College Football Preview: Ohio vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

An early look at the prospects to watch in Ohio and Louisiana-Lafayette's Thursday night matchup.
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Thursday's night matchup between the Ohio Bobcats (0-2) and the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns (1-1) might not be the most exciting, but there are several intriguing storylines and players to follow. Here are my thoughts on some of the devy prospects to watch.

Ohio Bobcats (0-2)

Offensive Preview:

Losing the winningest head coach in MAC history was bound to create a transitional period, but the growing pains have troubled the Ohio offense through the first two games. Longtime coach Frank Solich stepped down due to health concerns after 16 seasons in Athens, ceding the reins to offensive coordinator Tim Albin. The results through the first two games have been, uninspiring to say the least. After failing to score a touchdown in a 29-9 loss to Syracuse, a bounceback performance was anticipated with the Bobcats playing host to FCS Duquesne. Despite being over four-touchdown favorites and their opponent not scoring a touchdown in the first half, Ohio fell 28-26, giving the Dukes their first win over an FBS foe in program history. The offense has been miserable and comes into this week with three touchdowns on the year, the second-lowest in the MAC. Oh, and to top it all off, they have given up safeties in both contests.

Devy Prospects to Watch:

De'Montre Tuggle (#24) - Running Back

After spending two seasons at Kilgore College (JUCO), Tuggle came to Athens and has been a productive member of the running back room since his arrival. Before this season, the fifth-year back had a ten-game streak of either averaging over six yards per carry or scoring a touchdown. The 5'10" 198-pounder has also excelled on special teams, averaging over 33 yards on 11 career kick returns, finding the endzone twice. Tuggle had a solid performance against Duquesne, averaging 6.3 yards and scoring two touchdowns, including an 83-yard return on the opening kickoff. On the year, the Channelview, Texas native has led the team in carries and has rushed for 104 yards.

O'Shaan Allison (#0) - Running Back

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After redshirting his first season with the Bobcats, Allison started all 12 games at running back in year two, leading the team with 869 rushing yards and recording six touchdowns. The Malvern Prep product has not found the endzone since, receiving only 16 carries in their three-game 2020 season as the second back behind Tuggle. The 5'10 205-pounder saw nine carries in week one, but against Duquesne, he led the running backs in touches. He racked up 87 yards from scrimmage en route to hitting the 1000-yard mark for his career. Allison leads the team with 119 rushing yards and a 5.7 yards per carry average through two games.

X-Factor: Quarterback Armani Rogers

Quarterback Kurtis Rourke has been efficient with a 70 percent completion percentage and has accounted for two of Ohio's three touchdowns. But, with the offensive woes thus far and the redshirt sophomore only totaling 310 yards through the air, you have to wonder if Albin makes some adjustments to attempt to bring some life to the Bobcats' offense. Enter Rogers, who started 18 games over three seasons at UNLV before coming to Athens last season. The 6'5" 225-pounder's career touchdown to interception ratio and completion percentage are nothing spectacular. However, he adds a unique wrinkle to an otherwise stagnant offense with over 1,600 yards on the ground and 20 career rushing touchdowns. Both quarterbacks will likely see action, but against a defense that allowed Nicholls State quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. to rack up 121 yards on the ground last week, it would be wise to utilize Rogers' skill set. 

Quick Hitters:

● Kurtis Rourke is a team captain and the younger brother of Nathan Rourke, former Bobcats' quarterback currently with the BC Lions in the CFL.

● Armani Rogers holds UNLV's school record for career rushing yards by a quarterback (1,549) and was named the Mountain West Freshman of the Year in 2017. He is the son of Sam Rogers, a former Colorado linebacker who spent ten seasons in the NFL.

● Wide receiver Jerome Buckner (#8) was the primary option against the Orange with seven receptions and 102 yards but failed to record a stat in Week 2. The 5'8" 165-pounder had a 47-yard reception in the third quarter wiped out by a holding penalty.

● Wide receiver Cameron Odom (#3) has five receptions for 92 yards on the year, including a 60-yard catch against Duquesne in the first quarter. The sixth-year senior has played in 42 career games, amassing over 1,000 career receiving yards. The 6'1" 190-pounder is a team captain.

● Wide receiver Ty Walton (#4) leads the team with nine receptions and has scored the only touchdown through the air this year. The 5'9" 165-pound pass-catcher has 68 yards through two games.

● Tight end Ryan Luehrman (#88) only has three receptions on the year, but in 2019, the 6'4 250-pounder was second on the team with 28 receptions and scored five touchdowns. His twin brother, Adam, is also a tight end on the Bobcats.

● Wide receiver Isiah Cox (#6) led the team in receiving yards the past two seasons but missed the game against Syracuse for "disciplinary reasons." The 5'11" 180-pounder will miss this upcoming week but has totaled 1,114 yards and six touchdowns in his Ohio career.

Louisiana (1-1)

Offensive Preview:

There was plenty of optimism surrounding Billy Napier's program going into 2021. The Ragin' Cajuns returned an experienced offensive line, starting quarterback, and top seven receivers from a team that won ten games, including a bowl game victory. Despite the lofty expectations, the offense has not quite lived up to the hype through the first two games, lacking explosiveness in the passing game and failing to get much going on the ground. A team known for being predicated on the run game, the Ragin' Cajuns managed just 76 yards on the ground in the season-opening 38-18 loss to the Longhorns. Last week, things weren't much better with FCS Nicholls State coming to Cajun Field, as the Colonels held the trio of backs to 84 rushing yards. The passing game was satisfactory with over 300 yards through the air, but as almost four-touchdown favorites, squeaking out a 28-26 victory leaves a lot to be desired.

