A new era for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns is here for the 2022 college football season and their top 10 returning players. New head coach Michael Desormeaux has a ton of core parts returning to his roster, but the team has to find a new quarterback and offensive line. Their secondary looks like a strength, as Louisiana’s top returners are heavy on the defensive side.
Top 10 returning players at Louisiana
The countdown to the regular season continues here during Pro Football Network’s Top 10 Returning Players series. We’ve crossed the country to the Sun Belt and are firmly entrenching ourselves across the southeastern portion of the country with our look into each FBS team. Looking only at players returning to their same team from a season ago — we’ll deal with transfers later –, we’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team. Here are the top returners from Louisiana.
10) Trey Amos, CB
As stacked as the Cajuns had been on offense over the years, the defense has its turn under a new direction in 2022. Trey Amos is a sticky cover cornerback who should vault the Sun Belt ranks with more playing time. He’s limited receivers in his coverage over the years, recording five pass breakups last season despite being targeted very little. With that kind of production from a full-time role, Amos will rise up these rankings and better the Cajuns’ secondary in the process.
9) Bralen Trahan, S
The depth of the Cajuns’ secondary is one unit that won’t be tested with the turnover at Louisiana this year. Bralen Trahan is a key example of that, as the free-ranging safety is back for his sixth season. Once a depth piece, Trahan has been an integral part of the secondary over the past three seasons. For one final go, Trahan hopes to return to the 2020 form that saw him record career highs in every major category.
8) Peter LeBlanc, WR
One half of a talented pair returning to catch passes in Lafayette, Peter LeBlanc wins from anywhere on the field. He’s long and lean yet loses nothing in speed with his 6’2″ frame that tips the scales at 188 pounds. LeBlanc worked on his hands last season, progressing through the year. His ability to line up anywhere on offense will pay big dividends for the Cajuns in 2022.
7) Michael Jefferson, WR
LeBlanc’s other half, Michael Jefferson led the team in receiving yards and was dominant when given the chance. He wasn’t the most targeted receiver but made each catchable target count, ripping off a ridiculous yards-per-catch figure in 2021. His large frame makes him an easy find, and he should be relied upon heavily in 2022.
6) Andre Jones, EDGE
Filling the void left by Chauncey Manac, Andre Jones could see a massive uptick in production. Jones was terrific off the edge last year, but at times, he simply lost out on a sack to Manac by a half-second. He still recorded six sacks and 9.5 total tackles for loss as he’s equally efficient against the run as he is rushing the passer.
5) AJ Gillie, G
The lone returning starter on the offensive line, AJ Gillie anchors an extremely youthful unit at Louisiana. Gillie, like seemingly every lineman under Billy Napier, was a dominant run blocker who had success in the quick passing game. He’s a great mover in space and showcased plenty opposite Shane Vallot and O’Cyrus Torrence on the inside. Now anchoring the young core on the line for the Cajuns, Gillie’s abilities will be tested.
4) Chris Smith, RB
Averaging a whopping 6.5 yards per carry in his lifetime, Chris Smith returns as the top rusher on the Cajuns’ roster. Smith is a shifty runner with speed to burn. He makes one-step cuts look effortless and loses very little through his breaks. Smith also contributes in the receiving game, aiding whoever starts the season at quarterback for Louisiana.
3) Zi’Yon Hill, DT
It’s rare for an interior defender to return as the team’s leader in sacks and tackles for loss, but that’s what Zi’Yon Hill does here. Hill is a big man with terrific instincts in both facets. He’ll jump gaps at the right time, fight off hands, and pursue from the backside with ease. But he’s a master at getting to the passer, and when he does, he usually finishes. Hill is back for another All-Sun-Belt kind of season.
2) Kam Pedescleaux, S
A longtime standout for the Cajuns, Kam Pedescleaux returns for another go in Lafayette. After three years of dominance at strong safety, Pedescleaux is back to once again bring the boom downhill in run defense and patrol the field in coverage. He’s recorded multiple plays on the ball, most notably on underneath throws or outside to the flats. Pedescleaux also acts as a second linebacker at times in run defense, allowing very few carries to get by him over the years.
1) Eric Garror, CB
The strength of this Louisiana team will be on defense and certainly from the secondary as Eric Garror returns as their top talent. Garror is an uber-talented cover corner with sticky coverage skills and maybe even better ball skills. He’s recorded seven career interceptions and more than 30 forced incompletions as he can cover any receiver in front of him. He plays a bit of a boom-or-bust type of coverage, but in Garror’s case, it’s usually boom.
Honorable mention players returning to Louisiana in 2022
- Neal Johnson, TE
- Carlos Rubio, OT
- Kris Moncrief, LB
- Brandon Bishop, S
- AJ Riley, EDGE
- AJ Washington, CB