Mark Hudspeth was widely seen as a guy who would get a much bigger position just a few short years ago. Hudspeth led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 9-4 record and a bowl win in four straight seasons to start off his tenure, but the team was 15-22 in the last three years. In the end, it led to Hudspeth getting fired at the end of last season. It’s amazing how quickly things can change.
Billy Napier was hired as the new head coach for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Napier was an assistant head coach at Arizona State last year, and prior to that he was a wide receivers coach at Alabama for several years. Napier brought Rob Sale with him to take over as the Louisiana offensive coordinator. Sale was the run game coordinator/offensive line coach last year at Arizona State. Sale was the first hire Napier made, and the team will count on his extensive background as an offensive line coach at multiple schools to help pave the way for an improved offense. The new defensive coordinator is Ron Roberts. He was the coach at Southeast Louisiana for the past six years. He went 42-29 during that time span. Roberts describes his defensive scheme as attacking and multilayered.
Louisiana was under recruiting restrictions the past three years, and that definitely hurt the team. They had 11 fewer scholarships over a three year period. It’s up to the new coaching staff to get this program back on the right track.
Louisiana’s season win total is set at 4.5 wins at 5Dimes, with the juice on the under sitting at -120. Louisiana is +4,500 to win the Sun Belt.
|09/15/18||@ Mississippi State||Loss|
|10/06/18||@ Texas State||Win|
|10/13/18||New Mexico State||Loss|
|10/20/18||@ Appalachian State||Loss|
|11/24/18||@ UL Monroe||Loss|
Louisiana returns eight starters on offense from last year’s squad. The Ragin’ Cajuns improved quite a bit on offense last season. They averaged 5.8 yards per play. They averaged 28.2 points per game. That isn’t bad for a team that had to play three quarterbacks due to injuries. Jordan Davis saw the most time under center, but he left the team this spring, and Andre Nunez and Levi Lewis are assumed to be battling it out for the starting spot. There is quality depth at quarterback, and I think Louisiana is in pretty good shape here.
The Ragin’ Cajuns return their top eight pass catchers from last year. The passing game wasn’t efficient enough last year, but they should improve this season as long as everyone picks up the new scheme quickly. The mix of depth and experience makes the wide receiver spot a clear strength for Louisiana.
Sale is sure to work hard on the running game at Louisiana. The good news for him is he does have solid talent to work with in the backfield. Trey Ragas was great in his freshman season at running back, and he should be one of the best runners in the Sun Belt this year. Elijah Mitchell is another physical runner who should get plenty of carries. The decider of how well this team will run the ball is going to be the offensive line. They will have a couple new starters, but Louisiana is going to have a huge offensive front, and I think Sale could do a nice job with this unit.
Why did this team lose 7 games a year ago? They allowed 40.0 points per game and 6.6 yards per play. That’s some terrible defense, and it is something that will need to be taken care of before they can compete for a Sun Belt title again. Only three starters return from last year’s defense, but that might be a good thing. Ron Roberts needs to put his imprint on this unit. He’ll use a three man front and try to give this defense an attacking identity from the start.
Louisiana’s opponents converted on 48.5% of their third down conversion attempts a year ago. In only one game did they hold their opponent to less than 35% on third down. The defensive line isn’t deep at all. The team will be playing a 3-4 defense, but even with only 3 linemen injuries could lead to problems here. Garrald McDowell has the highest upside of the linemen. He transferred in from Ole Miss. I do expect the team to get at least somewhat better at the linebacker spot. Joe Dillon was moved around too much last year. Dillon showed how good he can be a couple years ago, and he should be a defensive leader this season as well. The secondary should be in good shape at the safety spots, but they appear weak at the cornerback positions.
It’s new systems all around for this team, and you never know how that will go in year one. The non-conference schedule is brutal with games at Mississippi State and Alabama. They start Sun Belt play by hosting Coastal Carolina and then going to Texas State. Louisiana needs to be 2-0 after those first couple games in the conference, because things get a lot tougher later in conference action.
Win Total Pick: Louisiana under 4.5 wins
I don’t have a strong opinion here. A slight lean to the under. There are a lot of unknowns for Louisiana. They do have quite a bit of talent returning on offense, but the defense is a major question mark. Roberts’ teams at SE Louisiana often won because of their big offensive numbers, so the jury is out on how the defense will fare under him. This team could go 7-5 and it wouldn’t surprise me, but they could go 2-10 or 3-9 and it wouldn’t be shocking either.