Louisiana Lafayette: The Preview

It will set the tone for the entire season. Game One verses the Ragin' Cajuns of Lousiana Lafayette - led by the familiar Ricky Bustle. Domination by the Gamecocks catapults USC into the Virginia game with confidence - stumble against the Ragin' Cajuns and the season begins with doubts. So which will it likely be? ...

Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
August 30, 2003 - 7:PM
Closed Circuit TV (SC Only)
Williams Brice Stadium

RickyWhen former USC and Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle, a Clemson alumn, arrived in Lafayette prior to the 2002 football season, there were reasons for high hopes for the Ragin' Cajuns. It was Bustle who had led one of the nation's most dynamic offenses for the previous seven seasons in Blacksburg and it was Bustle who was primarily responsible for the development of former Virginia Tech quarterback Mike Vick into the #1 pick in the 2002 NFL draft.

However, the high hopes for the program failed to translate into on field success in the 2002 season as the Cajuns experienced substantial problems due to injury and lack of depth on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football.

Offensively, the Cajuns were nothing short of anemic, averaging 16.6 points per game behind a running game that averaged a paltry 1.9 yards per carry. Defensively, the Cajuns gave up an average of 29 points per game and slightly less than 400 yards in total offense .

The end result was a 3-9 record for Bustle in his first year at the helm of the Cajuns.

The 2003 Cajuns will come into the hostile environs of Williams Brice on August 30 with a substantially different look in personnel. Offensively, the Cajuns lost both their leading rusher and passer to graduation. Defensively, they lost nine of the twelve leading tacklers from last year's team. In all, the Cajuns return only 9 offensive and defensive starters from last year's team.


Bustle and staff spent the off-season looking for answers to the depth and talent problems that plagued the team in 2002. Bustle brought in nine highly regarded junior college players and one very impressive true freshman to beef up the offensive and defensive lines as well as the undersized secondary from last year. The impact of these players will likely determine whether Bustle's team turns around or repeats its 2002 performance in the 2003 season.

Cajun Offense vs. Gamecock Defense

The Ragin' Cajuns return only five starters on the offensive side of the ball this year. Gone is starting quarterback John Van Cleave who threw for nine touchdowns and averaged 189 yards passing in starting nine games last year. Van Cleave's back up in 2002, Eric Rikieta (6'4" 235) is a pro-style quarterback who threw for 4 touchdowns in his three starts.

Rikieta sat out spring practice due to a broken hand and elbow surgery. In Rikieta's absence, redshirt freshman Jerry Babb established himself as the potential 2003 starter by displaying an ability to both run and throw the ball in Bustle's multi-set spread offense with efficiency. Babb is Bustle's recruit and is the most likely candidate to successfully run the offense in 2003. Babb is the QB of the future for this team, so it makes sense to have him go ahead and take the reins of the team now rather than have him back up a pro style quarterback for a year.

The Cajun's spring depth chart shows an offensive line that matches up nicely with Carolina's new four man front in terms of size, if not experience. The Cajun starters on the interior line average 294 pounds. The second team averages a massive 309 pounds. The most experienced returning starter is RG Demetrious Brook (6'3" 290 Jr). The Cajuns also return a starter at LG where Greg Hodges (6'2" 305 junior) is penciled in to start and Center where Ronnie Harvey (6'1" 285 junior) is slated to start. The Cajuns will be reliant on true freshman Brandon Cox (6'7" 295) at the right tackle position. Cox enrolled in school last January and participated in spring drills where he was impressive enough to win the starting job over rising senior D'Anthony Batiste. LT Corey Glover (6'4" 295) returns to the team after sitting out the 2002 season for personal reasons.

All of the second team depth chart positions are held by upperclassmen indicating that size may be that group's greatest attribute.

The most reliable and dangerous of the returning Cajun offensive starters is WR Fred Stamps (6'0" 185 4.4 Senior). Stamps is a legitimate threat to score as a WR where he caught 54 passes for 1002 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2002. Stamps may also provide support as a kick returner where he averaged 18 yards per return in limited action as a junior.

Senior Eric Bartel (5'8" 172 4.5) is slated to start opposite Stamps. Bartel is the son of assistant head coach Gary Bartel. However, the Cajuns expect to have respected JUCO transfer Kemmie Lewis in the mix for that starting position in the fall. Lewis is the heir apparent to Stamps as the primary receiver in the Cajun offense.

