Contenders emerge for Cajuns' No. 2 quarterback job

Tim Buckley
The Daily Advertiser

More than halfway through spring practice, two newcomers have emerged as the top candidates for UL’s backup quarterback job.

Ragin’ Cajuns coach Billy Napier said after Tuesday night’s practice that juco-transfer Jai’ave Magalei and early high school enrollee Clifton McDowell have “started to emerge” in battle to be the No. 2, and at this point No. 1 Levi Lewis is “on a different level compared to those two rookies.”

Lewis was the backup to senior starter Andre Lewis last season.

“Jai’ave has really done a nice job,” Napier said, “and Clifton McDowell has put together two or three solid days in a row.

“Both of those guys, I think they’ve proven they’ve got the physical ability and they’re starting to come together — a little better anticipation, a little better play speed, better decision-making, and all of that leads to more accuracy.

“They’re gonna be solid players for us,” Napier added. “It’s gonna be competitive to find out who the backup quarterback’s gonna be.”

More:Napier says Lewis has 'firmed up' hold on No. 1 QB job

Related:UL quarterback commit Magalei coming off horrific injury

UL's spring game is April 13.

Magalei, still on the mend from major knee surgery that cost him all of last season, is a transfer from Mt. San Antonio College in California who played his high school ball at Lakes High in Tacoma, Washington.

McDowell is a product of Spring High in Texas.

The Cajuns will add a second Class of 2019 signee, Chandler Fields, after he graduates this spring from Archbishop Rummel High in the New Orleans area.

Other quarterbacks currently on UL roster this spring include scholarship reserve Jake Arceneaux, walk-on Wesley Blazek and juco-transfer walk-on Beau Kalbacher.

Last year’s No. 3 QB, Quentin Gibson, spent the first three weeks of spring with the Cajuns but no longer is on the roster.

According to a team spokesman, he has decided to “focus on academics” this semester.

Gibson, from Archbishop Shaw High in the New Orleans area, is a product of East Central (Mississippi) Community College who began his college career at Toledo.

He did not play in his lone season at UL.

More:Lewis faces competition for UL starting quarterback job

Napier did not disclose Gibson’s departure.

But the Cajuns coach did have plenty of praise for Magalei and McDowell this week.

“We’ll see where we at (by the start of the season),” he said. “But I like what we’re working with — the size, athletic ability, the arm strength, the accuracy, between the ears, good teammates, good character and willing to work, willing to do the extra.

“And we kind of anticipated that when we recruited them. But it’s always good to get confirmation once you start working with guys.”

UL's spring game, its 15th and final practice, is April 13 at Cajun Field.


Former UL quarterback Dion Ray announced Tuesday on Twitter that he has committed to transfer to FCS Southland Conference-member Nicholls, where former Cajuns secondary coach Tim Rebowe is the head coach.

Ray was a Wildcat quarterback under ex-UL coach Mark Hudspeth.

The product of Helen Cox High in New Orleans ran for two touchdowns in 2016 and four in 2017.

Ray was moved to receiver when Napier took over at UL prior to the 2018 season. He made his transfer plans known before spring call started.

More:UL's Raymond Calais ready for more after breakout season


Napier offered a partial list of spring injury updates Tuesday, saying defensive end Andre Landry will undergo groin surgery shortly after UL’s upcoming spring game and reserve offensive lineman Luke Junkunc is out after sustaining an MCL knee injury in last Saturday’s scrimmage.

Landry, an Acadiana High product who was moved from tight end to the d-line, appeared in two games last season.

Junkunc, from Houston, was redshirted as a freshman last season. He’ll also need repair after the spring, according to Napier.

The Cajuns also lost running back Trey Ragas to minor arthroscopic knee surgery after the first day of spring ball.

Related:Leading Cajun rusher Ragas hurts knee in spring drills


Linebacker Tanner Wiggins, a special teams players who appeared in nine games last season and in four in 2017, has moved back to defense, tight ends coach Michael Desormeaux said.

Wiggins, who came to UL as a walk-on from Central Catholic High in Morgan City, briefly spent time at tight end this spring.


UL equipment manager Kerry Conner has been named District 4 Equipment Manager of the Year by the Athletic Equipment Managers Association, and now is a nominee for the organization’s annual national award.

More:UL equipment manager Williams was a pro who liked to play