2010 Louisiana Preview
Louisiana LB Grant Fleming
Louisiana LB Grant Fleming
Posted May 5, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns

Louisiana Ragin' Cajunss

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Rickey Bustle
9th year: 38-56
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 19, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Louisiana Players
1. LB Grant Fleming, Sr.
2. QB Chris Masson, Jr.
3. TE Ladarius Green, Jr.
4. LB Daylon McCoy, Sr.
5. CB Dwight Bentley, Jr.
6. CB Orkeys Auriene, Sr.
7. WR Marlin Miller, Sr.
8. OT Jonathan Decoster, Sr.
9. C Ian Burks, Sr.
10. FB/QB Brad McGuire, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 at Georgia
Sept. 11 Arkansas St
Sept. 18 OPEN DATE
Sept. 25 MTSU
Oct. 2 at No. Texas
Oct. 9 Oklahoma St
Oct. 16 at Troy
Oct. 23 WKU
Oct. 30 at Ohio
Nov. 6 at Ole Miss
Nov. 13 Fla Atlantic
Nov. 20 FIU
Nov. 27 at ULM

It's not that Louisiana hasn't been good, and it's not that there haven't been plenty of things to get excited about. It's that the program just can't get over the hump and can't get that one key win each year that could finally bring a bowl bid.

Under head coach Rickey Bustle, the Ragin' Cajuns continue to be solid with three 6-6 seasons in the last four years, and with a 6-5 campaign the season before that, but at some point it would be nice to be able to beat one of the big boys and get full-on into the Sun Belt title chase. Actually, it would be nice to beat all of the little guys and go to a bowl game for the first time in the program's history.

Last year's team didn't have a defense, struggled with the running game on offense, and was wildly inconsistent, yet it still had a chance against Troy, at home, in the season finale to finish with a winning campaign and go to a bowl game. One 48-31 Trojan win later, and it was home for December once again, but Troy was a power and that was an acceptable loss. What wasn't okay was the 20-17 overtime defeat at FIU or the 51-29 home debacle against a mediocre Florida Atlantic.

In 2007 there was a bad, bad loss to McNeese State, in 2006 there was a weird home loss to a miserable North Texas team, along with a gag of a defeat to ULM on the last day, and there was a 28-10 home loss in 2005 to a Florida Atlantic team that only won one other game all year long. It's these kinds of losses that have kept the Cajuns from being very good, and it's been an inability to play with the top tier teams that have kept them from being great.

This year's team should be better on defense, but that's been said for several preseasons now. There's depth, there's talent, and there's experience, but it all has to translate into production with some semblance of a pass rush a must so the back seven isn't consistently taxed. The offense has good pieces to work with in a strong-looking backfield and with several options at receiver, but this might be a jack-of-all-trades attack, master of none without any one thing it can rely on. However, it should be a good offense overall, and with an improved defense and terrific special teams, it really might be time to finally get that elusive 13th game.

What to watch for on offense: How will the quarterback situation play out? Chris Masson is the starter and the star of the attack with good passing skills and just enough running ability to get by, but the Cajuns like their quarterbacks to be dangerous on the move. Blaine Gautier isn't going to replace Masson, but he might see 5-to-10 plays a game in a Wildcat formation, while QB-turned-FB Brad McGuire will play a variety of roles and could become a whale of a short yardage, goal line specialist. The idea is to reduce the wear and tear on Masson while adding more pizzazz to the attack at times.

What to watch for on defense: A terrific rotation in the secondary. The Cajuns have the players in place to be far better against the pass with three starters returning including speedy corners Orkeys Auriene and Dwight Bentley, and an influx of talent will help with Lionel Stokes and Le'Marcus Gibson coming in from the JUCO ranks. Throw in nicklelback Melvin White and a solid free safety in Maurice Rolle, and the potential is there for the secondary to be a strength if …

The team will be far better if … there's some semblance of a pass rush. This has been a major problem area over the last few years and there isn't one sure thing to count on going into this season. The return of end Nate Douglas after he missed all of last season with medical issues will help, but he's not a devastating playmaker in the backfield. Louisiana finished 106th in the nation in sacks and 113th in tackles for loss, and it killed the secondary that had to spend too much time in run support and didn't allow the linebackers to do anything more than clean up messes.

The schedule: The Cajuns can't give away even one Sun Belt home game and will have to be hot early with a brutal late run to deal with. There isn't a layup on the non-conference schedule starting out at Georgia, hosting Oklahoma State in early October, and going to Ohio and Ole Miss on back-to-back dates. There's a brutal run of four road games in the final five with only one home game, against FIU, from October 30th on. Getting Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State at home is a big plus and there can't be a slip against either one with Troy and Florida Atlantic on the road.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Chris Masson. While he wasn't a typical Cajun running quarterback, he still came up with a great all-around season coming two completions shy of the school record for a season while already ranking eighth on the all-time passing list after just one year with 2,478 yards. He has a good, live arm and he's just mobile enough to take off from time to tome.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Grant Fleming. With star playmaker Antwyne Zanders gone, Fleming will move into the middle linebacker spot where he should be an all-star and possibly the team's leading tackler. He was second on the team last season with 89 stops on his way to honorable mention all-Sun Belt honors, and now he should be even better as the leader of the defense.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DE Terrell Richardson. The defensive front four has to come up with more production in the backfield or else the defense just isn't going to work. Richardson is a tackle-sized 6-5 and 270 pounds with good enough quickness to potentially get to the quarterback, but he did next to nothing over the last two seasons to do anything disruptive. He has played in all 36 games in his career and he's overdue to start producing at a higher level.

The season will be a success if … the Cajuns win seven games and go to a bowl. It's time. The program hasn't cracked the six win mark since 1993, but that 8-3 team didn't go bowling. This year's team has enough experience and depth to finally break through, but it'll require some huge Sun Belt wins over very good teams like Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State to get it done.

Key game: Sept. 11 vs. Arkansas State. It's the Sun Belt opener and it will mean everything as more than just a tone-setter. If the Cajuns come up with the win and can beat Middle Tennessee two weeks later, they'll be in the hunt for the Sun Belt title. If they split the two games it's going to take a lot of luck to get in the chase, and the season is over if they lose both.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Penalties: Opponents 88 for 718 yards – Louisiana 66 for 590 yards
- Interception return average: Opponents 26.8 yards – Louisiana 11.4 yards
- Sacks: Louisiana 16 for 117 yards – Opponents 13 for 86 yards

- 2010 Louisiana Preview | 2010 Louisiana Offense
- 2010 Louisiana Defense | 2010 Louisiana Depth Chart
- Louisiana Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006