Here is what we know about Ragin' Cajuns running back Jacob Kibodi, a transfer from Texas A&M

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Unlike other Ragin’ Cajun running backs competing for carries this spring, Jacob Kibodi is an enigma of sorts.

Chris Smith was the third member of UL’s 2020 three-man rotation. T.J. Wisham, who played primarily on special teams before breaking his wrist last season, got 15 carries in 2019. Emani Bailey got 10 as a freshman last year and walk-on Michael Orphey Jr. has had a few the past two seasons.

They’re known commodities.

But not a lot is known about the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Kibodi, a transfer who spent three seasons at Texas A&M but hasn’t played since 2019.

“He can bring speed and the power,” Smith said.

“I would say you can compare him to an Eli (Mitchell),” quarterback Levi Lewis added. “He can run it, and he can come out of the backfield and catch the ball. He’s a great route runner.”

Kibodi compared to NFL player

Kibodi is expected to contend with Bailey, Wisham, Orphey and four incoming freshmen to succeed NFL Draft prospects Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas and join Smith in UL’s 2021 rotation.

The product of Baton Rouge’s Christian Life Academy played five games as a  freshman in 2017, including one in which he ran for 121 yards and a touchdown against the Cajuns.

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He played two games in 2018, then eight in 2019, starting two and rushing 31 times for 123 yards and a TD. Kibodi also had six catches in 2019.

“He’s a unique player that maybe can do some things different than any running back I’ve had in the past,” coach Billy Napier said.

“Kalen Ballage at Arizona State was similar,” added Napier, who was the Sun Devils offensive coordinator in 2017. “(Ballage) can run routes and had kind of a high cut, bigger frame like this young man does.”

Running back Jacob Kibodi, a transfer to UL who previously played three seasons at Texas A&M, takes part in a spring practice last week.

Now with Pittsburgh, Ballage – listed at 6-2, 231 – was selected by Miami in the 2018 NFL Draft’s fourth round.

“He’s showing he’s a tough runner, able to get downhill and lower his pads,” Wisham said of Kibodi late last month.

“He’s an athletic guy. He’s a running back who, even though he’s tall, he has some shiftiness to him. He’s starting to get comfortable … in the playbook, so I’m looking forward to how he finishes the spring.”

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'Still a little rusty'

But Napier, whose Cajuns play their spring game Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN+) at Cajun Field, said Kibodi “does some good things, but still has a lot to learn.”

“He’s a running back I think we can use in different ways, depending on how he continues to develop,” Napier said. “I think he’s got to earn the respect of his teammates and the staff, right?

“He’s got to execute … in a practice setting before we would put him out there to execute in a game setting.”

Earlier this month, running backs coach Jabbar Juluke similarly suggested work remains before Kibodi is ready for the season opener Sept. 4 at Texas.

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“He has some physical tools to work with,” Juluke said, “but you also have to learn the offense and be ready to make a contribution in whatever way that is.

“He’s very talented. But he hasn’t played football in almost two years. So he’s still a little rusty, and he has to go out there and perform."

There are, after all, plenty of contenders for the carries Mitchell and Ragas leave behind. 

“I’m excited to see what he can do,” Juluke said, “but I’m excited about T.J. Wisham, I’m also excited about Emani Bailey and (Orphey).”