Football scouts Ragin’ Cajuns

Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeux (6) gets tackled by Southern Mississippi linebacker Korey Wiliams, behind, assisted by linebackers Gerald McRath (24) and Eric Phillips, lower right, in the first quarter of a college football game Aug. 30 Steve Coleman, The Associated Press

AP

Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeux (6) gets tackled by Southern Mississippi linebacker Korey Wiliams, behind, assisted by linebackers Gerald McRath (24) and Eric Phillips, lower right, in the first quarter of a college football game Aug. 30 Steve Coleman, The Associated Press

By Daniel Johnson

For the second straight week, Illinois will be playing a team that is under the radar in the minds of most college football fans.

Although Eastern Illinois has a few Illinois connections in D’Angelo McCray and Cory Leman, the closest thing Illinois has in common with Louisiana-Lafayette is offensive lineman’s Eric Block’s home state.

And while most Illini fans know little to nothing about the Ragin’ Cajuns, the Orange and Blue have been studying film for another team that could trouble them.

“Their offense is explosive,” co-defensive coordinator Curt Mallory said. “They’ve got a quarterback that was the second leading rusher in their conference; they’ve got a running back that’s been a 1,000-yard rusher three years, going into his fourth. They’ve got two of the finer running players we’re going to face.”

Louisiana-Lafayette’s quarterback, Michael Desormeaux, was the team leader last year in rushing with 1,141 yards and in passing with 1,405 total yards through the air.

The Illinois defense has faced a player similar to Desormeaux already this year in Chase Daniel, although Daniel was a more polished passer.

The Illinois defense will face a hybrid-type quarterback similar to Desormeaux later this year, in Indiana’s Kellen Lewis.

So are there parallels between the Daniel and Lewis? –Could Desormeaux be a hybrid of the two?

“I wouldn’t say that,” safety Travon Bellamy said. “He’s just different.”

What can Bellamy say about the Ragin’ Cajun offense?

“They’re more of a running team, (Desormeaux) wants the ball a lot,” Bellamy said. “He’s a big dude, 6’2″, 230. Their running back, he’s almost averaging 100 yards a game. It’s going to be a test.”

Illinois’ other co-defensive coordinator, Dan Disch, said throughout the week he expected to see an offense similar to Illinois’ with option and zone-read plays; although he expects more personnel and shifts on the line.

“They’re the best rushing offense we’ll have faced up until now,” Disch said. “We haven’t seen a quarterback like this so far.”

Illini quarterback Juice Williams has been offensively prolific in his own right this year, having already garnered a co-Big Ten Player of The Week award. For offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, Williams could either show up as a 400-yard passer or a 200-yard rusher. It will be solely dependent upon the Ragin’ Cajun defense.

“It’s kind of a misconception that we’re trying to get Juice to pass more,” Locksley said. “I think that the real issue is when teams load the box up and take away our run by numbers. I want to have the ability to throw the ball. That’s what happened against Missouri.”

Locksley knows people have expected Williams to pass more in an attempt to become a more pro-style type player.

“That’s kind of the contradiction that’s happened with him,” Locksley said, “when you saw us pass for 450 at Missouri and then we run for 400 against Eastern Illinois. We’ve just been taking what the defense gives us, not pushing (Juice) one way or another.”

Louisiana-Lafayette hasn’t really shown a defined defensive scheme for Locksley to zone in on, running a 3-3 front last year at times, while using a more “four-down traditional” in their season opener this year against Southern Mississippi, a 51-21 loss.

“They may not have shown out in the Southern Miss game, but they definitely have enough things for us to contend with,” Locksley said.

Even so, have there been many schemes coaches have seen, offensively or defensively, that Illinois may be able to take advantage of? What will Illinois be able to do scheme-wise against a team that was thoroughly out-matched in its only game this year?

“If I told you that, they’d probably find out,” Locksley said with a laugh.