2020 NFL Draft prospect, Cajuns running back Elijah Mitchell grabs Senior Bowl invitation

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

UL running back Elijah Mitchell has accepted a Senior Bowl invitation, becoming the ninth Ragin’ Cajun to do so since 1987.

The all-star game – scheduled for Jan. 30 (1:30 p.m., NFL Network) at South Alabama’s Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama – caps a week of extensive exposure to NFL scouts for many of the nation’s top senior pro prospects.

Ninety-three Senior Bowl participants have been drafted over the past two years, including 40 who went in the first three rounds. Ten of the 40 were 2019 first-rounders.

The Miami Dolphins selected former Ragin’ Cajuns offensive lineman Robert Hunt, who was invited to the 2019 Senior Bowl but didn’t play because of injury, in last year’s second round.

Seven of the first eight ex-Cajuns played in the NFL: Hunt, Justin Anderson in 2014, Ladarius Green and Bill Bentley (2012), Anthony Clement (1998), Orlando Thomas (1995) and Chris Gannon (1989). Elton Slater was the first former Cajun to play in the Senior Bowl, in 1987.

Mitchell leads UL this season with 102 carries for 582 yards and six touchdowns.

Running back Elijah McGuire, who played two seasons for the New York Jets and is a free agent after being waived late last month from the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad, was invited to the 2017 Senior Bowl but declined. He instead played in the East-West Shrine Game.

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Cajuns aren’t looking ahead

After beating South Alabama 38-10 last Saturday, the Sun Belt Conference’ West Division-champion Cajuns – scheduled to close the regular season Nov. 28 at UL Monroe at Dec. 4 at Appalachian State – vow they’re not look ahead to the Dec. 19 SBC championship game.

“After we beat South Alabama,” nose tackle Tayland Humphrey said, “(coach Billy Napier) emphasized keeping our heads straight.”

UL (7-1, 5-1 Sun Belt) had been scheduled to play Central Arkansas on Saturday at Cajun Field, but the game was canceled due to a COVID-19 spike in the program.

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UL running back Elijah Mitchell scores a touchdown during last Saturday's 38-10 win over South Alabama at Cajun Field.

Lumpkin had 'by far his best game'

When Napier watched film of UL’s West-clinching win over South Alabama, the work of his tight ends jumped off the screen.

It wasn’t just because of Johnny Lumpkin’s key 17-yard third-down conversion catch, or Neal Johnson’s three grabs for a team-high 40 receiving yards.

Johnny Lumpkin in particular played by far his best game in his career,” Napier said. “I mean, he was dominate on the edge (blocking), at the point of attack. He ran some really good routes.”

Lumpkin missed all of last season following shoulder surgery.

“It was great to see Johnny do that. … To see him step up when it mattered was big for our team,” Napier said.

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It’s Amendares’ job to lose

After replacing struggling Nate Snyder (5-for-10 on the season) and making two field goals in a Nov. 7 win over Arkansas State, former backup Kenneth Almendares tightened his grip on the placekcking job by making his field goal attempt and going 5-of-5 on PATs against South Alabama.

Napier suggested the job now belongs to Almendares, saying he would have to have a couple really bad days in practice to lose it.

“He was outstanding (last) week,” the Cajuns coach said of the redshirt sophomore from Texas. “I think he really improved working with the first-team snapper (Paul Boudreaux) and holder (Dalen Cambre) too. ... I think it’s good for Kenny to get more and more experience.”

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Several Cajuns honored this week

After throwing for 252 yards and three touchdowns against South Alabama, Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis was named Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week and Louisiana Sports Writers Association co-Offensive Player of the Week along with Tulane QB Michael Pratt. … UL safety Percy Butler (one interception and a team-high six tackles including one sack Saturday) was named LSWA Defensive Player of the Week. … Cajuns cornerback Mekhi Garner, who had four breakups and five tackles including a sack against South Alabama, was named to Pro Football Focus’ national Secondary of the Week team and running back Chris Smith, who ran for 99 yards and a touchdown, was one of four players this week named the weekly honor roll for the Paul Hornung Award, which recognizes college football’s most versatile players. Smith also had a catch and two 20-plus-yard kickoff returns.

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