Play Western: Oct. 17, at Western
‘08 Record: 6-6
Coach: Rickey Bustle
Returning starters: six offense, eight defense
The Buzz: Louisiana-Lafayette was an offensive juggernaut by Sun Belt Conference standards last season, yet the Ragin’ Cajuns amassed only six wins all season. Without the team’s big three yardage-gaining machines back for 2009, UL is expected to return to the bottom tier of the conference.
Their only hope? Offensive coordinator Ron Hudson will return and attempt to work some magic in his second year on the job.
As a note, the Ragin’ Cajuns will also host a big-name BCS-conference opponent. Kansas State heads to Lafayette on Sept. 12, the same day South Florida faces Western in Bowling Green.
Outlook: Depleted at the offensive skill positions, Louisiana Lafayette will rely heavily on the experience of its offensive line, which returns all five starters from a team that last season ranked seventh in the nation in rushing yards per game. Unfortunately for the Ragin’ Cajuns, 1,035 of those 3,164 rushing yards came from then-starting quarterback Michael Desormeaux, the 2008 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year.
Desormeaux is gone, along with No. 1 running back Tyrell Fenroy and wide receiver Jason Cherry. Left in their wake is a quarterback battle that’s yet to be solved. Candidates include Brad McGuire and Chris Masson, both of which have experience and near-equal credentials.
On the defensive side of the ball, Louisiana Lafayette returns eight starters from last season, but playmakers are few and far between. Returning linebackers Antwyne Zanders and Daylon McCoy will anchor the defense after recording 69 tackles apiece last season.
How Western can win: The Toppers’ defensive line will key the tempo of this game. If they allow a veteran front five of Louisiana Lafayette to push them around, yards will pile up for the tandem of running backs senior Undrea Sails and freshman Draylon Booker, who look to run by committee this fall.
— Jonathan Lintner