How young Ragin' Cajuns football defensive linemen stepped up with Zi'Yon Hill out
Second-year freshman Sonny Hazard and Dominique Ratcliffe, who didn’t play as a freshman, also saw extra playing time on the line, as did Nijel McGriff, a transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College and experienced Ja-Quane Nelson.
All gained experience much-needed as the Ragin’ Cajuns (2-1) prepare to open Sun Belt Conference play Saturday (5 p.m., ESPN+) at Georgia Southern.
“We’ve got tons of confidence in our young players,” coach Billy Napier said Monday. “They’re only going to get better.
“A lot of those guys are getting opportunities and, for the most part, played well in the game. That’s critical for their development. When you get a chance to play, you learn and grow and adapt and adjust and evolve as a result of that. So, it’s going to help our team.”
That should especially be the case against Georgia Southern (1-2), whose modern triple-option offense tends to test the depth of opposing defenses.
“It’s great to see those guys step up … and we’re going to need them,” Napier said.
Hazard had three tackles Thursday, including UL’s only sack.
“I didn’t talk to all of them, but I talked to some of them and I told them, ‘It’s time to step up, it’s time to play and it’s go-time,’ ” Humphrey said. “Zi’Yon (Hill) was out, and it was time for some people to step up at that spot, and I feel like they did very well.”
Hill had an undisclosed lower body injury that wasn't revealed until game time.
Napier indicated he anticipated positive news regarding Hill and couple other injured Cajuns, starting inside linebacker Ferrod Gardner and receiver Errol Rogers Jr., but he he wasn’t ready yet to declare Hill and the others in or out for Saturday.
Rogers dressed against Ohio, but Gardner didn't play for a second straight week after spraining an ankle in UL's season-opening loss at Texas. The Ohio game was the first missed this season by Hill, who has a history of knee and shoulder injuries.