After a 1-3 start, Billy Napier went on a tear down the stretch in 2018, finishing the regular season winning six of his final eight. In his first year in Lafayette, Napier led the Ragin’ Cajuns to their best year since 2014.
A ton of talent returns for 2019, and ULL also pulled together one of the best classes in recent Sun Belt history, ranked 77th in the nation. As a former assistant of both Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban, this guy is for real, and while the Cajuns will need to find a new QB for this year, matching the nine wins they had from 2011-2014 isn’t out of the question.
The run game was incredibly efficient last year, averaging 5.5 yards per carry as a team, and the top three rushers are back from last year, along with every starter on the O-Line, including two all-conference performers in Kevin Dotson and Robert Hunt.
Running backs Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell combined for over 2,000 yards rushing along with over 500 yards receiving, and Raymond Calais is an incredible #3 option after 754 yards, seven touchdowns, and 9.3 (!!!) yards per carry. That is their #3… come on.
The QB situation is up in the air though. Andrew Nunes was just ok last year, he’ll likely be replaced by last year’s backup, Levi Lewis, who shined in limited opportunities last year (178.4 QB rating).
#1 receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley is back after 608 yards, ten touchdowns, and over 15 YPC last year, along with slot threat Jarrod Jackson (17.1 YPC).
This offense was good last year, but if they can get a serviceable QB, they could be one of the best in the G5 this year.
The defense was what held the Cajuns back from a truly great year last year, letting up 6.3 yards per play. LBs Jacques Boudreaux and Chauncey Manac are back after combining for six sacks and 7.5 TFL last year, and former Freshman-All American Joe Dillon may be joining them on the second level after missing last year with an injury.
End Bernie Higgins will be their best defensive lineman (four sacks, two TFL), and senior Michael Jacquet III will lead the secondary (nine PBUs).
The front seven returns a lot, but depth is a little scarce throughout the whole defense so this team will need to avoid injuries or will have to deal with underclassmen taking up even more playing time, as this is already one of the youngest Ds in the conference (five sophomores projected to start). The defense should improve but will probably still hold the offense down.
It’s easy to talk yourself into this as a Sun Belt champion team, the offense is going to be freaking awesome, I am just a little bit worried about the youth on the defensive end.
The schedule doesn’t set up great with games away from home against Mississippi State and Ohio in the non-conference. Drawing the three toughest teams in the East as crossover opponents and having to travel to face Arkansas State will make a Sun Belt West crown repeat a little less likely, but this team should at least compete and will probably go bowling again, for the seventh time in nine years.
|Date||Opponent||OPP. RANK||Proj. Margin|
|31-Aug||vs. Mississippi State (ATlanta, ga)||13||-14.4|
|28-Sep||at Georgia Southern||93||-2.4|
|17-Oct||at Arkansas State||76||-4.8|
|7-Nov||at Coastal Carolina||128||10.8|
|16-Nov||at South Alabama||123||7.9|