The Louisiana Ragin Cajuns just had one of their earliest bye weeks under head coach Mark Hudspeth after playing Kentucky and Northwestern State in the opening two weeks of the season.
An early bye week is all that much more important with the physicality of an SEC opponent early in the season. During the season opener versus Kentucky, the Ragin’ Cajuns had several players that got nicked up with injuries, keeping them out of the week two game versus Northwestern State.
Louisiana had four key players (two on offense, two on defense) that saw significant time on the field versus Kentucky but were held out in week two. All four players are on pace to be back on the field for the Akron matchup.
One of those players is backup/co-starting quarterback Jalen Nixon. The ability of the junior quarterback to come in as a change of pace from Brooks Haack was very important in the comeback versus UK in week one. Nixon rushed for 37 yards and passed for another 38 yards in that game. He was held out of Northwestern State game with a shoulder injury, but probably would have played if needed. A healthy Nixon means we will see both quarterbacks versus Akron.
T.J. Worthy, a player that started his career at Ole Miss, was missed badly at his strong safety position in week two. Worthy is almost like another linebacker on the field for the Ragin’ Cajuns and will shore up a rush defense that is giving up over 200 yards per game on the ground.
Another key cog to stop the running game is back in the form of defensive lineman Chris Prater. The senior lineman has been an off and on starter during his time at Louisiana. His ability to penetrate into the opposing backfield well be greatly appreciated versus Akron. Expect Prater to make an impact this week.
Wide receiver Al Riles, the Ragin’ Cajuns third leading receiver in 2014, looks to be back at or close to 100% for this week’s game. At 5-10, 215 pounds, Riles is like a bowling ball on the field, making catches in traffic to open things for the rushing attack. Expect Riles to be involved in the game plan immediately with freshman Gary Haynes and sophomore Gabe Fuselier also seeing action at that position.
On offense, the Ragin’ Cajuns will still be without the services of running back Effrem Reed. The senior Louisiana native has been expected to find a role as one of three running backs in the run heavy offense, but has been unable to make a carry this fall. Until he is healthy, Elijah McGuire and Torrey Pierce will man the offensive backfield and get most of the carries.
Linebacker Darzil Washington is still nursing a shoulder injury, but should be back in the next few weeks. His ability to rush the passer (5.0 sacks in 2014) will be needed when Louisiana faces some of the pass heavy offenses in conference play.