Five to watch when the Ragin' Cajuns visit Georgia State

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Five to watch when No. 21/19 UL visits Georgia State on Saturday …


UL will be without starting cornerback Asjlin “A.J.” Washington due to COVID-19 issues, so see how his replacement, redshirt sophomore Mekhi Garner, a juco-transfer in his second season at UL, fares opposite of usual starter Eric Garror.

Garner – from Poteet High in Mesquite, Texas, and Navarro College – will be backed up by Trey Amos, a true freshman from Catholic High of New Iberia.

“We’re excited about the young corners, Mekhi Garner being one of them,” UL coach Billy Napier said.

“He played in four games at the end of the year last year. He really has practiced well as of late. He’s been very competitive. I think it’s important to Mekhi. You know, he’s a guy that wants to be loyal and he wants to be dependable for his teammates.

“And I think he’s chomping at the bit for the opportunity to play more and have a bigger role.”

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The Ragin' Cajuns will be without cornerback Asjlin "A.J." Washington (left), shown here against Iowa State last Saturday, when they visit Georgia State.

He gets it with the absence of Washington, who had an interception in UL’s upset win at Iowa State last Saturday – Washington’s fourth pick since the start of last season.

“You’ll also see Trey Amos over there,” Napier said.

“Trey’s a young man who played in the opener and is a guy who continues to develop and he’s continued to learn that position and improve.

“Coach Morgan,” Napier added with reference to LaMar Morgan, UL’s position coach, “has done a terrific job with our corners, not only technically on the field but leading them as men as well.”

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Napier said Wednesday night that he still hadn’t decided whether Indiana grad-transfer Nate Snyder or returnee Kenneth Almendares, who handled kickoffs for the Cajuns last season, would kick field goals and PATs against Georgia State.

Keep a close eye on whomever gets the call.

“We’ll make that decision as we approach the game,” Napier said, “but I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen from both guys.

“We typically, in those difficult situations, make those (calls) Saturday morning in the staff meeting.”

Snyder made a PAT but missed 2 of 3 field goal tries at Iowa State, both misses from 30 yards or less. Almendares was 3-of-3 on PATs in the second half.

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 “I think Nate was a little bit off fundamentally,” Napier said. “We also can, I think, maybe do a little bit better at snapper and holder.”

Paul Boudreaux snapped and receiver Dalen Cambre held against Iowa State.

“Often times the kicker gets blamed, like the quarterback gets blamed on offense,” Napier said.

“But to be good at placekicker, the players around you have to play well.

“I also think Kenneth Almendares,” Napier added, “is a talented young man who will have an opportunity to compete.”

Napier did like how Snyder handled his five kickoffs against the Cyclones.

“Nate’s talented,” he said. “He’s just got to be a little bit more fundamentally sound and improve his technique.”

North Carolina A&T grad transer Noel Ruiz takes over placekicking duties for Georgia State.

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None of the quarterbacks on Georgia State’s roster have started a college game before, and Napier said “that’s probably the biggest question mark on offense” for the Panthers.

Redshirt freshman Cornelious Brown IV, who preserved his redshirt while appearing in four 2019 games, will start.

“He’s gonna be fast. He’s gonna run the ball,” UL safety Kam Pedescleaux said of Brown. “He’s definitely different than (Iowa State QB) Brock Purdy. He’s a big, tall guy, so we’re gonna have to contain him, we’re gonna have to tackle really well and cover those guys on the back end.”

One of Brown’s targets will Terrance Dixon, a slot receiver who missed most of last season with an injury. Napier called Dixon “a burner” with “legitimate track speed.”

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UL true freshman starter Dontae Fleming was limited due to an undisclosed late-week injury last week and played sparingly at Iowa State, prompting the Cajuns to split Jalen Williams from the slot out to Fleming’s X-spot that was manned last season by then-senior and top receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley.

But Napier said the highly hyped Fleming is fully “healthy” and “will be ready to go Saturday” after practicing “at full speed,” so keep tabs on the East St. John High product.

With Fleming hurt Devon Pauley played extensively against the Cyclones and caught a 16-yard Levi Lewis pass.

“Devon’s been a steady performer,” Napier said of Pauley, who began to play quite a bit as a backup late last season and had – according to the Cajuns coach – “a heck of a training camp.”

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Fittingly in a venue that originally was constructed as 85,000-seat Olympic Centennial Stadium for the 1996 Summer Games, and that served as home of MLB’s Atlanta Braves from 1997 through 2016, when it was called Turner Field, Napier said the Cajuns must watch for the unexpected from Georgia State, especially since it is the Panthers’ season opener.

“Much like our opener against Iowa State this is an opener for us because we’ve got no history this year of the personnel or the offseason wrinkles that maybe they’ve added to their scheme,” Napier said. “So it will be an in-game adjustment. Those things will be important, because I am certain that they’ll have a few sliders and curveballs that they’ll be mixing in there.”

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