2011 Louisiana Preview
Louisiana TE Ladarius Green
Louisiana TE Ladarius Green
Posted Jul 15, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns

Louisiana Ragin' Cajunss

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Mark Hudspeth
1st year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 19, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Louisiana Players
1. TE Ladarius Green, Sr.
2. QB Chris Masson, Sr.
3. LB Devon Lewis-Buchanan, Sr.
4. CB Dwight Bentley, Sr.
5. CB Melvin White, Jr.
6. C Andre Huval, Soph.
7. RB Aaron Spikes, Soph.
8. SS Lionel Stokes, Sr.
9. QB Blaine Gautier, Jr.
10. QB/FB Brad McGuire, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sept. 3 at Oklahoma State
Sept. 10 at Kent State
Sept. 17 Nicholls State
Sept. 24 at FIU
Oct. 1 Florida Atlantic
Oct. 8 Troy
Oct. 15 North Texas
Oct. 22 at WKU
Oct. 29 at Middle Tenn.
Nov. 5 ULM
Nov. 12 at Arkansas State
Nov. 26 at Arizona

After years of being decent, with four six-win seasons in five years, Louisiana-Lafayette found ways to lose to a lot of bad teams, finished 3-9, and ended the Rickey Bustle era after a respectable nine years. Now it's time to take things up a notch.

Mark Hudspeth made the Mississippi State offense go last year, and while the Bulldogs didn't put a ton of points on the board, averaging just 29 per game, the running attack was among the best in the country and was second in the SEC. His goal is to do the same for a Ragin' Cajun ground attack that was one of the worst in America, averaging just 101 yards per game, while looking to get more pop overall. The players are in place to do it, but the team has to start winning all the games it's supposed to.

The Sun Belt is always there for the taking and a team can quickly rise up and become the league's star. Last year, Louisiana was blown out by Georgia, Ole Miss, and Oklahoma State – although it gave the Cowboys a game early on – and shockingly got blasted by Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. Out of the nine losses, only a 24-23 battle with Florida Atlantic and a 31-24 defeat to Troy were by a touchdown or less, while two of the three wins came by one point and the third victory was by just a touchdown over Arkansas State. Basically, the Ragin' Cajuns were blown out way too often, and they were really, really close for a truly disastrous year. But now things should quickly change.

Hudspeth is going to try to speed things up a bit for the attack and will be looking to rotate the backs and get more production on the ground from the quarterbacks. There will be a balance, but all things will work through a ground game that needs to barrel away behind a huge line. The passing attack will revolve around tight end Ladarius Green, one of the most dangerous pass catchers in the nation, and there's enough speed and athleticism in the backfield and at key spots to start to do far more after averaging just 351 yards and 22 points per game.

The defense gets most of the key parts back, but it needs to find a steady pass rush and has to stop someone from throwing the ball. The Ragin' Cajuns finished dead last in the Sun Belt in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. If Western Kentucky is putting up 54 points on the board, you have problems.

There's a lot of work to be done, but this isn't going to be another down year. There are options at several key positions, and if the coaching staff knows what it's doing, it should be able to find the right combinations and the right parts to make a quick change. This team should be three wins better, but the program got six win on a regular basis under Bustle. Hudspeth has to make the team four wins better.

What to watch for on offense: Getting the quarterback situation right. Hudspeth was used to dealing with a decent quarterback controversy at Mississippi State with Tyler Russell and Chris Relf two starting-caliber playmakers who needed to see time. Relf, partly because of injury, emerged as the main man, and now the coaching staff needs to figure out which of the three good quarterback options should lead the Ragin' Cajuns. Chris Masson is the best of the lot, and he has the leadership and experience to know what he's doing, but he might not be the runner the coaches are looking for. Blaine Gautier is mobile and can make things happen in a variety of ways, but he's not going to bomb away. Brad McGuire will end up being a fullback/H-Back again, but he has a live arm and can get the ball down the field.

