 – to step in and take his shots.
Grant Fleming – 6’3”, 232, Jr.
Antwyne Zanders – 6’2”, 220, Sr.
Daylon McCoy – 6’0”, 215, Jr.
All-Conference linebacker Antwyne Zanders is the man to watch for. The senior’s 68 tackles were one short of the best mark on the team, set by Daylon McCoy.
McCoy, a one-time safety, has moved to linebacker in hopes of shoring up the middle of the field. The junior, who led the team with a pair of interceptions and 48 solo stops, will get the start on the outside opposite Grant Fleming.
Orkeys Auriene – 5’10”, 170, Jr.
Dwight Bentley – 5’10”, 170, So.
Chris Richard – 6’0”, 185, So.
Gerren Blount – 5’11”, 185, Sr.
Chris Richard, who was in on eight tackles in reserve duty in 2008, is the new name to the unit. Cornerbacks Orkeys Auriene and Dwight Bentley and free safety Gerren Blount all return to their spots from last fall, a group that held opponents to 216.3 passing yards per game.
Blount, who averaged just over five tackles a game in 2008, will be the go-to senior in the backfield. Bentley and Auriene, who combined for 84 tackles and an interception last fall, will need to be better if ULALA hopes to keep opposing wide outs away from the end zone with any consistency.
Brett Baer – 5’11”, 171, Fr.
Spencer Ortego – 6’3”, 185, Jr.
Drew Edmiston, who totaled 71 points in 2008, is gone – leaving Brett Baer to handle the kicking duties. If the unproven freshman can’t take the heat, junior Tyler Albrecht is ready to get the start.
Spencer Ortego, who averaged 39.1 yards per punt in 2008, will need to continue to perform consistently, for field position battles will be everything to the Ragin’ Cajuns in 2009.