Leadership is an intangible quality that veteran players bring to their teams. For many programs, seniors are the source of leadership and they are invaluable to the success of each season. With this in mind, finding playmakers on the offensive side of the ball will be vital for LA-Lafayette during the 2017 season to replace key players that will no longer be a part of the team. It is true that college football sees a lot of turnover in every position year-to-year, but the Ragin’ Cajuns are faced with the uniquely daunting task of replacing their 2016 leaders in passing, rushing, and receiving.
Challenges facing LA-Lafayette in the offensive rushing game will be the most telling for the future of the team. Their linchpin has been running back Elijah McGuire ever since he joined the team in 2013. The now departing senior quickly became a main aspect of the offense, as he has accounted for a third of the team’s carries since 2013 (711 carries for McGuire compared to 2,149 for the entire team over that stretch). Football teams only have a finite amount of chances to run plays in each game, and the notable percentage of times a play was designed to put the ball into the hands of McGuire throughout his tenure emphasizes the trust placed on his shoulders. The Ragin’ Cajuns will have to find a replacement capable of such a substantial workload or work by committee to alleviate the effects of McGuire’s absence.
Another senior who will be leaving LA-Lafayette’s roster is wide receiver Al Riles, who has been in the top three in receptions on the team since 2014. In the 2016 season he led the team with 60 receptions and was also named to the All-Sun Belt Conference first team. Riles leaves behind a corps of young receivers who have proven to be capable in flashes, but will also need to take on a heavier workload to compensate for his absence being that he nearly doubled the amount of receptions of the second-leading receiver on the team (Keenan Barnes with 31).
The final offensive leader we see leaving is quarterback Anthony Jennings. The production was simply not there when it needed to be for Jennings, as his 6.74 yards per passing attempt shows. Despite this, he had experience as a quarterback for LSU prior to his senior transfer to LA-Lafayette, and there is intrinsic leadership thrust upon an experienced senior quarterback. Expectations may not have met reality in this case, but it still leaves a void that will need to be filled by a capable leader. Finding a player to replace Jennings that will greatly improve the caliber of play coming from the quarterback position is imperative for improvement on the offensive side of the ball.
LA-Lafayette’s offense will have to find a way to adjust to the absence of their former offensive leaders heading into the 2017 season. Despite the challenges involved with losing these players, it is a premier opportunity to continue to develop their offensive vision and succeed. Seniors provide younger players with someone to emulate and learn from. Having the privilege to see a senior who has been at it for years carry himself through adversity can have far-reaching effects on a young player’s attitude and work ethic. This season will need to be the year that these young players on the LA-Lafayette roster take what they have learned from the senior leaders and emerge as leaders themselves if the Ragin’ Cajuns hope to be an offensive force in the Sun Belt.