Sun Belt notes: Cajuns shrug at preseason accolades

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Louisiana-Lafayette running back Alonzo Harris speaks during Sun Belt Conference media day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Tuesday, July 22, 2014.
Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Louisiana-Lafayette running back Alonzo Harris speaks during Sun Belt Conference media day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

The preseason prognostications have been kind to UL-Lafayette.

The Sun Belt Conference’s coaches unanimously tabbed the Cajuns to win the league.

Eight Cajuns found their way onto the preseason all-Sun Belt first team, and two more made the second team.

And senior quarterback Terrance Broadway was the pick as Offensive Player of the Year.

That’s quite a haul, but those representing the Cajuns at Tuesday’s Sun Belt media day said the honors are empty for now.

“We just went on like it was a regular day,” Broadway said. “Once everybody had seen it, we just went on to workouts. Everybody is saying that I’m the preseason Player of the Year, but it means nothing because we haven’t played a game yet.”

Senior running back Alonzo Harris joined Broadway and six others on the first team after rushing for 942 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. He said he glanced at the recognition but also understood how it came about.

“We have to ignore it,” he said. “We can take some time to look at it, but at the same time you can’t dwell on it. You have to get right back to work because hard work is why you got the accolades in the first place. Why stray away from it?”

Just get him the ball

Look for Cajuns running back Elijah McGuire, who earned 2013 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors after rushing for 871 yards and eight touchdowns on just 103 carries, to play a larger role in 2014.

“He’s going to return punts for us. He might return kickoffs at some point,” coach Mark Hudspeth said. “We definitely need to get the ball in his hands. We’re always trying to be creative in the ways to get him the ball.”

At times last season, McGuire would start off strong before slowing near the end of the game. Hudspeth said his 180-pound body wasn’t quite ready for the pounding it received on a weekly basis.

After a year in the Cajuns’ offseason conditioning program, Hudspeth said McGuire added nearly 25 pounds — weight he hopes will help the sophomore stay healthy when the fourth quarter rolls around, even with an added workload.

Play ball

Autonomy for the “Power Five” conferences and how that affects the Sun Belt and similar conferences was one of the day’s hot topics. Hudspeth chose an interesting analogy for one of the reasons he would oppose autonomy.

What Hudspeth doesn’t want is the wealthy schools to make the rules. He would prefer the system Major League Baseball has in place.

“The Yankees have a higher payroll — they have more money than probably 10 major league teams combined, but they don’t make the rules,” Hudspeth said. “They don’t tell everybody, ‘When you come to our stadium, you have to hit it over the wall for a home run, (and) we have to hit it to the warning track for a home run.’ Everybody still plays by the same rules.”

Early riser

Kickoff for the New Orleans Bowl, which the Cajuns have won three straight years, is set for 10 a.m. Dec. 20 — about as early as a bunch of college kids could get ready to play a game.

It’s a different story for coaches.

“If you know head coaches, we will kick it off at 8 a.m.,” Hudspeth said. “The earlier, the better. There’s some games you don’t kick off until 8 p.m., and that’ll give you ulcers sitting around all day worrying about the kickoff and worrying about the game. Let’s get up and kick it off early.”

Quick kicks

Appalachian State, which rose from the Football Championship Subdivision ranks to join the Sun Belt this season, will play its first game as a Football Bowl Subdivision member at Michigan on Aug. 30. That’s a rematch of the Sept. 1, 2007, game, when Appalachian State stunned then-No. 5 Michigan 34-32. … Arkansas State senior defensive back Sterling Young represented the Red Wolves at media day with a unique distinction: The fifth-year senior will be playing under his fifth coach. New coach Blake Anderson follows Bryan Harsin (who left for Boise State), Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss) and Steve Roberts (resigned).