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Ragin’ Cajun 2017 Season Preview: Defense

Despite losing their top two tacklers, the Cajuns return a solid corps of players looking to be a source of strength for the team during the 2017 season.

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NCAA Football: New Orleans Bowl-Southern Mississippi at UL Lafayette Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Previously: Offense

It’s not always easy to name a “starter” when it comes to the modern defense. Different situations require different personnel and schemes, meaning that a team may need to add an extra defensive lineman in one instance while they need to add extra defensive backs in another.

For this reason, we will take a look at the top two players in each defensive position according to the Ragin’ Cajuns officially released depth chart. The 2017 football media guide for the Ragin’ Cajuns lists the following as their depth chart going into this season:

Defensive End: Jarvis Jeffries, Bennie Higgins

Defensive Tackle: Kevon Perry, LaDarrius Kidd

Nose Tackle: Taboris Lee, Tra’Vontae Booker

Bandit: Trevara Miller, Terrence Jones

Slash: Corey Turner, Julius Perkins

Middle Linebacker: TJ Posey, Tanner Holmes

Weak Linebacker: Joe Dillon, Jacques Boudreaux

Left Cornerback: Levarious Varnado, DJ Miller

Strong Safety: Tracy Walker, Blair Brooks

Free Safety: Travis Crawford, Denarius Howard

Right Cornerback: Damar’ren Mitchell, Troy McCollum

Bandit and Slash?

Two terms may stand out in this depth chart even to those who know football and what positions are typically on the field. The terms “bandit” and “slash” refer to positions designed to have multiple duties throughout the game that are not mutually exclusive amongst the defensive line, linebacker, or defensive back positions.

For different teams at both the collegiate and professional football levels these terms may be slightly different or have a different set of responsibilities, but here are the most relevant definitions in regards to the Cajuns’ defense:

  • Bandit: hybrid between defensive end and outside linebacker; serves as a stand up outside linebacker or moves down into a three point stance as a defensive end
  • Slash: hybrid between strong safety an linebacker; serves as an extra defensive back or moves closer down into the box as a linebacker

The two players named as bandits on the depth chart, Trev Miller and Terrence Jones, are officially listed as defensive ends on the roster. This speaks more to the defensive scheme that the Cajuns run, and how some of their defensive ends need to be athletic enough to play in a hybrid position.

Slash is an interesting term used on defense, because it has been traditionally used in an offensive context. A slash player is literally a player that can be viewed as having a “slash” in their position listing (for this instance, LB/DB). While Corey Turner is listed as a defensive back and Julius Perkins is listed as a linebacker, they are both deemed “slash” worthy by the depth chart and could just as easily have been listed as LB/DB.

Preseason All Americans

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - Nevada v Louisiana Lafayette
Tracy Walker
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Three defensive players were named to the 2017 Sun Belt all-conference teams leading into this season. Joe Dillon (defensive end, linebacker) was the sole player to be given first team honors, while Tracy Walker (safety) and Taboris Lee (defensive tackle) were named to the second team.

Dillon led the team a season ago in tackles for loss and was named to USA Today’s Freshman All-American team. Walker finds himself as a preseason all-Sun Belt pick for the third year, following a season where he recorded 61 tackles and led the team in interceptions with 3. Lee was also selected to the 2016 preseason all-Sun Belt squad and looks to continues to contribute in a big way to the Ragin’ Cajuns’ defensive squad after scoring his first touchdown on a pick-six last season against Arkansas State.

The theme of the year for the Ragin’ Cajuns on offense will be replacing key parts that lost from a season ago. The team will have to do the same for the defense, but they do not have to replace nearly as many parts. Otha Peters and Tre’maine Lightfoot were the top two tacklers for the Cajuns’ defense in 2016 and they will no longer be a part of the squad this year. While they leave a big gap with their departure, the defense will look to build on a lot of the experience that they have returning for the 2017 season.