The big 2014 UL-Lafayette football preview: Year of the Cajun, Take 2

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

UL-Lafayette claimed a conference title and won nine games for the third straight year. Can the Cajuns break through with 10 or 11 wins and a non-conference upset in Terrance Broadway's senior season?

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1. Grown-ass men

"As we looked at the Sun Belt and what we have to compete with on a year-in, year-out basis," [Dennis] Franchione said. "We looked at UL-Lafayette and said, 'OK, guys, when you go out to recruit, if they can play in that, that’s what we’re looking for.'"

When I was preparing Monday's Texas State preview, I came across this Signing Day quote from TXST head coach Franchione. To rephrase: When we go out to recruit, we want guys who look like that.

In 2011, Mark Hudspeth took over a UL-Lafayette program that had never been to a bowl game and hadn't finished better than 6-5 since 1993. Rickey Bustle had just spent nearly a decade oscillating between 6-6 and 3-9, but couldn't ever get the Ragin' Cajuns over the hump. Check out the tone of my Cajuns preview in 2011:

Hudspeth appears to be an absolutely tremendous hire for Ragin' University. He went 44-8 in his last four years at North Alabama, and he seemed to play a pretty strong role in Mississippi State's recent offensive improvement. He has extreme familiarity with the region and success in a number of different offensive roles. But here's where I ask the same question I asked of ULM: what exactly is the ceiling here even if Hudspeth -- an enthusiastic dude, for what it's worth -- is the best coach in Ragin' Cajun history? [...]

For much of Bustle's tenure, UL-L was a league-average Sun Belt team, but they slipped the last couple of seasons. The Ragin' Cajuns have the second-worst recruiting average in the country, and they only return 10 starters. [...] The winner of the quarterbacks derby should be a good one, though, and with a weapon like [Ladarius] Green and a great offensive mind like Hudspeth, one has to assume the offense will improve. But improving in this case just means recovering the team's status as an average Sun Belt team. In other words, 2011 will likely be a baby steps year for Hudspeth and UL-L.

Or improvement could mean jumping from 3-9 to 9-4, then remaining in nine-win territory for two more years.

What Hudspeth has done in Lafayette -- in making the most of what he inherited, then building the deepest, most athletic program in the Sun Belt in a short amount of time -- has been staggering. That he's still in Lafayette for a fourth season is a pleasant surprise as well.

2. An encore

It's not supposed to work this way. When a mid-major returns a star quarterback (Terrance Broadway), skill position difference-makers (Alonzo Harris, Darryl Surgent, Jamal Robinson), an experienced offensive line, and a host of defensive play-makers (tackles Justin Hamilton, linebacker Justin Anderson, etc.), it's supposed to be a one-time-only thing. You're not supposed to get a do-over if things don't quite work out as intended.

I proclaimed that 2013 would be the "Year of the Ragin' Cajun," that the Cajuns would win the conference, that they would potentially take down either Arkansas or Kansas State early in the year, and that they had a legitimate shot at an 11-1 record and a finish in the polls.

Some of those things happened, others didn't. The Cajuns played lackluster ball against UA and KSU and lost Broadway to injury late in the year. A midseason win over Arkansas State indeed gave them an eventual conference title, but without Broadway, they suffered late losses to ULM and South Alabama and needed a New Orleans Bowl victory to get back to nine wins.

This is usually where the coach gets hired away by a major-conference program, the quarterback graduates, and the defensive difference-makers leave. Instead, almost everybody is back for another go-round. Broadway is a senior, the skill position depth is even better, the line is even more experienced, and a relatively disappointing defense returns almost its entire two-deep.

UL-Lafayette is bigger, stronger, faster, and more experienced this time around. And the schedule is easier.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 6-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 86
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug at Arkansas 87 14-34 L 19.3 - 42.7 L
7-Sep at Kansas State 24 27-48 L 25.9 - 32.7 L
14-Sep Nicholls State N/A 70-7 W 44.9 - 27.3 W
21-Sep at Akron 108 35-30 W 30.6 - 37.6 L
5-Oct Texas State 107 48-24 W 45.0 - 20.6 W 1.0
15-Oct at Western Kentucky 77 37-20 W 33.2 - 30.8 W 6.1
22-Oct at Arkansas State 90 23-7 W 27.5 - 14.7 W 10.1
2-Nov New Mexico State 122 49-35 W 35.8 - 30.6 W 7.6
7-Nov Troy 105 41-36 W 33.4 - 25.8 W 10.5
16-Nov at Georgia State 121 35-21 W 38.0 - 40.3 L 5.2
30-Nov UL-Monroe 109 28-31 L 34.1 - 38.7 L 3.8
7-Dec at South Alabama 68 8-30 L 9.1 - 23.8 L -1.7
21-Dec vs. Tulane 70 24-21 W 26.2 - 41.1 L -5.7
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -1.5% 66 -9.0% 98 +0.8% 51
Points Per Game 33.8 34 26.5 63
Adj. Points Per Game 31.0 48 31.3 96