What to watch for on defense: The corners. If the secondary got the benefit of a pass rush – any pass rush – the world would change for a defense that might have the best corner tandem in the Sun Belt. Melvin White is very tall and is a terrific athlete, but he has to make more big plays and has to use his size to bully more receivers. Dwight "Bill" Bentley is a crusty veteran who has seen it all and doesn't make any mistakes against the run. The two should lock down at times, even after getting ripped apart last year, but they need some semblance of help from the front seven. Providing a boost in the rotation will be JUCO transfer Jemarious Moten and Trevence Pratt, who can both serve as nickel and dime defenders.

The team will be far better if … The line play isn't miserable. The offensive line was awful when it was supposed to be a strength. It's a big front line that couldn't do jack squat in pass protection finishing 116th in the nation in sacks allowed while not doing anything for the ground game. Only two starters are back, but the new coaching staff knows how to get production out of a front five and it'll all start up front. On the other side, the defensive line has to hit a quarterback at some point after failing to provide more than a soft breeze over the last few seasons. The front four wasn't awful against the run, but it couldn't get into the backfield. That has to change with an undersized group that needs to rely on its athleticism.

The schedule: The season starts out dealing with the Oklahoma State offense, and ends up with another shootout at Arizona, and in between it'll be about taking advantage of runs. The Ragin' Cajuns play four home games in six weeks in the middle of the year, including key Sun Belt dates against Florida Atlantic, Troy, and North Texas, and that's it for the fun. It's road trip time from mid-October on, playing four of the last five games on the road with the lone home game coming against ULM. FIU and Arkansas State should be good, and both games are on the road.

Best offensive player: Senior TE Ladarius Green. At 6-6 and 230 pounds he has good size and provides a tough matchup against the smaller defensive backs, and he has the speed to get down the field and stretch things out. He's like a big wide receiver with great route running ability and terrific hands, catching 98 career passes with 1,585 yards and 14 touchdowns, and he's coming off his best stretch of the year catching six passes in four of the last five games with 100 yards or more with a score in each of them. He'll be a featured target once again for the passing game.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Devon Lewis-Buchanan. While he's not big at just 6-2 and 210 pounds, Lewis-Buchanan is a hitter who can play any of the three linebacker spots. He'll likely start on the strongside, but he might not stay there with the toughness to play in the middle and the speed to work on the weakside. With 63 tackles last year with 2.5 sacks and six broken up passes with six tackles for loss, he can do a little of everything.

Key player to a successful season: Junior OT Leonardo Bates. The Ragin' Cajuns allowed 39 sacks and didn't do anything for the ground game on a regular basis, and it needs one strong veteran to work around and rely on play in and play out. The 6-4, 316-pound Bates has had problems with pass rushers, but he's big, strong, and has the potential to be decent if he can show a little consistency. He's a newcomer to the starting mix, and it he's not great, the offense isn't going to make huge strides.

The season will be a success if … The Ragin' Cajuns win seven games. After years of being a six-win program, and after last year's disaster, the hope has to be to start beating the Western Kentuckys of the world on a regular basis to get the first season with more than six victories since 1993. Forget about the non-conference games against Oklahoma State and Arizona, but beating Kent State is a must for a huge year. Taking advantage of home games against Florida Atlantic, North Texas, and ULM is a must, and an upset or two over a Middle Tennessee or an Arkansas State on the road might be needed, but this team should be good enough to be far better.

Key game: Sept. 24 at FIU. Louisiana wasn't awful in the home finale against the eventual Sun Belt champs, losing 38-17, but a strong defensive performance was wasted with two Darriet Perry touchdown runs in the final six minutes to pull the Golden Panthers away. This year it's the Sun Belt opener and it's on the road, but if the Ragin' Cajuns can pull it off, they should be in for a big season with three home conference home games to follow.

2010 Fun Stats:
- 1st Quarter Scoring: 34 – 2nd Quarter Scoring: 129
- Sacks: Opponents 39 for 248 yards – Louisiana 17 for 116 yards
- Field Goals: Opponents 23-of-25 – Louisiana 8-of-13

- 2011 Louisiana Preview | 2011 Louisiana Offense
- 2011 Louisiana Defense | 2011 Louisiana Depth Chart