Louisiana held its final scrimmage of the 2015 Spring on Saturday at Cajun Field. Unlike last year, which due to injury was just a glorified pass skel secession, the Cajuns were able to hold a full 11 on 11 scrimmage. The scrimmage was to consist of four, ten minute quarters, but to speed the game up, Coach Hud used a running eight minute clock in the second half.
The Cajuns would wind up playing 12 series in front of a nice crowd on a picture perfect South Louisiana Saturday evening. The starters and back ups would play in 11 of the 12 series, with non-scholarship walkons getting to play the final series. When the final whistle blew, the Cajun offense edged the Cajun defense 20-17. Lets take a look at what the Cajuns did well and what still needs some work.
Linebackers: If Saturday is any indication, the linebacker corps without a doubt will be the strong part of the Louisiana defense in 2015. Otha Peters, a 6-2, 228 pound transfer from Arkansas looked every bit the part of an SEC linebacker. He finished the day with three stops, could be found flying all over the field and even produced a bone rattling hit on quarterback Brooks Haack. All of the quarterbacks in Saturday's scrimmage were live. Tre'maine Lightfoot saw time next to Peters with the first team, he looked every bit as big and physical as Peters. Lightfoot came on strong at the end of 2014 and appears to have carried that momentum into spring practice.
Takeaways: The Cajun defense forced two takeaways in the short scrimmage on Saturday. After struggling to take the ball away in 2014, it was encouraging to see the defense come away with both an interception and recover a fumble.
Rushing Attack: With Alonzo Harris gone to graduation, the Cajuns are searching for someone to be able to spell 2014 Sun Belt Player of the Year, Elijah McGuire when needed. Saturday's scrimmage saw a lot of backs make their case for playing time in the fall. Torrey Pierce took the scrimmages first play and busted up the middle for a gain of 32 yards. Pierce would finish the afternoon with 39 yards rushing but also catch two balls for 15 yards. Montrel Carter also rushed for 39 yards on the afternoon, but looked extremely fast and shifty. Carter, who has been slowed by injuries throughout his Cajun career, finally appears to be healthy and ready to contribute if needed. True freshman Walter Williams turned some heads when the 6-0, 200 pounder galloped to the end zone on a 66 yard run. Williams, did however fumble after taking a hit from TJ Posey on the games fourth series. Darius Hoggins pitched in with 29 yards on four carries and Effrem Reed scored one touchdown on three touches. Elijah McGuire did not participate in the scrimmage.
Kicking Game: For the first time in a long time, Louisiana will be replacing both of its specialist from the previous season. As The Advertiser's Tim Buckley reported, freshman punter Steven Coutts booted three balls for an average of 36.4 yards.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>P Steven Coutts averaged 36.4 yards with a long of 51 and three downed inside the 20 in UL's spring game.</p>— Tim Buckley (@TDARaginCajuns) <a href="https://twitter.com/TDARaginCajuns/status/581990288949788672">March 29, 2015</a></blockquote>
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While the average will not "wow" anyone, he showed the ability to hit three different types of punts. The Australian hit a high hangar, low line drive and a rugby style punt. Place kickers Dylan Scheurich and Aaron Bird, both freshman, each connected on their field goal attempts. Scheurich nailed a 47 yarder and Bird boomed home a 37 yarder.
Injury Free: Thankfully Athletic Trainer Travis Soileau was only called into action once on Saturday. Offensive lineman Donovan Williams was hurt when trying to chase down Domonique Jones as he made his way to the endzone. After a brief stint on the sideline, Williams was able to return to action.
The Not So Good
No #1 Quarterback: Coach Hud has yet to name a starter and if I had to guess, I would say Louisiana will play at least two guys at Kentucky in the season opener. Brooks Haack, Jalen Nixon and Jordan Davis have been battling all spring for the starting quarterback job. Haack, took the field first followed by Nixon and then Davis. On Saturday Haack led the way going 6-13 for just 52 yards. In his defense, he had several balls dropped and the play calling was very vanilla but at the same time he missed several receivers on deep balls down the field. Nixon finished the afternoon 2-5 for 27 yards and one interception while redshirt freshman completed three of five passes for 22 yards. Haack is clear favorite to win the job, but will have to play better than he did on Saturday if the Cajuns are to make anyone noise in 2015.
Defense Giving Up Chunk Yards: In 2014, Louisiana fell victim to the big play all too often and after the first play of the scrimmage, Cajun fans were quickly reminding that the defense under new coordinator Melvin Smith is certainly still a work in progress. The Cajun offense ripped off an opening touchdown drive that saw them march right down the field and score in only six plays. The biggest play of the opening drive was a 32 yard rush by Torrey Pierce. Later on in the scrimmage, the defense would allow a 66 yard run for a score.
Overall more good than bad came out of Saturday, which is all you can really ask for in a Spring game. Plenty of work still remains for the Cajuns, who still have one practice scheduled for this spring. Hudspeth shared his thoughts on the overall performance telling ragincajuns.com "We still saw some mistakes by some young kids, but we saw some flashes from them. We've got to keep working with them, keep developing those players, but I think we've created some depth this spring." Louisiana will kick off the 2015 season when they travel to Kentucky to face the Wildcats on September 5th.