3. A false start and a flailing finish

That a 9-4 season felt disappointing is impressive in and of itself, but the start and finish to 2013 certainly left something to be desired.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 2 games): Opponent 37.7, UL-L 22.6 (minus-15.1)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 8 games): UL-L 36.1, Opponent 28.5 (plus-7.6)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 3 games): Opponent 34.5, UL-L 23.1 (minus-11.4)

Broadway suffered a broken wrist during the ULM game, and backup Brooks Haack fell victim to a South Alabama team playing dynamite ball in the season finale; Broadway was considered a longshot to play against Tulane in the bowl, but he somehow did so. He was far from great against an awesome Tulane secondary -- 12-for-19 for 143 yards, two picks, and four sacks -- but he gave the Cajuns an early jolt of life, and it ended up being just enough. They scored on two of their first three drives, then leaned on turnovers to take the 24-21 win.

Still, the sketchy early performances and the banged-up finish put a lower ceiling on 2013 than I originally anticipated.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.16 54 IsoPPP+ 95.6 88
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.5% 27 Succ. Rt. + 102.5 49
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.7 46 Def. FP+ 99.4 66
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.9 12 Redzone S&P+ 112.1 23
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.6 ACTUAL 22 +1.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 57 62 50 85
RUSHING 26 65 55 55
PASSING 82 45 55 94
Standard Downs 55 54 66
Passing Downs 72 59 101
Q1 Rk 21 1st Down Rk 45
Q2 Rk 64 2nd Down Rk 74
Q3 Rk 92 3rd Down Rk 63
Q4 Rk 92

4. The big plays dissipated

Big plays were a strength for the Cajuns in 2012, and with so many pieces back it was easy to assume that would be the case again last fall.

For whatever reason, it wasn't. While Broadway's per-completion yardage remained above 14 yards, and the ground game remained efficient, the big rushing plays were harder to find. Opponents were more prepared to hem in Broadway -- after averaging 7.3 highlight yards per opportunity in 2012, he averaged only 3.7 in 2013 (Johnny Manziel saw the same thing happen at Texas A&M, which is why I assume defensive preparation was a big cause); plus, Alonzo Harris' explosiveness shrank from 6.2 highlight yards per opportunity to 3.7.

UL-Lafayette leaned on the run more in 2013, and perhaps predictability was an issue. The line was still good enough to create running lanes, but defenses swarmed a bit better. That made the emergence of freshman Elijah McGuire vital to the Cajuns' conference title hopes. In their five conference wins and the ULM loss, McGuire rushed 58 times for 547 yards (9.4 per carry) and four scores. Harris still carried a majority of the load, but McGuire was a fantastic change of pace. He played the role that Melvin Gordon played for Wisconsin in 2012 before Gordon broke out alongside James White in 2013.

I would expect the same development this year. Harris might be a little more effective with fewer carries, and McGuire will probably get a chance to be a No. 1a back of sorts. He earned it.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Terrance Broadway 6'2, 211 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 166 266 2419 19 12 62.4% 22 7.6% 7.9
Brooks Haack 6'1, 215 So. 3 stars (5.6) 21 35 224 1 1 60.0% 4 10.3% 4.9
Jordan Davis 6'4, 163 Fr. 2 stars (5.3)








Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Alonzo Harris RB 6'1, 216 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 199 942 14 4.7 3.7 38.2%
Terrance Broadway QB 6'2, 211 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 109 591 8 5.4 3.7 51.4%
Elijah McGuire RB 5'11, 185 So. 3 stars (5.7) 103 853 8 8.3 8.6 49.5%
Torrey Pierce RB 5'9, 170 Jr. NR 40 188 2 4.7 2.9 42.5%
Montrel Carter RB 5'10, 188 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 17 103 1 6.1 4.0 52.9%
Marcus Jackson RB 5'11, 201 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 15 52 0 3.5 1.8 20.0%
Effrem Reed RB 5'8, 193 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 57 0 5.2 2.3 54.5%
Brooks Haack QB 6'1, 215 So. 3 stars (5.6) 10 32 0 3.2 1.3 30.0%
Jalen Nixon RB 6'2, 218 So. NR 9 34 0 3.8 1.9 44.4%
Darryl Surgent WR 5 20 0 4.0 0.8 60.0%

