Napier took notice of Rogers in UL tight end's return

Tim Buckley
The Daily Advertiser

It’s an abbreviated return.

But the UL football team got back a key piece in its win over South Alabama, and after getting his first in-person look at tight end Chase Rogers in an actual game Ragin’ Cajuns Billy Napier walked away rather impressed.

“He’s an outstanding player,” Napier said. “You can see what he’s capable of.”

Tight end Chase Rogers (80) fights for a touchdown during UL's 2018 spring game.

Rogers, expected to be good to go when the 6-5 Cajuns visit 6-5 UL Monroe for their regular-season finale Saturday, had two catches for 31 yards against the Jaguars.

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One was a 27-yard reception to the 1 that set up a UL touchdown.

“It just happened to be his possession, and he was in the game, and the ball went that way,” Napier said of the 27-yarder. “But the guy can stretch the field.

“He had a critical block on the first Elijah Mitchell touchdown that popped. … He cut off the backside defensive end in the C gap.

“You know,” Napier added, “the guy is a tough kid that really has stayed engaged, has stayed focused.”

Rogers — a MaxPreps All-American from Saint Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi — had six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown over eight games before getting hurt as a true freshman in 2017.

He underwent surgery last November to repair a broken bone in his foot, then re-broke the same bone — the fifth metatarsal — in the offseason and underwent a second surgery to insert a screw into the foot.

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Rogers is taking a medical redshirt this season, but a new NCAA rule allows him to play in up to four games without losing a year of eligibility — which is why he was able to make his season debut against South Al.

“It would be really difficult for some players to come back and pick it up that quick,” Napier said of Rogers’ return, “but I think that says something about the kid, that he was able to do that.”

With sixth-year senior Matt Barnes finished after this season, Rogers is expected to be the Cajuns’ top tight end in 2019. UL also will return Johnny Lumpkin and ex-Texas redshirt Peyton Aucoin, among others.


The same NCAA rule allows true freshmen to play in up to four games this year without losing a season of eligibility, so kicker Kenneth Almendares and running back Chris Smith also saw some action in the game against South Alabama.

Smith, from Nanih Waiya in Mississippi, played on special teams.

Almendares — out of Brazoswood High in Clute, Texas — kicked off twice in the second half.

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“He’s a talented rookie kicker that came in this summer,” Napier said, “and a guy that has a big leg.

“He was a contender for the kickoff job in training camp, but just had a few injury issues.”

The Cajuns lose both starting kicker Kyle Pfau, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, and his backup, senior Calvin Linden, after this season.

Former UL starting kicker Stevie Artigue may return after missing this season due to ACL knee surgery, but Napier seems especially high on Almendares.

“We’re gonna have a competition to see who the kicker is gonna be next year,” he said, “and certainly Almendares is gonna be one of those guys.”

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UL has stuck with the same quarterback system all season: starter Andre Nunez gets three series, backup Levi Lewis, Nunez three, Lewis one, and so on.

In each of the Cajuns’ last four games, however, Lewis has had quick work in each of his first series: a handoff to Raymond Calais Jr. for a touchdown against Arkansas State, a fumbled handoff at Troy, a handoff to Calais for a touchdown against Georgia State and a touchdown throw to Ja’Marcus Bradley against South Alabama.

Four first-half drives, each just one play long.

Against South Alabama, it got even crazier: On UL’s third Lewis-led drive, the sophomore from Baton Rouge again came in for just one play. He took a knee to end the game.

“You’ve got to give that guy some credit, you know?” said Napier, who smiled when asked about Lewis’ many one-play drives. “He just shows up and works, does his job. Great attitude. Well-respected by his teammates. And he does a good job.

“He had a little spell there maybe in the first third of the season where he didn’t quite look as good, or made a few mistakes, but he stays the course and he’s ready, and if he had to go in there and play the whole game nobody would blink, including me, including him, most importantly.”

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