The Rajin’ Cajuns of Lafayette are the other program in the West that will be beginning a new era this season as the long, up-and-down tenure of Mark Hudspeth came to an end last season.
While Napier has never been in the head coaching role before, he just might be the steal of the coaching carousel. Napier has worked under both Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban.
He has a national championship ring from his 2011 season as an offensive analyst at Alabama. Before then, as Clemson’s offensive coordinator, he guided the Tiger offense to a then school record 436 points in 2009.
The man knows offense.
Napier is inheriting a young, inexperienced quarterback in Levi Lewis. The sophomore will have to beat out senior Andre Nunez, but it appears unlikely Nunez will have the starting role.
While Lewis is still green, he’s surrounded by a swath of talent. Running back Trey Ragas was an All-Conference player as a freshman last season after rushing for 813 yards and nine touchdowns.
Both him and Lewis will have preseason first team All-Sun Belt offensive lineman Kevin Dotson protecting and clearing up front, as well.
On the outside, it’ll be take-your-pick for Lewis, who will have the luxury of developing alongside several experienced playmakers.
The Cajuns only graduated 5.1 percent of their receptions from a year ago. Four receivers had at least 30 receptions last season and all four are back.
In a conference that’s loaded with receiver talent, Lafayette isn’t falling behind in that department.
Just as their not-so-buddies to the north, the major problems with this team lie on defense.
The Cajuns gave up a whopping 40 points per game last season, had the Sun Belt’s worst run defense and finished ninth in pass defense.
Napier has zero experience coaching defense and his defensive coordinator, Ron Roberts, has zero FBS coaching experience.
Roberts spent the last six seasons as the head coach at Southeast Louisiana where he amassed a 42-29 record. He’ll have his work cut out for him in a very new challenge.
Star lineman Joe Dillon and his career 19.5 tackles for loss is back but he will be without 18 TFL’s from last season’s defensive line.
This doesn’t bode well, considering how last year’s run defense was as aforementioned.
The secondary had two players drafted from a group that did poorly in its own conference last year. With NFL-level players, the defensive backs were still a shoddy unit.
A new coaching staff could change all of that. The defense belongs to Roberts, whose SELA team peaked at seventh in total defense in 2014. The majority of his defense’s, though, finished in the 60’s or worse.
The 2018 season will likely go wherever the defense goes in year one of the Napier era.
Outside of playing two SEC opponents and then the Sun Belt’s Big Three in back-to-back-back weeks, the schedule is pretty favorable. Those five teams could represent all of the Cajuns’ losses this season. 7-5, 5-3
The offense is going to have to outgun a lot of teams. This style of play can get the best of opponents early, but runs out of gas more often than not. Plus, Lewis is still inexperienced at quarterback and Nunez is… not the answer. This could get bad. 3-9, 1-7