Inside The Numbers: La. Lafayette
2006 record: 6-6
9/2 at LSU L 45-3
9/9 at Texas A&M L 51-3
9/23 N. Carolina A&T W 48-7
9/30 Eastern Mich W 33-13
10/7 at Houston W 31-28
10/18 at Florida Atlantic W 6-0
10/28 MTSU L 35-21
11/4 at Troy L 42-28
11/11 North Texas L 16-7
11/18 at FIU W 17-7
11/25 Arkansas State W 28-13
12/2 UL Monroe L 39-20
Starters returning on offense: 7
Starters returning on defense: 5
Head Coach: Rickey Bustle
Offensive Preview: Louisiana Lafayette
Strength of the offense:
Louisiana Lafayette, who will start converted wide receiver Michael Desormeaux at quarterback, runs a zone-read offense, relying on a strong ground game to carry the load due to a lack of consistency through the air. While the Rajin' Cajuns only averaged 20.7 points per game last season, they featured the 11th best rushing attack in the country, posting a stellar 188.4 yards per game on the ground. Lafayette's ground game is anchored by junior running back Tyrell Fenroy, who rushed for 1,197 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, while gaining a solid 5.4 yards per carry. Fenroy will be spelled by speedy sophomore Deon Wallace, who racked up 252 yards and 2 touchdowns in his freshman campaign.
Weakness of the offense:
While Desormeaux has the athleticism to make plays with his legs, Lafayette's passing attack will not strike fear in the heart of opponents. The Rajin' Cajuns ranked 114th in America last year in passing offense, thowing for a miniscule 129 yards per game. On top of that, they lost starting quarterback Jerry Babb to graduation, thus the versatile Desormeaux, who played wide receiver, defensive back and special teams last season, has made the transition to quarterback this season. ULL does, however, return their top wide receiver from a year ago in junior speedster Derrick Smith, who totaled 41 catches for 551 yards and 1 touchdown. The number two receiver from last season, Jason Chery, only had 16 catches, but he also returns.
Best player on offense:
Running back Tyrell Fenroy is not only the first ULL back to rush for 1,000 yards in the history of their football program, he's surpassed that mark each of his first two seasons with the Rajin' Cajuns. The First Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection last season is also a viable receiving threat out of the backfield, as he totaled 15 catches for 176 yards and 1 touchdown in 2006. Simply put, the 5'10", 180 pound Fenroy is the workhorse of Lafayette's offense, and they will ride him as much as possible this season.
ULL will likely feature a one dimensional offense this season, relying on the running back tandem of Fenroy and Wallace and the scrambling ability of Desormeaux to move the ball. Lafayette will have a respectable offensive line, which returns three starters from a year ago, including senior All-Conference left tackle Jesse Newman. However, the lack of a consistent threat in the passing game will allow opponents to load the box and key in on the ground attack.
Defensive Preview: Louisiana Lafayette
Strength of the defense:
With a defense that returns only five starters, and a back seven that struggled mightily in pass coverage a year ago, Lafayette will look to their defensive front this fall to apply pressure and anchor the defense.
Senior defensive end Rodney Hardeway returns this season after leading ULL's D-line in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles a year ago. The 6'3", 253 Hardeway is an athletic presence off the edge that thrives at wreaking havoc in opponent's backfields. He is joined on the defensive front by senior defensive tackle Korey Raymond, who originally signed with Ole Miss out of high school before taking the JUCO route and ending up at ULL. These two played a large role in Lafayette ranking near the top of the Sun Belt conference in both rush defense (126 yards per game) and sacks (2.17 per game) last season. Sophomore defensive tackle LaQuincy Williams is a promising young player that saw significant action last year and is expected to come into his own this fall. Senior defensive end Greg Hathorn, who started two games last season, rounds out the starting unit.
Weakness of the defense:
To put it nicely, ULL's pass defense was not very good last season. Lafayette ranked 92nd in the country in pass efficiency defense, allowing opponents to complete 62% of their passes for 204 yards per game and 16 total touchdowns. To make things worse, they only managed a total of 6 interceptions as a unit last season. The Ragin' Cajuns' secondary could show some improvement this fall with the return of senior strong safety Lamar Morgan and senior cornerback Kyle Ward, but there isn't much room to go but up.
Best Player on defense:
Defensive end Rodney Hardeway is the heart and soul of the Lafayette defense this season. The athletic senior racked up 39 tackles and a team leading 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss last season, and he's expected to be even better this year. With a suspect secondary behind him, Hardeway's ability to pressure the passer could prove to be very valuable this fall.
For a unit that gave up 332 yards of total offense and surrendered 25 points per game last season, both ranking middle of the pack in the Sun Belt Conference, it's going to be tough for ULL's defense to show much improvement with only five starters returning this season. However, they do welcome in new defensive coordinator Kevin Fouqueir, who helped turn around Florida International's defense last season. If the returning players buy into Fouqueir's system, the front seven on defense has a chance to be pretty good in Sun Belt Conference play. However, the secondary will need to improve on keeping the ball in front of them and not surrendering the big play.
Prediction for this weekend:
Head Coach Rickey Bustle's troops will come into Columbia on Saturday night with a chip on their shoulder after losing in embarrassing fashion to two major conference opponents early last season. With the memory of blowout losses to LSU (45-3) and Texas A&M (51-7) last fall still fresh on their memory, the Ragin' Cajuns will want to prove they can play with the big boys this weekend, but a veteran and immensely more talented South Carolina squad, led by Coach Steve Spurrier, stands in the way.
ULL will look to try and establish the run early on offense, and they will try to fluster first time starting quarterback Chris Smelley on defense. However, the front seven of the Gamecock defense is as stout as any they will face this season, and Smelley has proven to be very efficient for a young signal-caller throughout pre-season camp. Lafayette could keep things interesting for the first half, but South Carolina's depth and talent edge will be too much for the Rajin' Cajuns to overcome.
Prediction: South Carolina 42 - La. Lafayette 6
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