5. If you've got it, flaunt it

The Cajuns were mostly balanced in 2012, running and passing around the national averages. But in 2013, they trended heavily toward the run. They rushed more than two-thirds of the time on standard downs and 40 percent of the time on passing downs. Sure, Broadway is good at finding a lane and turning a planned pass into a run. But that's only part of it.

Hudspeth and Jay Johnson realized they had a bounty at the running back position and used it. And every back who carried the ball last year -- even exciting reserves like Montrel Carter and Torrey Pierce -- is scheduled to return in the fall. For that matter, so do four starting linemen who have combined for 91 career starts. More carries for McGuire (or a return to form by Harris) could mean more team explosiveness and a top-50 run game once again.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jamal Robinson WR-X 6'4, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 88 54 862 61.4% 29.4% 61.7% 9.8 192 9.6 127.5
Darryl Surgent WR-H 53 31 400 58.5% 17.7% 59.1% 7.5 6 8.2 59.2
James Butler WR-Z 6'3, 205 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 40 26 363 65.0% 13.4% 50.0% 9.1 50 9.4 53.7
Elijah McGuire RB 5'11, 185 So. 3 stars (5.7) 24 22 384 91.7% 8.0% 77.3% 16.0 158 15.1 56.8
Jacob Maxwell TE 22 12 158 54.5% 7.4% 52.9% 7.2 -1 8.5 23.4
Ian Thompson TE 18 10 66 55.6% 6.0% 80.0% 3.7 -65 3.3 9.8
Effrem Reed RB 5'8, 193 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 14 10 100 71.4% 4.7% 33.3% 7.1 -15 9.0 14.8
Devin Figaro WR-X 12 10 183 83.3% 4.0% 33.3% 15.3 76 14.8 27.1
Jared Johnson WR-Z 6'5, 215 So. 2 stars (5.2) 8 6 65 75.0% 2.7% 33.3% 8.1 -2 3.4 9.6
Ricky Johnson WR 7 5 96 71.4% 2.3% 0.0% 13.7 38 2.7 14.2
Devin Scott WR-H 5'11, 180 So. 2 stars (5.4) 3 1 37 33.3% 1.0% 0.0% 12.3 19 16.4 5.5
Nick Byrne TE 6'3, 221 So. 3 stars (5.5) 1 1 4 100.0% 0.3% N/A 4.0 -6 0.0 0.6
Scott Austin WR 6'4, 180 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)









Darius Hoggins WR 5'7, 165 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)









Dylan Bossler WR 6'2, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)









C.J. Bates WR 6'1, 200 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)









Antoinne Adkins WR 5'9, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)









Anthony Jones TE 6'6, 225 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)









6. New toys for Broadway

On a per-pass basis, UL-Lafayette was just fine in the passing game. Broadway averaged about 8.0 yards per pass attempt (more before his injured effort against Tulane), and the big duo of Jamal Robinson and James Butler combined to average 9.6 yards per target over about 10 targets per game. While Darryl Surgent is gone, Robinson and Butler return, and they could conceivably be one of the conference's best one-two punches.

It appears Hudspeth thought they needed some help, however; he signed three junior college transfers, including three-star Dylan Bossier to supplement the ranks. If nothing else, this should help with 2015, when Broadway, Robinson, and Butler are all gone.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 102.4 3.2 3.61 43.9% 77.8% 16.8% 69.1 4.6% 11.7%
Rank 54 24 33 18 11 31 110 62 117
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Andre Huval C 40 1st All-SBC
Daniel Quave RG 6'3, 324 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 39 2nd All-SBC
Mykhael Quave LT 6'5, 295 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 26
Terry Johnson LG 6'2, 275 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 13
Octravian Anderson RT 6'4, 277 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 13
Jarad Martin LT 6'5, 310 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Zach Tarver LG 6'4, 267 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Evyn Perry C 0
Daniel Lemelle RG 0
Greg Siener RT 6'4, 280 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Jeremy Sparks OL 6'5, 288 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.20 88 IsoPPP+ 93.3 100
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.8% 94 Succ. Rt. + 84.9 111
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.1 46 Def. FP+ 97.5 88
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.8 28 Redzone S&P+ 99.9 59
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.2 ACTUAL 23.0 +2.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 57 113 111 104
RUSHING 48 104 107 88
PASSING 81 112 110 110
Standard Downs 115 119 102
Passing Downs 100 83 101
Q1 Rk 95 1st Down Rk 114
Q2 Rk 124 2nd Down Rk 89
Q3 Rk 77 3rd Down Rk 98
Q4 Rk 75

