Runnin' Ragin' Cajuns Will Take To The Ground Again In 2019

Like the Vermilion River running through the middle of Lafayette, Louisiana, its Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns look to do the same to opposing defenses in 2019. 

The state of Louisiana prides itself on a few things: food, fun and music. And nothing flows as musically as jazz, is as comforting as a good bowl of gumbo, or is as fun to watch as a great running game. 

This is what the Ragin’ Cajuns developed last season and look to continue to build on this upcoming year. 

In the era of the passing game being prominent, the Cajuns have zigged when everyone else has zagged. Don’t get me wrong, they still want to be productive in the passing game, and have some good foundation pieces to work with—namely in quarterback Levi Lewis and wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley—but they are going to make their boudin running the ball. 

In the first year of offensive coordinator Rob Sale’s scheme, the Cajuns were able to pile up over 3,000 yards rushing in 2018, which put them third in the Sun Belt Conference and 22nd overall in the country. 

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, as Coach Sale’s track record speaks for itself. 

As a former starter and standout offensive lineman for LSU, Sale has directed the offensive line and/or run game in his coaching career at every stop. His McNeese State Cowboys were one of the best rushing teams in the Southland Conference. He’s helped Georgia, UL-Monroe and Arizona State develop an identity on the ground, as well, paving the way from some excellent rushing production at all three stops.

Sale knows the offensive line and run game, just like Acadiana knows zydeco and crawfish boils. 

A great run game just doesn’t happen, it’s something that’s cultivated and developed. Cutting his teeth in collegiate coaching as a strength and conditioning assistant at Alabama first, Sale brings uniqueness to coaching. He’s able to teach the position from a practical and functional development standpoint, which allows players to grow mentally, technically and functionally. When you combine that with continuity, great things can happen.

The Cajuns return all five starters up front, led by All-Sun Belt senior guard Kevin Dotson (6-4, 315), who is also an NFL prospect. Joining Dotson up front is left tackle Rico Robinson (6-5, 308), left guard Ken Marks (6-4, 300), center Cole Prudhomme (6-3, 293) and right tackle Robert Hunt (6-5 310), all of which are seniors. 

You also have to factor in sophomore tackle Max Mitchell (6-6, 290), who is a key reserve that logged starts last season. When you have continuity in the message (coaching) and continuity in personnel (starters), you’re able to play faster and more cohesive as a unit. Watching the Cajuns offensive line on film and the guys up front really play well as a unit.  

One of the biggest things you notice is how excellent these guys move. The Cajuns don’t shy away from putting their big dancing bears out on the move in the running game, which makes their ground attack much more versatile as a result. 

Having great coaching and a great offensive line are parts one and two of a great rushing attack. Part three is having talent in the backfield, and the Cajuns have three guys that can tote the rock in juniors Trey Ragas (5-11, 227) and Elijah Mitchell (5-11, 221), and senior speedster Raymond Calais (5-9, 180).

Ragas led the way with over 1,100 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry with 8 rushing touchdowns. He’s the bell cow type of runner that gives the Cajuns a tone-setter in the backfield. Ragas put up nearly identical production in 2017, proving to be one of the tougher backs to bring down in the conference.

Mitchell made the most of his increased opportunity in 2018 by rushing for nearly 1,000 yards (985) at 6.7 yards per carry, hitting pay dirt 13 times. What makes him special is that he brings a bit more balance to the position, having the ability to be a downfield threat in the passing game as well. Mitchell also has above average burst to break the long run. 

And speaking of breaking the long run, that’s Calais’ specialty. The Breaux Bridge, Louisiana native also doubles as the Cajuns kickoff returner, where he finished with 908 yards, averaging 25.9 yards per return. On the ground, he’s the Cajuns version of the ‘knockout blow’ as he does a great job of making defenders miss in the hole, before darting out for a big gain. Calais finished 2018 with 754 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, averaging an impressive 9.3 yards per carry.

As the Ragin’ Cajuns passing game continues to evolve and develop, they’ll have more than enough up front and in the backfield to be able to lean on a potent ground attack to get them through a tough schedule, both in and out of conference.

Louisiana gets a great test to open the season when they’ll meet up with Mississippi State in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Aug. 31.


Emory Hunt is the owner of Football Gameplan and an excellent follow on Twitter — @fballgameplan.

Villanova Sends A Message With Season-Opening Demolition Of Colgate

If Saturday’s college football season opener was any indication, Villanova may be back.

Living Legend Terry Curtis Leads UMS-Wright Into Freedom Bowl

If you want to know what sustained success looks like then turn your attention to Terry Curtis.

2019 CAA Preview: Villanova Wildcats

Last season, the Villanova Wildcats were riding high after upsetting and defeating Philadelphia-area rival Temple. It was the first time in almost a decade that the 'Cats were able to pull off the FCS-over-FBS victory, finally doing so after coming close in previous installments of the rivalry game.

Live This Week: Aug. 29-31, 2019

The 2019 Freedom Bowl Is LIVE On Flo

We did it, folks. We survived the long offseason and will now be rewarded with a weekend full of fantastic high school and college football.

The 7 Best Uncommitted Players At The Freedom Bowl

The 2019 Freedom Bowl Is LIVE On Flo

Nearly 20 three-star and above prospects will be on display this weekend at the Freedom Bowl, and while the majority of them are committed, there remains plenty of talent still looking for the school they will play for at the next level. 

Toughest CAA Non-Conference Schedules

In case you somehow missed the news, FloFootball will be the home of 70 Colonial Athletic Association games this season and we couldn't be more excited.

Stony Brook Enters 2019 With Playmakers & Postseason Aspirations

It took some time, but Stony Brook football transitioned nicely into Colonial Athletic Association membership. After four straight, 5-win seasons, the Seawolves broke out with a 10-3 campaign in 2017.

2019 CAA Preview: New Hampshire Wildcats

Strange as it may sound, there’s no place University of New Hampshire safety Pop Lacey would rather have Thanksgiving dinner this year than the UNH dining hall. Lacey’s preference has less to do with the quality of the food served on campus than it does with the length of his team’s season.

Catching Up With Stony Brook's Sam Kamara

As the 2019 college football season approaches, the Stony Brook Seawolves look to continue to build on the success they had in 2018. One way to ensure that happens, is by leaning on what looks to be a strong defense at all three levels. 

Ricky Santos Is Back Home In New Hampshire's Quarterback Room

null

Only the most ardent University of New Hampshire football fans gave the Wildcats a chance to be competitive in their 2004 game at Rutgers. Even that group became less optimistic when it was announced that UNH starting quarterback Mike Granieri would miss the Rutgers game with a knee injury suffered a week earlier against Delaware.