UL Lafayette Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

Posted Aug 8, 2006

UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – The First – Where ever you go and whatever you do, being the first to do anything is special.  The first man to walk on the moon.  The first defensive player to win the Heisman.  The first rap music star.  The first one is always remembered, always thought of in a special light.  In that case, Tyrell Fenroy etched his name in the ULL record books for eternity as the first RB to ever rush for 1,000 yards.  Brian Mitchell once did it for the Ragin’ Cajuns, but as a QB, so for Fenroy to finally break the seal on the 1,000 yard season, it couldn’t have come at a better time.  With multi-threat QB Jerry Babb in and out of the lineup with injuries, the offense would’ve been truly stagnant without the running of Fenroy last season.  The true freshman power back ran for 1,053 yards on only 179 carries, a stellar 5.9 yards per carry average and he should be the focal point for the Ragin’ Cajuns offense again this season.  Whether Babb or Michael Desormeaux are behind center, ULL has a versatile rushing threat taking snaps, so Fenroy’s presence, along with one of the two QBs, gives head coach Ricky Bustle and the offensive staff a go-to carry hog who benefits from defenses that have to account for the two QBs running ability.  But, before long, Fenroy will be the guy that teams must focus on, and when that happens, watch how good this ULL offense becomes.  Well, that’s exactly what happened over the last half of the season as Fenroy ran for over 140 yards per game in the final third of the season and the Ragin’ Cajuns probably looked as good offensively as at any time in school history.  With the youngster fully entrenched in the starting spot to start the season, ULL should be a consistent 440+ yard per game offense.  Then, maybe another first will take place – an outright SBC championship and a New Orleans Bowl.

2nd and Seven – Bookends – Fenroy gets all the publicity, and the offensive line always gets overshadowed, right?  Well, not in this case.  The two ULL offensive tackles, Brandon Cox and Jesse Newman, might be the best pair of tackles in the conference.  Cox was first team All-SBC last season and as the team’s focus fell more on the running game, his role was that much more defined and necessary.  Over the last three games of the season, the Ragin’ Cajuns ran the ball 61, 65 and 67 times which is music to offensive linemen’s ears.  Newman was second team All-SBC and didn’t allow a sack last season.  Now, with a mobile pair of QBs, that’s not as impressive as might sound, but still ULL did throw the ball 237 times last season.  The middle of the line has some holes, but if Bustle and his staff can find some solid replacements, this line will be extremely good.  Especially with the great bookend tackles.

3rd and Three – Strengths and Weaknesses – Similar to the way that running backs are only as good as their offensive lines, linebackers are typically only as good as their defensive line.  In that case, well, it’s hard to really say how this front seven will perform this year.  The linebackers returning, starters Mark Risher and Brenton Burkhalter, combined for 112 tackles last season and should be the leaders of the defense.  The flip side is the defensive line that is perceived as the defense’s weakness, especially up the middle.  DE Anthony Hills is a potential All-SBC candidate, but the interior of the line returns one starter Marshall Delesdernier who isn’t a guy who demands double teams throughout a game.  The good news is that Korey Raymond, a JUCO transfer, should fill the other tackle spot and should keep guards and centers off of Risher, Burkhalter and inside backer Tre Green.

4th and One – So close, oh so close – Ricky Bustle came to Lafayette thinking championships, but this remodeling project took a little more effort than even Bustle had imagined.  But, then last year, when everything seemingly could go wrong – Hurricane Katrina off the field and Babb’s injuries on the field – the Ragin’ Cajuns had their best season in quite some time.  But, a three point loss to Arkansas State kept them from playing at home for a bowl game, the first since 1970’s Rice Bowl against Tennessee State.  The Rice Bowl?!?  Either way, after that loss, the Ragin’ Cajuns were 1 – 5.  Five games later, they were 6 – 5.  The turnaround is nearly complete, but it won’t be completely finished until ULL wins the conference outright.  After two ‘guarantee’ games at LSU and Texas A&M, keep an eye on this team, as they’re the favorite to win the SBC this year.  Is that pressure?  Sure, but that’s the type of pressure Bustle, his staff and his players crave.

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