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 94 2.78 3.52 41.5% 63.0% 21.9% 72.3 4.4% 3.6%
Rank 88 41 86 88 38 28 106 66 118
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Dominique Tovell DE 6'2, 248 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 13 52.5 7.7% 11.5 2.0 0 2 2 0
Justin Hamilton NT 6'2, 295 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 30.5 4.4% 9.0 4.0 0 0 1 0
Marquis White NT 6'5, 315 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 9 15.0 2.2% 4.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Christian Ringo DE 6'1, 288 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 9 14.0 2.0% 2.0 1.0 0 2 0 0
Marvin Martin NT 6'3, 286 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 7 11.5 1.7% 4.5 3.0 0 0 2 0
Chris Prater DT 6'5, 246 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 10 9.5 1.4% 3.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Jake Molbert DE 6'1, 217 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 7 9.0 1.3% 1.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Brandon McCray DT 7 8.5 1.2% 1.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Remaine Douglas DE 6'3, 280 So. 2 stars (5.2) 5 5.5 0.8% 1.5 1.5 0 0 0 1
Blain Winston DE 6'4, 261 So. 2 stars (5.2)
Darzil Washington DE 6'3, 230 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Ken Edwards DE 6'6, 250 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)






7. A banged-up line was a strength

As a whole, the Cajun defense was disappointing in 2013. After a decent No. 78 finish in Def. F/+ in 2012, they dropped to 98th in 2013. The pass defense was destined to struggle a bit after the loss of two good pass rushers and both starting corners, and it certainly did. But the run defense regressed, too, which was rather unexpected.

Most of said regression against the run seemed to happen thanks to dropoff in consistency. The line still made plays, ranking 28th in Stuff Rate (negative plays in the backfield); end Dominique Tovell made 9.5 non-sack tackles for loss as as a sophomore, while tackle Justin Hamilton added five, and linebacker Trae Johnson added 5.5. But if opposing runners got out of the backfield, they tended to find some friendly running lanes.

Of course, one figures consistency will indeed be a problem when you can't keep the same guys on the field. Only two linemen and two linebackers played in all 13 games, and quite a few key contributors missed at least four to five games. Using my go-to "injuries hurt in the present tense but help in the future tense" cliché, I can say that the future tense might look pretty good here. Basically every lineman returns, as does every linebacker besides starting mike Justin Anderson. Junior college transfer Darzil Washington (a former Texas A&M signee) and three-star freshman T.J. Posey could demand some playing time as well.

Experience and athleticism won't be an issue this fall. Talent and execution? We'll see.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Justin Anderson MIKE 13 103.0 15.0% 11.0 0.5 1 3 3 2
Al Riles SAM 5'10, 209 So. NR 13 33.0 4.8% 3.5 0.0 1 1 1 0
Chris Hill SAM 5'11, 188 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 11 32.0 4.7% 3.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Trae Johnson WILL 6'1, 232 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 8 27.5 4.0% 5.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Darius Barksdale WILL 6'0, 205 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 8 21.5 3.1% 2.5 1.0 2 2 0 0
Tyren Alexander WILL 6'0, 202 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 9 18.5 2.7% 5.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Boris Anyama SAM 6'3, 221 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 8 15.5 2.3% 3.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Zach Bourque LB 6'0, 180 Sr. NR 8 8.5 1.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Fouquier LB 6'4, 232 So. 2 stars (5.4) 3 5.5 0.8% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Nash LB 3 4.5 0.7% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Andrew Hebert LB 3 4.5 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Christian Sager MIKE 6'0, 222 Sr. NR 3 3.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
T.J. Posey LB 6'0, 235 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Sean Thomas FS 5'10, 170 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 53.5 7.8% 0.5 0 3 3 2 0
T.J. Worthy SS 6'2, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 13 49.5 7.2% 4 0 2 0 0 0
Trevence Patt CB 6'0, 178 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 13 49.0 7.1% 1.5 0 1 12 1 0
Corey Trim CB 5'11, 180 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 13 39.5 5.8% 2.5 0 2 3 0 0
Will Burrowes FS 5 9.5 1.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Simeon Thomas CB 6'3, 180 So. 3 stars (5.5) 3 8.0 1.2% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Rodney Gillis S 4 6.0 0.9% 0 0 1 2 0 0
Cedrick Tillman CB 5'9, 180 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 7 5.0 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Zachary DeGrange SS 5'10, 186 Jr. NR 3 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dominick Jones CB 5'11, 174 So. 2 stars (5.2) 4 2.5 0.4% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Jevante Watson CB 5'10, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Troy McCollum DB 6'0, 170 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Tracey Walker S 6'2, 180 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Malik Williams DB 6'3, 190 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)






