Why Billy Napier has tough decisions to make regarding Louisiana Ragin' Cajun receivers

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

A dozen different receivers and two tight ends all caught passes in UL’s spring gameThursday.

With a wealth of capable hands, decisions on who plays – and how much – could prove difficult when the Ragin’ Cajuns start preseason in August.

“That’s gonna be one of the more heated competitions over the summer and into training camp as we approach the opener,” said coach Billy Napier, whose Cajuns begin their 2021 season Sept. 4 at Texas.

“Who’s gonna really put in the work with the quarterbacks in the OTAs (offseason training activities) and the skill developments in the summer?”

Jamal Bell, a would-be starter who missed last year due to injury, and Calif Gossett, who missed much of the early part of last season because of an injury as well, didn’t even play in the spring game.

Starters Jalen Williams and Peter LeBlanc did, although both wore non-contact jerseys, LeBlanc had two catches, Williams had one and both should be good to go soon.

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Also playing and pulling in a pass was Cassius Allen, also injured and out all last season.

Freshman receivers Kyren Lacy, Dontae Fleming and Errol Rogers Jr., each of whom saw extensive time last season because UL’s receiving corps was decimated by injuries, all played as well. Lacy had four catches, Rogers had two and Fleming returned a couple kickoffs.

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Ragin' Cajuns receiver Dalen Cambre is pulled down by Patrick Menshah during UL's spring game Thursday night at Cajun Field. Cambre was one of 12 Cajun receivers to catch a pass in the scrimmage.

Long list

Jacob Bernard, a walk-on, led all receivers with four receptions for 79 yards including a 43-yard touchdown reception from backup quarterback Chandler Fields with 27 seconds go.

Neal Johnson, meanwhile, pulled in four passes, including a 15-touchdown from starter Levi Lewis, and fellow tight end Pearse Migl had three receptions and a two-point conversion grab thrown by Fields.

Fields finished 12 of 15 for 136 yards. Fresno State transfer Ben Wooldridge went 6 for 11 (54 yards) and high school signee Zy McDonald 1-for-2 behind him.

Two other walk-ons, Pat Hughes and usual holder Dalen Cambre, had three catches apiece, while TCU transfer John Stephens Jr. and reserve returnees Devon Pauley, Golden Eke and Kaleb Carter each had one.

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Hughes was targeted at least six times by a Vermilion quarterback group that included Lewis, Maryland transfer Lance LeGendre (0-for-3) and high school signee Hunter Herring (3-for-5, 56 yards).

“I’ll thing I’ll say about Pat: He’s blue collar. … He’s a tough kid,” Napier said of Hughes, a 6-foot-4 Brother Martin product from New Orleans.

“He’s a guy that’s got some length, he can run and he really improved his skill level, so I would have no reservations about putting Pat in a game. He’s one of those guys who really has developed.”

Lewis likes Stephens, Eke

Lewis was happy with the way his Vermilion team, which won 13-11 behind Kenneth Almendares’ 51-field goal as time expired, moved the ball, he wasn’t as pleased with how it finished drives.

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He said Eke, a former Oklahoma track athlete, and Stephens “really stood out to me a lot.”

“Golden, just blazing speed. He’s quick off the line,” said Lewis, who went 15 of 26 for 167 yards with the game’s only interception.

“You can just toss it up to John (Stephenson) and there’s a hundred percent change he’s going to catch it. You’ve just got to put it in his vicinity.”

No wonder Napier can’t be sure who’ll play this fall.

“I can see that being week to week, based off what we see in meetings and walkthroughs and in practice,” he said. “It’s going to be very competitive. I’m anxious to see who’s going to work the hardest and continue to work their game.”