2022 Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Preview

by Matt Fargo

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

2021-22 Season Record 13-1 (8-0 Sun Belt West) - 7-7-0 ATS - 3-11-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 6
Defense - 5

Overview

Louisiana has chalked up three straight double-digit win seasons, the only three in the history of the program, but getting a fourth will be difficult. Last season was one for the ages as the Cajuns lost to Texas in their season opener and then ran off 13 consecutive wins and finished ranked No. 16 in the AP Poll. When your team goes 40-12 over a four-year span in a smaller conference, the head coach is bound to be gobbled up by a big boy program and that is what happened to Billy Napier as he took off for Florida to try and turn around a once proud program. Michael Desormeaux takes over as the new head coach after leading them as interim coach to a New Orleans Bowl victory over Marshall and this is his first full time head coaching job. Louisiana has a lot to replace as it loses 11 starters with the biggest losses coming on offense that was actually sporadic at times last season but did just enough. Another West Division title is likely though.

Offense

For a team that won 13 games, the offense was not great as the Cajuns finished No. 63 overall and No. 50 in scoring. They hung up big numbers on teams they were supposed to but also scored 24 or fewer points five times. Now the challenge will be to somehow come close to replicating those rankings. Quarterback Levi Lewis, who was outstanding as a full time three-year starter, will be sorely missed and now there will be a battle between Chandler Fields and Ben Wooldridge and seeing that both have different styles, both could see decent time on the field. The top three receivers are back so there is at least that to hang their hat on and give them some hope to help the quarterback along. Leading rusher Chris Smith, who ran for 855 yards is back so there should be good balance but whoever is blocking and pass protecting might take a while to figure out as Louisiana has to replace four starters along the offensive line.

Defense

This was the area that Louisiana dominated most of the season as it finished No. 36 in total defense and No. 11 in scoring defense. They allowed 468 ypg against Texas, Nicholls and Georgia Southern in three of the first four games but in the other 11 games, they yielded just 306.6 ypg. The Cajuns do have to replace six starters but the holdovers are loaded with playmaking ability. The defensive line will likely be the force as on the inside, Zi'Yon Hill had 58 tackles and 5.5 sacks while on the end, Andre Jones contributed 60 tackles and four sacks. At linebacker, Chauncey Manac is a massive loss after totaling 166 tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks including 10.5 last season over his 46 career games as is leading tackler Lorenzo McCaskill so spots need to fill quickly. The secondary is in good shape as long as the pass rush continues to be disruptive because they have two starters back and some decent experience as well.

2022 Season Outlook

While no one expects a repeat of last season with a team record 13 wins, it is not out of the realm of possibility. Players make the team but culture is a big part of it and this is a program that possesses that so hiring the coaches from the inside was a huge and smart move. The Cajuns will be the hunted all season long and they are better than every team on their schedule based on projected victories  so another big season can take shape as long as they stay relatively healthy. They open with three nonconference cupcakes and then SBC season gets underway with five games against teams projected for 5.5 wins or less. Troy is up next, their toughest conference opponent but that game is at home. The final two are easy and those are sandwiched around Florida St. on the road. The O/U win total is 8.5 and the Cajuns will be favored in every game expect against the Seminoles so we are saying yes to double-digits and comfortably. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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