2023 Louisiana Football Preview: UL-Lafayette

University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin Cajuns

By Grant Chachere

All Photos Courtesy of Louisiana Athletics

 

UL-Lafayette QB Chandler Fields . (Photo by Benjamin R. Massey.

Outlook

After having three straight 10+ win seasons under then-head coach Billy Napier, the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns stumbled to their first losing season since 2017 after they finished 6-7 after a tough loss to Houston in the Independence Bowl.

This was due to a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that there were a myriad of players who entered the transfer portal, including RB Montrell Johnson and OL Cameron Waites who both followed Napier to Florida and WR Kyren Lacy who went down the road to LSU.

UL-Lafayette RB Dre’lyn Washington (Photo by Benjamin R. Massey/Louisiana Athletics)

The second reason is that UL had to replace its winningest QB in school history, Levi Lewis. Lewis is also the school’s career passing touchdown leader and led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a Sun Belt championship in 2021.

Although I feel like the Cajuns have the pieces to win games, last season has a lot of people worried about where this program is heading. It also doesn’t help that the Sun Belt overall has never been this competitive before in its young history.

Offense

Like last season, quarterbacks Chandler Fields and Ben Wooldridge will battle it out once again for the starting job and it might carry over into the regular season as well.

UL-Lafayette QB Ben Wooldridge and OL AJ Gillie (Photo by Benjamin R. Massey)

Although last year’s starting running back Chris Smith departs, the run game will return Terrance Williams and Dre’Lyn Washington.

The passing game returns wide receiver Peter LeBlanc and first-team All-Sun Belt tight end Neal Johnson. LeBlanc had 22 receptions for 174 yards and one touchdown while Johnson is the second returning receiver on the team with 25 receptions, 296 yards and two touchdowns. The Cajuns will also return Jacob Bernard (11 receptions, 196 yards and two touchdowns) and quarterback-turned-wide receiver Lance Legendre (13 receptions, 165 yards and one touchdown).

The offensive line maintains three of its starters from last season including left tackle Nathan Thomas, left guard AJ Gillie and right guard Jax Harrington.

UL Lafayette DL Sonny Hazard (Photo by Benjamin R. Massey)

Defense

The Ragin Cajun defense will use six of its top seven tacklers from last year, including first-team all-conference defensive end Zi’Yon-Hill Green, 2022 sack leader Andre Jones (7.5 sacks) and linebacker Jordan Quibodeaux (107 tackles).

However, the Cajuns do return some key players from last year’s team as well. The Cajuns will retain defensive Sonny Hazard. Hazard had 26 tackles (1.5 for loss) and four sacks.

Although UL lost a good bit of players in its linebacker room, they still have lots of experience compared to last year’s room. The Ragin Cajuns return middle linebacker K.C. Ossai (6-1, 240, Jr.) who is the only returning starter of the group. Ossai had 63 tackles, two sacks and one pass breakup.

UL Lafayette LB K.C. Ossai (Photo by Benjamin R. Massey)

The group that took the biggest hit on this entire team has to be the defensive backfield. Not only did they lose a load of players due to graduation, but they also lost starting cornerback Trey Amos and safety Kam Pedescleaux to the portal late. Amos transferred to Alabama while Pedesclaux traveled two hours down I-10 East to new-orleans to play for Tulane.

Cornerbacks Courtline Flowers (6-0, 183, R-So.) and Amir McDaniel (5-8, 182, (R-So.) will lead the secondary. Flowers had 31 tackles (two for a loss), one sack, three pass breakups and one interception. McDaniel

Special Teams

The Ragin’ Cajuns will return a fantastic kicker in senior Kenneth Alemendares who went 18-23 on field goals and 10-13 from 40+ yards. Almendares most impressive stat from last season is that he went 3-3 from 50+ yards, which is pretty darn good.

Senior Thomas Leo will take over the punting duties.

This unit will miss former cornerback Eric Garror who was the Cajuns’ punt returner last season. Garror averaged 15.1 yards a return and housed two punt returns for touchdowns last season for the Cajuns.

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