Prudhomme injury leaves UL with big decision at center
NEW ORLEANS — The Ragin’ Cajuns will have a big decision to make in the weeks to come regarding starting center Cole Prudhomme, who is recovering from an injury publicly disclosed for the first time by UL head coach Billy Napier at Sun Belt Conference Media Day on Monday here.
Napier said Prudhomme — a fifth-year senior from Eunice High who was UL’s starting center both of the last two seasons — has undergone reconstructive surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament that was torn late in spring practice.
“We’ll evaluate him a couple games into the season — where he’s at — and make a decision on whether we’re gonna play him or potentially redshirt him,” Napier said.
“But,” the Cajuns coach added, “Cole’s doing great in his rehab.”
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As a result, Napier said, “that will be a position where we’ll have some competition and some different lineups to see what is the best scenario for all five players.”
Prudhomme had been among UL’s five returning starters on the offensive line, along with Robert Hunt, Kevin Dotson, Ken Marks and Rico Robinson.
With Prudhomme out, Napier said third-year sophomore Shane Vallot — a Comeaux High product and a former walk-on — is the “top candidate” to replace him.
“And we’d be very comfortable with Shane playing,” Napier said.
Redshirt freshman Luke Junkunc is another candidate, as is Spencer Gardner, who appeared as a reserve in each game last season.
Napier suggested Marks is a possibility for sliding over to center, and that true freshman Jax Harrington — an Erath High product — “has the mental capacity and the maturity to maybe do that job.”
“So we have a lot of options,” Napier said. “If we can afford an injury on our team, that’s probably the one position where you’d say, ‘Hey, we’re deep at that position and we can afford it.’
“But Cole is a tremendous leader. That’s one of the things I think he’s done a nice job of, is he’s stayed engaged and he’s continued to have a leadership presence even though he’s not able to participate.
“He’s been a coach on the field, to some degree,” Napier added. “He cares about our team, and wants to see that transition go well.”
The Cajuns, according to Napier, have sustained no notable injuries in offseason workouts.
ON THE WATCH LIST
UL junior running backs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas both were named last week to the national preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award, which is presented annually to the country’s top college running back.
The award is named for SMU’s late three-time All-American running back, and is the only major college award that requires candidates to be in good academic standing and on schedule to graduate.
Mitchell rushed for 985 yards and scored 16 touchdowns, 13 of which came on the ground, last season.
Ragas ran for a team-high 1,181 yards, third-highest in the Sun Belt.
Also last week, UL junior Johnny Lumpkin was among 60 tight ends named to the John Mackey Award national preseason watch list.
The award is named for the late, longtime Baltimore Colts tight end who played at Syracuse.
Surprisingly omitted from the watch list for the Fred Biletnikoff Award was UL senior receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley, a first team preseason all-Sun Belt pick.
Other Cajuns who could appear on national watch lists released later this week include Dotson and Hunt, both candidates for the Outland Trophy.
Napier on Monday said all three of UL’s primary running backs — Ragas, Mitchell and Raymond Calais Jr. — are fully healthy. Ragas missed most of the spring with a knee injury. ... Napier said Mitchell has gone through UL’s entire offseason program and is “primed” to have a big season. … Kicker Stevie Artigue, who missed all of last season following ACL surgery, has “had a good offseason” according to Napier. Artigue, however, may handling only PAT and field duties, but not kickoffs, Napier suggested. … Safety Deuce Wallace will be “full contact” with no limitations at all for preseason camp, Napier said. Wallace is coming off offseason shoulder surgery and, according to Napier, “way ahead of schedule.”