- Tony Thomas
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns are preparing to take on Miami (OH) in the Lending Tree Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. And, the man in charge of that preparation is second-year coach Billy Napier. Louisiana produced a school-record 10 wins this season. Napier has the Ragin’ Cajuns headed in the right direction.
As a result of this record-setting season, Napier has drawn attention for vacant head coaching jobs. According to ragincajuns.com, the most recent speculation has been that he was a candidate for the head coaching job at Mississippi State. But Napier has said he is not a candidate and has since agreed to a 2-year contract extension that will keep Napier in Lafayette until 2025.
Napier has built the Ragin’ Cajuns into a disciplined unit. They have committed just 14 turnovers this season and committed zero turnovers in six games, including four in a row in the month of November.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Ragin’ Cajuns are extremely effective. Their offensive numbers are impressive:
- Over 6500 yards of total offense.
- Five games over 500 yards of offense.
- One game over 700 yards of offense.
- Four-game winning streak in September, outscoring opponents 194-69.
- Six-game winning streak beginning in week 7 and continuing through the month of November, outscoring opponents 200-70.
- 10th in FBS in scoring at 38.8 points/game. Tied for #1 in Sunbelt Conference (with App. State).
- 6th in FBS in rushing offense at 265 yards/game. #1 in Sunbelt Conference.
- 8th in FBS in total offense at 501.3 yards/game. #1 in Sunbelt Conference.
- #1 in Sunbelt Conference in Sacks Allowed with 1.15 sacks/game.
Two of Louisiana’s three losses came at the hands of Appalachian State, the most recent loss coming in the Sunbelt Conference Championship Game to the Mountaineers 45-38. The Ragin’ Cajuns gained more yards and first downs than the Mountaineers. But they turned the ball over three times and a comeback late in the fourth quarter came up short as App. State held on for the win.
Nationally Ranked Defense
Louisiana has played solid on defense. They rank #16 in the FBS in pass defense at 193 yards per game. In six games, Louisiana allowed zero touchdown passes and 11 total all season. They allow opponents only 20 points per game, which is good enough for 20th in FBS.
The Ragin’ Cajuns have forced 18 turnovers, with a high of five coming in a game at Ohio. But in their two losses to Appalachian State, Louisiana forced only one turnover.
In the Sunbelt Conference, the Louisiana defense ranks #1 in pass defense (193 yards/game) and scoring defense (19.9 points/game). And, they rank #2 in total defense at 373 yards.
Stellar Coaching Resume
Napier has brought a wealth of coaching experience to the Ragin’ Cajuns these last two years:
- QB’s Coach, South Carolina State, 2005.
- Tight Ends/Special Teams, Recruiting Coordinator, Clemson, 2006-2010. ’06 recruiting class was ranked #16 in the country and produced an all-purpose player and NFL draft pick in C.J. Spiller.
- Offensive Analyst, Alabama, 2011. The Crimson Tide ranked #16th in scoring offense, 31st in total offense, and 16th in rushing offense.
- Assistant Head Coach/QB Coach, Colorado State, 2012.
- WR Coach, Alabama, 2013-2017. Coached 2014 Biletnikoff Award winner Amari Cooper, who had 1727 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. Drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. In 2016, coached WR Ardarius Stewart (864 yards, led the team), and WR Calvin Ridley (72 receptions, led the team).
- Offensive Coordinator, Arizona State, 2017. QB Manny Wilkins threw for 3270 yards and 20 TDs and eight interceptions, and WR N’Keal Harry had 82 catches for 1142 yards and eight touchdowns. Harry would be a first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots.
In his five years working with the offense at Alabama under Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide was 63-7 and Napier was part of two national championship teams.
Napier graduated from Furman in 2002. He was a two-time All-Southern Conference quarterback. In his senior year, he threw for 2475 yards and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the most outstanding offensive player in the FCS.
Yes, Napier has the Ragin’ Cajuns headed in the right direction.
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Image credit The Commercial Appeal