Welcome everyone to the latest edition of the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns position preview for 2017! This week, we finally move over to the defensive side of the ball and start out in the trenches at the defensive line.
Without further ado, let’s get to the previews.
The defensive took some serious hits with eight players leaving the program after the 2017 season. Of the eight departures, three of them received playing time in all 12 games last year.
The biggest loss has to be defensive end Trev Miller, who racked up three sacks and 40 total tackles for the Cajuns in 2017. You combine that with a season-ending injury to Joe Dillon, it’s going to be tough for the edge rushers this season.
Another departure that will hurt the program has to be Kevon Perry, who racked up an impressive 49 tackles including 10.5 for loss. His senior season was great and further showed what this defensive line was capable of despite a less than stellar campaign.
While the defensive line took some hits with the amount of talent that they lost, there’s some notable talent that is coming back and one to watch is definitely Zi’Yon Hill. The New Iberia product has gotten a lot of love from head coach Billy Napier throughout training camp and had a good first year with the program, racking up 39 tackles, a pair of sacks, and even an interception.
Another player that has been talked about is LaDarrius Kidd, who lost 25-30 pounds of bad weight before coming into training camp and has gained some power thanks to a combination of new strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke, the snack budget, and a nutritionist for the football program. The senior racked up 21 total tackles and with the extra weight off of his 6’3” frame, you can expect to see him get after the quarterback faster. Meanwhile, we can’t talk about the Cajuns defensive line and returning players without mentioning Tra’Vonte Booker. He was relegated to being a reserve on the defensive line, but made the most of the opportunities he was given.
While Hill and Kidd will likely be starters on the defensive line, the defensive end position has some serious question marks with Joe Dillon out for the year due to a hip injury. The junior led the program in sacks last season with 4.5 and that leaves some big shoes to fill and one player that could do that is Bennie Higgins, who had 12 total tackles in five games last season. The junior will need to show out a little more to start getting the staff’s attention, but his experience is going to be crucial.
You look at the other defensive ends, you have to think Tommy Whitted will have a role after being a backup linebacker last season, racking up 20 tackles.
The Other Guys:
With a new era about to get underway for the Cajuns, there will undoubtedly be a lot of playing time up for grabs and the new players will have a shot at getting significant playing time. One player in the trenches that has been talked about is Timaje Porter out of Alabama. He was a first-team AL.com All-Coastal Alabama selection his senior season with 65 tackles, 20 of which were for a loss and seven sacks. Billy Napier has talked him up as being one of the younger players on the defensive side of the ball that has stepped up.
We can also talk about Sammy Ochoa out of Austin, Texas who has also gotten some love from the coaching staff who will likely be some depth to a position that doesn’t have a true identity just yet. Other freshman that could see some playing time include Tamir Bryant and Dominique Holden, who has played on both sides of the ball as a lineman and could be tested out on both sides in practices and figure out which side he works best on.
With all the key departures to the Cajuns program from last season on the defensive line, you’d think that it could be a down year at first glance. However, once you crunch the numbers and take into account everything you’re hearing from this coaching staff, perhaps things won’t be as dire at the defensive line and the battle between the trenches could be an improvement from last season.