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Simeon Thomas and Savion Brown Key to UL Lafayette Secondary

The return of what was supposed to be an All Sun Belt Conference performer has Ragin' Cajun faithful feeling better about the struggles of their 2015 defense.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Simeon Thomas was destined be an impact player in the defensive backfield this past season, but off field issues and academic ineligibility completely derailed his 2015 season. After sitting out the entire 2015 season, Thomas is back and is expected to become a big-time performer for the Ragin' Cajuns. While the 6'3, 197 lbs. junior has limited playing experience during his career at UL Lafayette, it's hard not to get excited about him returning to the field.

The Ragin' Cajuns certainly have many questions regarding the offense, but there are equally as many on defense. Thomas looks to be one of the key players to turn around a defense that gave up 31.8 points per game (94th in FBS), 7.9 yards per attempt through the air (97th), and 28 touchdown passes (115th) in 2015. With horrific numbers like that, it's no surprise that the team was one of the worst when it comes to forcing turnovers. The Ragin' Cajuns only recorded five interceptions (116th) and six fumbles recovered (107th) this past season.

Second year defensive coordinator and secondary coach, Melvin Smith, has pushed a 3-4 defense in his time with UL Lafayette, and as we saw last season, it has yet to come with results. With a full year under the team's belt, it's time to improve and Thomas will be at the forefront of that movement.

Thomas' size is a huge plus for this defense as Coach Smith believes he can be a lock-down corner in the Sun belt. If you remember, Thomas was named one of the two defensive MVPs this spring. Being able to plug him into one of the two cornerback positions allows Coach Smith to focus on how to fix the other defensive back positions.

Savion Brown could end up on the other side of the field from Thomas. Brown has been praised just as much as Thomas for his talent as well as his versatility. Last season he generated three of the team's five interceptions. While Brown was named to the second-team All Sun Belt Conference team as a cornerback, he spent most of the spring at safety.

UL Lafayette has a huge number of players in the secondary with 18 players listed as defensive backs, but only four received legitimate playing time in 2015. Question marks among those 14 new players to the defense are why Brown was pushed to get familiar with the safety position this spring.

The Ragin' Cajun secondary also returns their leading tackler, Tracy Walker, Travis Crawford, and Troy McCollum. Walker recorded 74 tackles last season with one interception. Crawford saw plenty of snaps and recorded 45 tackles, while McCollum ended the season with 18 tackles.

Overall, the team sees seven starters back from a 2015 defense that struggled with the hand they were dealt. Injuries and academic issues caused the defense to make changes to their personnel mid-season, but it's the versatility and confidence in Simeon Thomas and Savion Brown that have Ragin' Cajun coaches feeling better about their defense this upcoming season.