From 2006-2009, Chris Lanaux lined up on the Louisiana defensive line and wrecked havoc. Recording 25 tackles and 5 sacks, Lanaux was a solid point in a struggling Louisiana defense. Now as the color commentator for Louisiana’s football broadcasts, Chris throws out all kinds of what’s called “Lanaux’s Logic” to give listeners a better understanding of what’s happening in the game.
Earlier this week, Chris sat down with me to talk about the upcoming 2020 football season.
Matt Miguez: After the 2019 season, what are your expectations for 2020?
Chris Lanaux: First of all, these are unprecedented times that we are living in. Today, how I may feel about the upcoming 2020 season is mostly a reflection of what we, sports fans, have been enduring for the past 4 plus months. That is, let’s hope and pray we have a healthy, full season. Now, getting to the question; whereas fans may have expectations, players have goals. Going into 2020 immediately after the 2019 campaign, a season of which we saw a Cajun defense under then defensive coordinator Ron Roberts make tremendous strides, I expected the 2020 defensive unit to continue to elevate up the overall NCAA rankings. That was then, this is now. With Ron Roberts taking a job in Waco, TX to take over the defensive duties under current head coach Dave Aranda, this now gives a tremendous opportunity for newly promoted Patrick Toney to take over. If Toney can continue to improve a defense that was amongst one of the best in the G5 then I believe the ultimate goal for this 2020 football team should be to go undefeated in a very capable schedule with hopes of participating in a New Year’s Six Bowl game (if the games are to exist). As for my expectations? Heck, I was a player. I would be damned if I felt any different.
Matt: Looking at the 2020 recruiting class, is there a freshman that you think can make an immediate impact this season?
Chris: The newly signed class will result in some fascinating Ragin’ Cajun football to come. Where last year we saw Kendall Wilkerson, Peter Leblanc, O’Cyrus Torrence, Dalvin Hutchinson and Neal Johnson receive significant playing time along with Jax Harrington and Tyler Brown getting time on the field but maintaining their redshirt status, I believe if Ragin’ Cajun fans were to see an impact be made from this most recent class then it would come from the defensive secondary. What was evident about this class was the girth and overall physical prowess from both the cornerback and safety position. These guys have the physical ability to become playmakers in the secondary for the years to come. If I were to choose just one of these players to make an immediate impact on the 2020 defense, my hunch says Trey Amos, the Catholic High, New Iberia product. I can see Patrick Toney utilizing Amos’ freakish athletic ability, along with his size, to either freelance in the safety position or cover the TE one-on-one in man personnel. If not Amos, any other of these freshman secondary playmakers would not shock me if their name gets called and answers the bell.
Matt: How do you replace guys like Robert Hunt and Kevin Dotson? Who can fill massive shoes like that?
Chris: Last year was mostly a roller coaster ride, a total antithesis from the 2018 campaign, for the offensive line. After losing Cole Prudhomme in the Spring of 2019, it was important for both Kevin Dotson and Robert Hunt to anchor the offensive line in a way which Cajun fans have never seen. I said this on the airwaves and I will repeat it once again; “Louisiana football will never again witness a more dominant duo than the likes of Kevin Dotson and Robert Hunt”. I meant that with every fiber of my being. What’s important to understand is that this is not at all an indictment for Ragin’ Cajun football in the future when it comes to talent along the offensive line. What I am truly saying is that this was a testament to just how great those two athletes were. You cannot “replace” a Kevin Dotson and a Robert Hunt, but what you can do is recreate them, and you do that by the aggregate. What some Cajun fans may fail to realize is that by 2019’s dismay comes 2020’s fortune. With both Ken Marks and Cole Prudhomme being injured early in the 2019 season (Prudhomme in the Spring) both have been granted medical redshirts and return for their senior season in 2020. With Max Mitchell potentially moving to the RT position (let me be clear this is total speculation on my part) I can see a scenario where O’ Cyrus Torrence moves to LT, Marks to LG, Prudhomme at center and Max Mitchell to RT. The RG position will be open for contention during Fall camp and I expect there to be a fierce battle. As well as Shane Vallot performed in stepping in for an injured Cole Prudhomme, it is possible Shane can retain his position at center while Prudomme moves to RG. Coach Rob Sale will have many options.
Matt: Who will be the most electrifying player on the 2020 offense for Billy Napier?
Chris: The key word is “electrifying”. Where I believe Levi Lewis will be the most “productive” player on the roster due to the shotgun spread offense that we will see a heavy dose of, the most electrifying will be Chris Smith. In a position that was then utilized by NFL draftee Raymond Calais, Chris Smith will have many more opportunities to stamp his name as one of the most skilled position players in the league. No matter where on the field, Chris Smith became a threat to score on the limited action he saw in 2019. He didn’t get many opportunities to run the ball (and why the hell would you if you’ve got three proven NFL potential RB’s ahead of you) but when he did he made sure they counted. Look for this guy to become a lightning rod for this Cajun offense.
Matt: How do you feel about our RB group? Is it one of the best in the country?
Chris: I saw a report from Jim Nagy who is the Executive Director of the prestigious Reese’ Senior Bowl where he listed Alabama #1 then Louisiana #2 as the best senior RB tandems in all the land. Personally, I have no idea. What I do know is that this RB class in 2020 will be, without a doubt, the best in the history of Ragin’ Cajun football. Yes, losing Calais stings but having returned two polished bulldozer style RB’s in the backfield to go along with a formidable passing game and stout offensive line, opposing defensive coordinators will be lobbying for their respective offenses to run the ball, game clock management style, just to keep the Cajun offense off the field. This will be a season to rewrite the entire Cajun offensive record book.
Matt: Prediction time: do the Cajuns finally slay the beast that is App State and win the Sun Belt?
Chris: I said last year that the then 2019 Ragin’ Cajun football team was still just one recruiting class away to eventually “slay the dragon” in Appalachian State. You do NOT want to overlook Arkansas State and Georgia Southern albeit both will have to play on our home turf, but Appalachian State still remains the gold standard. Looking back at 2019, what was most promising about the overall play of Levi Lewis was the maturation process week-to-week. If you had to describe Lewis’ 2019 season on an X/Y graph, it would be linear trending upwards. Levi, after I believed was a lackluster, typical first start outing against an SEC opponent in Miss State, has done nothing but get better and better each week. I expect Lewis to create chaos for opposing defensive coordinators in the film room for weeks to come. Heck, he’s probably been doing it for the past several months. As for App, Zac Thomas does return at the helm for the QB position along with his favorite targets in WR’s Corey Sutton and Thomas Hennigan (102 receptions and 13 TD’s between the two) while maintaining a very stout offensive line. Where App may suffer early on is the defensive side of the ball. They lost the Defensive MVP in Akeem Davis-Gaither as well as their top two safeties in Josh Thomas and Desmond Franklin. App State loved to use their big physical safeties in the box to stop the run and that is what helped stymie the run game of the Louisiana offense the past couple of seasons. We will see early on if App has the horses to fulfill those two big positions but if they don’t, then I expect a Louisiana offense to have it’s way running the football. This is all regardless of playing in Boone, NC which, let’s be very honest, has become almost a 2nd home to me the past couple of years.
I would like to thank Chris for taking the time to sit down with me and talk about the 2020 season.
You can hear him every weekend with Jay Walker on the Learfield IMG College football broadcasts on ESPN1420 AM.
For more great Ragin Cajuns content, follow my UL sports podcast Ragin Review on Facebook and Twitter @RaginReview. You can listen wherever you get your podcast.