Devy Prospects to Watch:

Levi Lewis (#1) - Quarterback

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Appearing in 43 games, the 5'10" 185-pounder has been instrumental in the recent rise of the Louisiana program since becoming the primary starter in 2019. Last season, Lewis became one of two quarterbacks in school history to throw for more than 6,000 yards and 50 touchdowns and is within ten scores of moving past Jake Delhomme's all-time career passing record. The lefty from Louisiana was efficient against Texas, completing 70 percent of his passes but only recorded one touchdown. He bounced back in last week's contest, throwing for 304 yards, his third time hitting the 300-yard mark in his career, and scoring two touchdowns. 

Chris Smith (#21) - Running Back

After redshirting his first year in Lafayette, the Louisville, Mississippi product flashed in a crowded backfield, averaging over ten yards per rush and scoring a touchdown on 12.5 percent of his carries. Last season, the speedy Smith was again utilized in an ancillary role in the run game but was nothing short of excellent on special teams. He amassed 617 yards on kick returns and scored twice, achieving First Team All-American accolades by PFF and 247Sports. The 5'9 194-pounder averaged 4.9 yards per carry and scored a touchdown in the season opener but has only rushed for 100 yards through two games.

Kyren Lacy (#2) - Wide Receiver

Despite being an overlooked three-star prospect coming out of Thibodaux High School, the 6'3" 213-pounder has the potential to become one of the best receivers in the Sun Belt. Lacy flashed as a true freshman, leading the way for the Ragin' Cajuns in receptions (28) and receiving yards (364) while adding four touchdowns. In games he recorded two or more receptions, the Louisiana native averaged over 14 yards per catch. So far in 2021, Lacy has recorded three receptions in both the Texas and Nicholls State game, combining for 67 yards and a highlight-reel touchdown in week one

X-Factor: Wide Receiver Peter LeBlanc

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Growing up in New Iberia, Louisiana, roughly 25 miles from Cajun Field, it was only right that LeBlanc ended up wearing the vermillion and white. Looking at the junior's stats through the first two games will not instill much intrigue, as a 31-yard reception, last week is his only catch of the year. It's what the 6'2 194-pounder has accomplished over his first two seasons in Lafayette that could indicate a breakout performance against the Bobcats. Playing in 24 games, the Catholic High product combined for 51 receptions and 678 yards, scoring five touchdowns. With the Ragin' Cajuns needing a spark on offense, it would not be surprising if Lewis looks towards the familiar LeBlanc.

Quick Hitters:

● Quarterback Levi Lewis was teammates with Dallas Cowboys' cornerback Kelvin Joesph at Scotlandville High School. Both were members of the 4x200 relay team. Lewis is a two-time team captain.

● Running back Montrell Johnson (#4) averaged 4.5 yards per carry in his first collegiate action but was shut down last week, rushing for only 11 yards on nine carries. The 5'11 210-pounder was a three-star prospect in the 2021 class and originally committed to Arizona.

● Running back Emani Bailey (#9) has totaled 46 yards on 11 carries this season. The Denton, Texas native appeared in five games a year ago and averaged 10 yards per carry.

● Wide receiver Jalen Williams (#9) did not record a catch against Nicholls State but reeled in five receptions for 71 yards in week one. The 6'3 220-pounder spent one season at LSU. Before his time at LSU, the Westminster Christian product was drafted by the Boston Red Sox and spent three years playing minor league baseball.

● Wide receiver John Stephens Jr. (#7) did not record a statistic in week one but went for 48 yards and a touchdown against the Colonels. The 6'5" 222-pound redshirt junior

spent three seasons at TCU. His father, John Stephens, spent six years in the NFL and made a Pro Bowl with the Patriots. His mother, Sybil Smith, was a collegiate swimmer at Boston University and was the first African-American female swimmer to be a First Team All-American at the Division I level. His sister, Sloane Stephens, is a professional tennis player and won the US Open in 2017.

● Wide receiver Michael Jefferson (#8) leads the team in receiving yards (84) and recorded a 46-yard touchdown in the second quarter last week. The senior spent three seasons at Alabama State and led the Hornets in receiving yards the past two seasons. His coach at Murphy High was Muskingum Barnes, a former defensive tackle at LSU.

● Wide receiver Errol Rogers Jr. (#6) recorded five catches for 50 yards against Texas but did not record a stat last week. The 5'11" 184-pound sophomore caught 13 balls for two touchdowns last season and has experience playing inside and outside. He is the son of Errol Rogers, an assistant coach on the Mississippi State women's basketball team.

● Tight end Neal Johnson (#87) has four receptions for 59 yards on the year. The Mesquite, Texas native recorded 24 receptions for 230 yards and three touchdowns in his first two years on campus. The 6'4 231-pounder only played in seven games last year, as he was in the "doghouse" after violating team rules. Levi Lewis has described the junior as "a receiver playing tight end."

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