The last time we were on location at the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans, it was for LSU's national championship. Thursday we were back for Sun Belt Media Day, and one of the conference favorites - the Ragin' Cajuns.
Louisiana is coming off a 10-1 season in which they were ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 1943. UL was the co-Sun Belt champions with Coastal Carolina after the game was controversially canceled, and it's clear that shared title isn't good enough for the Cajuns.
"I would probably say I ignored it. But after a while, we realized there was nothing we can do about. Now we're going into fall camp, ready to dominate," said defensive lineman Zi'yon Hill. "We fell short. But it's on to the next year, so it's time to conquer this year."
"I think we're handing it pretty well. It's fueled our spring and summer. We're focused on running the conference, and bring it home this year. We want to get that done," added Max Mitchell, junior offensive tackle.
And to win the whole title - for Zi'yon Hill it would mean so much.
"That would mean a lot. That would mean a lot to Lafayette as a whole. To the team, it would mean the world. The west division, it's cool and all, but the title would be even better."
Zi'yon Hill said it means a lot to him to be a local guy representing Louisiana Football.
"That's big to me. Being a kid from a small town, coming from probably 200 people at the game to thousands of people at the game. They're behind us 100 percent. It means a lot to represent," he said.
The Cajuns return practically all 22 starters. Even at running back, where UL loses Eli Mitchell and Trey Ragas to the NFL, they return an All-American kick returner in Chris Smith. Louisiana is predicted to win the Sun Belt West for the fourth straight year and embrace all the high expectations.
"It's critical that we take a good look in the mirror and remember where we came from. I think when you've got veteran players, that's the benefit of that," Head Coach Billy Napier said. "We just want to be consistent, dominant. We want to win at a high level. Last year we came back at halftime I don't know how many times. We want to be able to dominate the whole game and run the table."
Over in Baton Rouge, LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte was named to the Biketnikoff Watch List Thursday, which goes to the best receiver in the nation. The New Iberia native emerged as the Tigers' go to option down the stretch of 2020, finishing with a team-leading 735 receiving yards, to go with 45 catches and 5 touchdowns. Boutte was selected as a freshman All-American.
Meanwhile in New Orleans, it's official - the Pelicans have hired Willie Green as their new head coach. Green is coming from the Phoenix Suns, where he was an assistant for the last two seasons. He was a 12-year pro in the league, including one year with the then New Orleans Hornets. The Detroit native becomes the eighth head coach in franchise history.
I look at media days as Groundhogs Day. So what the shadow means is that the Cajuns are seven Saturdays away from traveling to Austin to face the University of Texas in their opener.
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