Redshirt freshman Josh Harrison (5'7" 175 4.4) will battle with returning Junior Dwight Lindon (5'9" 210 4.5) for the starting tailback job vacated by the graduated Jerome Coleman (171 carries for 483 yards) and Chester Johnson (53 carries for 175 yards). It appears that any change in running back would be beneficial for the Cajuns. However, Lindon's yard per carry average was the worst on the team last year.


So, how does the Gamecocks' defense stack up against the Cajuns' offense? The Cajuns lack both experience and depth all across their offensive front and at the skill positions with the exception of wide receiver where Fred Stamps is a legitimate threat to score.

The Cajuns' success will be judged by their ability to move the ball on the ground. If they can run the ball, the Gamecock defense will be forced to step up to stop the run which will leave the talented Stamps in man coverage in the backfield. Given the lack of success that the Cajuns had dominating the line of scrimmage last year, the lack of experienced line and skill position depth that they bring into the first game of the season this year, and the hostile environment of playing in front of 84,000 screaming fans in Columbia, it is not likely that the Cajuns will run well against the Gamecock Defense.

Don't expect to see USC's defensive coordinator Chris Cosh throw the entire new 4-3 defensive playbook at the Cajuns in week one. It simply won't be necessary. We look for the entire Carolina two deep to get some game snaps in this game. This will be particularly beneficial to JUCO DT transfer Freddy Saint-Preux, who did not compete in the Gamecock's spring practice, as well as Chris Tucker and Brandon Schweitzer.

Look for the Carolina defense to dominate nearly every match up on the field and to drop into double team coverage on Stamps and/or Lewis as the game progresses. Louisiana Lafayette's best opportunity to get on the board will be with early creative play calling while the Carolina staff makes adjustments to its newly installed 4-3 defense.

Gamecock Offense vs. Cajun Defense

If the 2002 Ragin' Cajuns offense was anemic, the defense was simply putrid. The Cajuns gave up an average of 29 points a game, a troubling number, but more troubling when one considers that the Cajuns shut out UAB in one of its regular season games. In 2002, Cajun opponents averaged 182 yards rushing and 192 yards passing per game. Against non-conference opponents, the Cajuns gave up an average of slightly more than 35 points per game.

The defensive line was the heart of the Cajuns' 2002 defensive problems. The Cajuns' line managed to sack opposing quarterbacks only 8 times in the course of 12 games. In an effort to bolster the team's defensive efforts, the Cajuns recruited and signed JUCO Transfer Darryl Blappert (6'7" 275) and JUCO Kendrick Haynes (6'4" 285). Both should be starters at tackle in the 2003 season. Senior Left End Antonio Floyd (6'1" 237) and Sophomore Right End Eugene Kwarteng (6'4" 235) illustrate the match up problems that the Cajuns will have with the impressively large Gamecock front line.

CharlesThe bad news is that the Cajuns line was awful last year. The worse news is that Cajuns lost nine of their twelve leading tacklers from the 2002 team to graduation including cornerback Charles Tillman who led the team with 100 tackles, almost twice the number of the team's number two tackler Jamal Smith, a rover.

At corner, the most seasoned returnee is Terrell Fenton (6'1" 200) who saw backup time all 12 games in 2002 where he recorded one interception and 2 broken up passes. He plays opposite Jerrell Carter (5'8" 165). In 2002, Charles Tillman and Walter Sampson each led the less than stellar secondary with eight broken up passes. Both have now graduated.

Despite its shortcomings, this group showed promise at times in 2003. As previously mentioned, the Cajuns shut out UAB in the fourth game of the season and played Arkansas close in a 24-17 loss in game 11.


The Cajuns simply don't have the defensive size or depth to match up well with the front five of the Gamecocks. Look for all of the Gamecock running backs to get lots of opportunities carrying the ball against the Cajun defense. The lack of depth will be particularly problematic, as the Cajuns' second team matches up no better than the starters.

The game should also give Gamecock coaches a chance to look at a number of the freshmen wide receivers before red shirt decisions have to be made. If the Cajuns double Carolina's super wide receiver, Troy Williamson, look for Carolina to attempt to isolate the small and inexperienced Jerrell Carter with taller receivers such as Derek Harper.

Dondrial Pinkins and Mark Rathe should see plenty of snaps at quarterback. Freshmen Syvelle Newton will see plenty of action also. If he gets in the open field look out.

The Bottom Line

Carolina 43
Louisiana Lafayette 10

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