Hudspeth on linebacker Posey: 'He brings it every day'

Tim Buckley
The Daily Advertiser
Senior T.J. Posey, shown here during spring practice last March, is ready to lead the UL defense as its Mike linebacker.

He does have some on-the-job experience.

But as the 2017 football season unfolds for UL, something will be different for senior T.J. Posey.

This time around, much will be on him. Perhaps not all, but a whole lot.

As the Ragin’ Cajuns’ starting Mike linebacker, Posey will be calling the shots for UL’s defense – and he’ll do so with no reason to look over his shoulder.

Posey has a backup who joined the team only midway through preseason camp, juco-transfer Justin Middleton, while UL's new backup No. 2 Will linebacker behind Tanner Holmes, sophomore Jacques Boudreux, played sparingly and mostly on special teams last season.

So there’s no real threat behind him.

The flip side is that two-year starter Otha Peters, who has been in training camp this year as an undrafted free agent with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, no longer is in front of him.

With that latter fact comes all sorts of expectations.

More:Cajun defense largely in Peters' hands for 2016

“You just hope he can be as productive as Otha,” said UL coach Mark Hudspeth, whose Cajuns open Saturday night at home against Southeastern Louisiana.

That’s saying a lot.

In 2015, Peters had 68 total tackles.

Last season, the first team All-Sun Belt Conference selection had 94 total tackles including 44 solo stops and 11.0 tackles for loss.

But tackles are one thing, and those will come in time.

Defensive play-calling is another, and that – like it was on Peters, who handled it well – is all on Posey now.

As the Mike, it’s up to him to understand the opposing offense and direct the defense accordingly.

Related:Cajun defense has two huge holes in the middle  

Teammates feel he’s up to the task, and so does UL defensive coordinator Mike Lucas, who also coaches the Cajuns’ inside linebackers.

“He’s been putting in that grind all offseason,” senior safety Tracy Walker said, “so he’s definitely going to be a shocker this year.”

“He’s seen a lot of snaps over the years,” Lucas added. “He’s waited his turn. He’s ready to roll.”

As much as it may seem like Posey has been in the picture forever, however, reality suggests he hasn’t always been the focal point of the Cajun defense.

The product of Gadsden City High in Gadsden, Alabama, had 27 tackles while playing in all 13 games and making three starts – against Boise State, against Georgia State and in a New Orleans Bowl win over Nevada – as a true freshman in 2014.

He played in 12 games and started four, including UL’s season-opener that year at Kentucky, with 24 tackles as a sophomore in 2015.

And he again played in all 13 games last season, but this time – playing Peters and UL’s other then-senior inside linebacker, leading-tackler Tre’maine Lightfoot, who got an overwhelming majority of reps – he had just 14 tackles.

Related:Thump goes Lightfoot at linebacker for the Cajuns

Still, Lucas seems confident Posey can command the Cajun defense – and that he has what it takes to handle all that entails.

So does Hudspeth, who goes back and forth between Posey “T.J.” and by his given name Tyrone.

“He brings it every day, and it’s no secret why he’s one of our defensive team captains,” the Cajuns coach said. “He does everything right, in the right spots, and leads that defense well.”

It’s just that Posey just may not go about in the ultra-vocal manner Peters always did.

“He speaks,” Lucas said. “He doesn’t speak like Otha does.

“T.J. is a very intelligent young man, and knows how to press the right button at the right time. He is vocal, but different than what Otha was.”

Posey, for his part, promises to draw from his past.

“Otha and Lightfoot, I learned a lot from those guys,” he said.

Related:UL's Peters ready to take shot with NFL's Seahawks

Yet he’s also his own man, focused, he said during preseason camp, on “trying to stay positive” and “always trying to go hard.”

If a teammate needs help, he’s ready, willing and able to assist.

“Any questions they have,” Posey said, “(I) try to answer them to the best of my ability.

“A lot of guys look up to me. I talk here and there, but I try to lead by example.

“This is my senior year,” Posey added, “and I want to leave out with a bang and bring the program up. Go back in the right direction.”

After going 9-4 in 2014, Posey and the Cajuns experienced a 4-8 season in 2015 and a 6-7 season with a New Orleans Bowl loss to Southern Mississippi last year.

It’s with that in mind Posey knows he can’t turn things around alone.

Related:Five question marks Cajuns must answer to get back to winning ways

Yet he embraces, and relishes, the chance to have so much onus on both him and those around him.

“Like I told all the linebackers,” Posey said early in camp, “the coaches are expecting a lot out of us.

“Right now, we’ve got a lot to prove – for the fans, the coaches. Right now, it’s a question mark. But I think as we bond … we’re gonna be pretty good.”

Having everyone do their part is imperative, Posey suggested.

So too, he believes, is taking advantage of the defensive depth UL has as it embarks on a non-conference schedule that also includes road games against two 2016 bowl teams in back-to-back weeks after Saturday.

“We’ve got a long season,” Posey said. “We’ve got Tulsa (Sept. 9) and (Texas) A&M (on Sept. 16). They average 100 plays-plus.

“So we’ve got to be one, two, maybe three deep. We’ve got to be in condition. We’ve got to focus in. We’ve got to work on the smart things, really. If we run to the ball, we’ll be okay.”

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