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Ragin' Cajuns Must Improve D To Win In 2013

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Dual-threat quarterback Terrance Broadway and Louisiana-Lafayette will score, but their conference title hopes depend on defensive improvement. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.
Dual-threat quarterback Terrance Broadway and Louisiana-Lafayette will score, but their conference title hopes depend on defensive improvement. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

2012 was a good year for Louisiana-Lafayette. For the second straight year, coach Mark Hudspeth led the Ragin' Cajuns to a bowl victory. Amazingly, it seems like Hudspeth will be staying in Lafayette for at least another year. Can the Cajuns take the next step and become Sun Belt champions in 2013?

They certainly have the tools to do so.

Hudspeth has gained a reputation for building genuinely exciting and athletic teams. With this year’s crop of Cajuns, there’s no difference. Hudspeth has brought a large amount of talent to Lafayette in his short time as coach. Next season, Lafayette will be starting a four-star quarterback, a three-star running back, two three-star defensive backs and a four-star defensive back. This is a far cry from the days when Louisiana-Lafayette was nothing more than a mid-major afterthought.

Perhaps Hudspeth’s biggest weapon will be Terrance Broadway, the aforementioned four-star transfer from Houston who led the Cajuns for much of last season. Broadway’s amazing athleticism and ability to throw outside of the pocket has proven to be a great fit in Hudspeth’s offense. With 7.3 highlight yards per carry, Broadway may prove to be one of the more explosive quarterbacks in college football next year.

Of course, none of this would be possible without Louisiana-Lafayette’s exceptional offensive line. Although the loss of Jaron Odom and Leonardo Bates will be difficult to overcome, the Cajuns still have three of their five starters from last year. If the line can provide similar protection for Broadway and his array of running backs, the Ragin Cajuns’ offense may be able to replicate their success.

Still, Louisiana-Lafayette will have to overcome their biggest weakness from 2012 — their defense. While it would be a stretch to call the Ragin Cajuns’ defense “bad,” they certainly proved incapable of matching the offense. While the Cajuns’ defensive line held against the run reasonably well, the Cajuns faltered against the pass. Allowing 428 yards per game, 283 of which came through the air, the defense seemed porous at times. The linebacker corps (just 2.5 sacks last season) needs major improvement if Hudspeth and Co. hope to win a conference title.

There is hope for the Cajuns' defense, though. Perhaps stability at the position will help (six linebackers return). Expect players like Darius “Tig” Barksdale to play a big role in a revamped Cajun’s secondary.

Right now, it looks as if Louisiana-Lafayette may be one of the top contenders for Sun Belt champion in 2013. An experienced Louisiana-Monroe squad and a Bobby Petrino-led Western Kentucky will provide stiff competition. Still, if Hudspeth can utilize his offense’s explosiveness and improve his defensive capabilities, the Ragin Cajuns may take it all next year.