The Ragin’ Cajuns have lost many key parts in the skills positions on the offensive side of the ball for the 2017 season, including their top passer, rusher, and receiver. Fortunately, they return all but one offensive lineman. The Cajuns will rely on the experience of their offensive front and their talented skill players this season, as they look to successfully implement the offensive scheme being brought in by new coordinator Will Hall.
It has become clear that the starting quarterback for the 2017 season will be Jordan Davis, who served as the primary backup for the Ragin’ Cajuns last season. Davis was the clearcut starting quarterback for the spring game in April, leading the red team. While he saw little action during 2016, he had the chance to play a major role against Troy during the 2015 season as a redshirt freshman. Davis will undoubtedly be sharing snaps with fellow quarterback Dion Ray, who serves mostly as a running quarterback. The snap count should be heavily tilted towards Davis, but Ray has definitely found a nice niche on the team in the coaches’ eyes.
The main storyline this season for the running back position will be replacing Elijah McGuire, who departed to the Jets in the fifth round of the NFL draft after running for the Cajuns for four years. The players looking to find a role in the backfield this season will consist mainly of Raymond Calais, Darius Hoggins, Tray Ragas, and Jordan Wright. Hoggins was in line to be the starting back once the season began, but he recently had an accident leaving him with a broken jaw. How long he will be out is hard to say at this point, but it opens the door for Calais, Ragas, Wright, and also freshman Elijah Mitchell.
There will be four primary wideouts competing for receptions: Keenan Barnes, Ja’Marcus Bradley, Michael Jacquet, and Ryheem Malone. With the departure of Al Riles, Barnes returns with the most receptions for a Cajun from the 2016 season, and will look to overtake Riles’ role as the top receiver. While both Jacquet and Bradley saw action last season, Malone had to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules. The former SMU Mustang will look to be extremely competitive for receptions, though, as he showed his skill early on with a flashy 52 yard touchdown grab in the red-white spring game in April.
It is anybody’s guess who will be the pass-catching tight end on the roster this year for the Cajuns. The departed leader is Nick Byrne, who accounted for 135 yards on 14 catches. Matt Barnes is the only other tight end on the roster who recorded a catch last season, and he hasn’t seen much action due to an injury. Look for the possibility of freshmen Chase Rogers and Andre Landry battling for snaps in the fall, but don’t expect much of an uptick in reliance on the tight end position in the passing game.
The offensive line returns four out of five starters to the team for the 2017 season. The returners are seniors Grant Horst and D’Aquin Withrow, slated to start as tackles, while sophomores Kevin Dotson and Robert Hunt will be guards. The biggest question for the offensive line is replacing Eddie Gordon at center, to which head coach Mark Hudspeth remarked: “Sophomore Cole Prudhomme, junior college transfer Kordell Brewster and Christian Cederquest are all going to have the opportunity to claim that spot in the fall.” Look for Horst to be a leader on the line, as he has been named to many preseason watch lists, as well as being named a Sun Belt Conference preseason all-american.
With an already chosen starting quarterback and a steady, experienced offensive line leading the charge, the opportunity for other members of the offense to fall into appropriate roles will present themselves early and often during the 2017. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ offense will face some big hurdles this year, but they still maintain the tools to produce on offense.