UL-Lafayette starts spring with questions

LAFAYETTE — Ask Mark Hudspeth about his biggest concern as the University of Louisiana-Lafayette football team prepares for its first spring practice Monday afternoon, and the answer he gives might seem surprising.

Sure, ULL needs to find a pair of cornerbacks, two starting offensive tackles, several linebackers and a backup quarterback during the spring session.

Still there’s one problematic area with no apparent solution that has Hudspeth worried as he starts his third ULL season.

“Finding a holder for field goals, is believe it or not, my greatest concern. Right now, I don’t know of a guy on campus that’s ever held in high school or in college. I just know we’ve got to find a holder,” Hudspeth said.

Gone is holder Brady Thomas, who didn’t mishandle a snap during his three seasons performing that task.

“We’ve got backups everywhere, but we’ve got to find someone to hold it, because our kicking game has been so crucial for us the last two years,” Hudspeth said.

The Cajuns are 18-8 with a pair of New Orleans Bowl victories in Hudspeth’s two seasons.

Despite that success, Hudspeth has been anything but complacent since the Cajuns beat East Carolina on Dec. 22.

Hudspeth hired James Willis, a former associate head coach under Nick Saban at Alabama and Texas Tech defensive coordinator.

Willis will oversee the Cajuns’ switch to a 4-3 base defense this spring.

“Coach Willis is a detail-
oriented guy, and I’ve been impressed with him in our meetings,” Hudspeth said. “He’s going to be the kind of guy that stays on top of his players, gets them to play hard and be in the right spots. “I think it’s going to be a nice change.”

According to an NBCSports.com posting, Willis left Texas Tech in Dec. 2010, after being charged with assault and domestic violence.

Willis pleaded guilty to the charge in 2011 and was sentenced to deferred probation, according to a FOX 34 website story.

Willis then coached linebackers for the United Football League’s Hartford franchise.

Hudspeth said the incident allegedly involving Willis required research.

“That’s why it took so long for me on the job search,” Hudspeth said. “I did a lot of homework on the situation and called a lot of persons. What I got were rave reviews of (Willis) as a coach.

“Everybody’s going to make mistakes. I know (Willis) wishes it never happened, but he is still married to his wife and since then they have had another child. So now they’ve moved on, and he’s anxious to get back.”

The Cajuns are dividing the spring workouts into two parts. The first segment ends March 27 following the ninth practice.

From March 28-April 7, the Cajuns have spring break.
ULL has five more practices
after that before finishing
April 20 with the annual spring game.

“There are some pluses and minuses to splitting it,” Hudspeth said. “It does divide it up to where you don’t beat them to death for five weeks.

“Then you might lose a little bit of that momentum you gained until you had that split.”

ULL needs to find a backup for starting quarterback Terrance Broadway, a former Capitol High standout who was the MVP of the New Orleans Bowl.

“That’s going to be a major concern,” Hudspeth said about depth at quarterback. “We’ve got to come out of the spring knowing who that backup might be. If we don’t, then that might be an area we look into with a transfer guy before the fall.”

ULL will first look to three redshirt freshmen: Brooks Haack, Jalen Nixon and D’Shaie Landor.

“Each of those guys brings a little something different, but they all have one thing in common: They haven’t ever taken a snap in a college game,” Hudspeth said.

The Cajuns also need to find two starting offensive tackles. Hudspeth moved left guard Mykhael Quave to left tackle to fill one of those positions.

Defensively, Hudspeth is seeking to develop a pair of cornerback starters and several linebackers to surround starting inside linebacker
Justin Anderson.

The kicking game lost punter/placekicker Brett Baer, but junior-transfers Stephen Brauchle and punter Daniel Cadona are the replacements.

Hudspeth said Cadona, a 6-foot-4 Australian has enormous potential.

“(Cadona) sent some e-mails of him punting on a rugby field in Australia,” Hudspeth said “He’s tall, long and at 6-foot-4, he’s got great leverage. Everyone was wanting this guy.”

Notes:

m Hudspeth said ULL still has four scholarships available if the Cajuns are unsuccessful in finding sufficient talent at a problem area.

m ULL is planning three scrimmages. As of now, the starting time of the spring game at Cajun Field is unannounced.

m Practice sessions are open to all members of the Ragin’
Cajuns Athletic Foundation and Quarterback Club members.

m Generally spring practices will be held Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.