ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is Louisiana Lafayette (Nov. 10 in Gainesville).
2011 record: 9-4 (6-2 Sun Belt), beat San Diego State 32-30 in R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
Coach: Mark Hudspeth, second season (9-4); ninth season overall (75-25).
Series record: Florida leads 4-0.
Top returners: QB Blaine Gautier (216-344-6, 2,958 yards, 23 TDs; 486 yards, 3 TDs rushing); WR Javone Lawson (63 catches, 1,092 yards, 8 TDs); DB Jemarlous Moten (80 tackles, 3 INTs); DB Le’Marcus Gibson (45 tackles).
Did you know? The Ragin’ Cajuns made their first-ever bowl game last season.
Scouting the offense: Gautier-to-Lawson was the Sun Belt’s top combination last season, and they led an offense that averaged 269.5 yards per game passing. RB Alonzo Harris was the league’s Newcomer of the Year, the offensive line returns four starters, and the WR corps is deep and experienced.
Scouting the defense: The Ragin’ Cajuns struggled against the pass last season (ranking 100th nationally), and they gave up 30 points per game. Only four starters return and none of them are on the line. UL-Lafayette desperately needs some young players who played last season -- like LB Justin Anderson -- to emerge as dependable players.
Three things to watch
One player who could emerge on defense is DE Jalen Fields. He signed with Georgia in 2010 but spent the past two years at Georgia Military Academy. He’s got good size (6-foot-5, 280 pounds) and speed and should able to at least give the Ragin’ Cajuns some kind of pass rush.
Gautier got better as the 2011 season progressed and capped his year by throwing for 470 yards and three touchdowns against San Diego State in the bowl game. He’ll have to be that good to keep the Ragin’ Cajuns in games if the defense doesn’t develop.
Florida has won the four meetings with UL-Lafayette by an average of 43 points. That should mean a lot of playing time for some young guys.