8. Athleticism and conservatism

The Cajuns defense was a confusing one in 2013; it almost seemed as if the players were aggressive and the tactics were conservative. The Cajuns were a mainstay in the backfield against the run but generated little to no pass rush on passing downs; in fact, their pass rush on standard downs (when you have to guard against the run) was actually better than on passing downs. But despite this bend-don't-break idea of pass rush, the Cajuns both made a lot of plays on the ball and gave up a lot of big plays in the air.

An improved pass rush would help the Cajuns' secondary immensely, but as with the rest of the defense, experience will be a strength. After some turnover last year, there is almost none in 2014 -- the top five corners return (including Trevence Patt, with his 13 passes defensed), as do both starting safeties. Tory McCollum, one of the stars of the 2013 recruiting class, could work his way into the rotation, but regardless, this unit should make some plays. We'll just see how many it allows.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Daniel Cadona 6'4, 218 Sr. 53 41.7 6 17 17 64.2%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Hunter Stover 6'1, 208 Sr. 77 60.8 26 2 33.8%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Stephen Brauchle 6'1, 211 Jr. 52-54 8-11 72.7% 0-2 0.0%
Hunter Stover 6'1, 208 Sr. 2-2 1-1 100.0% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Darryl Surgent KR 21 27.6 1
Montrel Carter KR 5'10, 188 Jr. 6 13.0 0
Darryl Surgent PR 15 10.5 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 51
Field Goal Efficiency 109
Punt Return Efficiency 60
Kick Return Efficiency 9
Punt Efficiency 78
Kickoff Efficiency 26
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 82

9. Daryl Surgent was awesome

UL-Lafayette was a field goal kicker short of a truly strong special teams unit last year, but while experience should help in that regard, the Cajuns have to replace one of the nation's best return men in Daryl Surgent. A quality offense and a defense with some play-makers up front should mean that the Cajuns are pretty good in the field position battle, but weaknesses in the return game could limit that a lot.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug Southern NR
6-Sep Louisiana Tech 98
13-Sep at Ole Miss 26
20-Sep at Boise State 18
TBD Appalachian State NR
TBD Arkansas State 84
TBD Georgia State 125
TBD South Alabama 92
TBD at New Mexico State 124
TBD at Texas State 114
TBD at Troy 111
TBD at UL-Monroe 112
Five-Year F/+ Rk -11.1% (89)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 90
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 1 / -0.4
TO Luck/Game +0.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 18 (8, 10)

10. The schedule is manageable

Hudspeth's Cajuns once again face a pair of daunting non-conference road games. Ole Miss should be better than either Arkansas or Kansas State were last year, and while Boise State could be beatable, that's still a tough trip and a tough turf. But even if they go 2-2 in non-conference play again, the conference schedule sets up perfectly for another SBC title run.

Both Arkansas State and South Alabama come to Lafayette, and the Cajuns don't play a single conference road game against a team projected better than 111th. (I do expect ULM to be better than 112th, but the Cajuns should still be the better team.) An 8-0 run is at least conceivable, as is the possibility that the Cajuns could break through the nine-win ceiling.

Things start over after this year. Broadway and a lot of play-makers are seniors, and this might be the year that a major-conference team finally comes calling for Hudspeth (if he's interested). Another 8-4 regular season would feel disappointing. But while last year gives me slight pause, I will go ahead and say that this team should be the class of the conference, an easy favorite with a good schedule and the athleticism for which other conference mates yearn. Maybe we'll see the Year of the Ragin' Cajun after all.

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