Coach: Rickey Bustle (4th season, 11-24) 2004 record: 4-7 Sun Belt finish: 2-5 (t-7th) 2004 I-A offensive rankings: Rushing: 63rd (152.7 ypg) Passing: 46th (229.6 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 107th (213.5 ypg) Passing: 11th (174.5 ypg)
at Eastern Michigan
at Arkansas State
at Middle Tennessee
at North Texas
at UL Monroe
Depth Chart: Offense
7 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
5 returning starters in red
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An offense that appeared to be hitting its stride faded down the stretch, and the Cajuns wound up last in the Sun Belt in rushing defense on their way to a 2-5 conference record. Head coach Rickey Bustle and the Cajun staff's primary goal in the offseason was to make sure the late-season swoon doesn't happen again.
Most of the weapons that UL Lafayette counted on offensively last year are still around, with the pitch-and-catch combination of Jerry Babb and Bill Sampy providing a threat behind a solid offensive line. But the offense is lacking depth, and the pressure will be squarely on a defense that learned the 4-3 on the fly last season.
The Cajuns have the most athletic quarterback duo in the Sun Belt in Babb, the incumbent, and redshirt freshman Michael Desormeaux. Babb broke his own school record for completion percentage (57.9) last year and threw for 2,345 yards and 12 touchdowns while also leading the squad in rushing with 498 yards, including a 101-yard effort against Kansas State.
The Cajuns' ground-attack-by-committee never really found its stride last season, though UL Lafayette did manage to finish third in the Sun Belt in rushing. Chester Johnson, who rushed for 910 yards over the last two seasons, emerged from spring as the top back, but he does not have a firm grasp on the starting position. Abdule Levier, Josh Harrison and newcomer Caleb Rubin could all see time at tailback. Ex-tailback Dwight Lindon has moved to fullback and could provide more diversity in the running attack.
Sampy is Babb's only solid target, and his availability is up in the air after an off-season drug arrest. His status won't be certain until just before the start of the season. The rest of the returning wideouts totaled five catches last year.
The line allowed 23 sacks last season, most of which came in league play at the end of the year. That figures to improve with four of the five starters returning and senior Greg Hodges moving to center to add stability to the middle. Coaches are waiting for 6-foot-7 junior Brandon Cox to live up to his potential at left tackle.
The UL Lafayette defense switched to a 4-3 scheme last season, and the result was a mixed bag. The Cajuns cut down on the amount of big plays allowed and ranked first in the Sun Belt in pass defense, but they sank to eighth in the Belt in stopping the run.
End Anthony Hills emerged as a front-line leader in his sophomore season. Fellow end Eugene Kwarteng and converted offensive lineman Marshall Delesdernier are solid.
UL Lafayette's linebacker corps may be the team's version of "no-namers," but the undersized combination of Tré Green, Mark Risher and Tyler Norman -- who average 217 pounds -- is as potent as any in the league. Norman played in only nine games in 2004 but led the linebackers in tackles with 49 and was without question the spring's best defender.
The Cajuns were deep enough at cornerback to allow a returning starter, Terryl Fenton, to move to a safety slot that is ripe with inexperience. Michael Adams, at only 5-8, came from nowhere last year to rank among the secondary's leaders.
Sean Comiskey provides the Cajuns with a consistent threat, having made 24-of-27 inside 40 yards in his career. The punting game is anyone's guess, and the squad struggled mightily both in returns and kick coverage last year. But the Cajuns continue to excel blocking kicks; they have blocked 16 over the last three years.
Officially, UL Lafayette improved its record for the third straight year under Bustle, going from 4-8 to 4-7 in '04. But the Ragin' Cajuns weren't feeling very successful when they lost five of their last six after a promising beginning. This season, the team hopes to maintain its early momentum and turn a fast start into a solid season.