Just a Sample: Louisiana talent helps fuel bowl-bound teams

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LTU's Jaylon Ferguson

The 2018 college football season is drawing to a close with the second season – the bowl games – around the corner.

Many players with Louisiana ties have had a profound effect on the success on some of these teams headed to the postseason. We look at just a handful.

Defensive end Jaylon Ferguson, a senior from West Feliciana, has been the talk of many hardcore college football enthusiasts. With 15 sacks this season, the Louisiana Tech star currently sits atop college football’s list as the all-time sack record holder with 43 for his career. He also has 65 career tackles for loss. Other notables on the FBS sack charts include former Saints linebacker Hau’oli Kihaha (3rd all-time) with 36, Rams superstar Aaron Donald (30 sacks) and a pair of current Saints defensive ends – Trey Hendrickson (30 sacks) and Alex Okafor (23 sacks).

Ferguson’s 23.5 tackles for loss (TFL) this campaign rank second in the nation. Coming out of West Feliciana High, he considered offers from Missouri, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Tulane, UCF and Memphis before heading to Tech. It looks like he’ll be a top 50 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

Other players with local ties grabbing national attention? Here are a few:

Pooka Williams, the former Hahnville star, finished his rookie season at Kansas with 1,125 yards rushing (seven yards per carry) with seven touchdowns to end up third among all FBS freshmen runners nationwide. He tallied 163 yards rushing against Rutgers and 252 yards at Oklahoma.

Archbishop Shaw alum Trey Ragas had 1,040 yards rushing (5.7 yards average) with eight scores to help the UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns reach the Sun Belt title game.

LA Tech’s Adrian Hardy, just a sophomore, grabbed 69 passes for 1,052 yards and scores.

Former Destrehan star Kirk Merritt, who signed with Oregon before ending up at Arkansas State, paced the Sun Belt Conference with 75 catches for 939 yards and seven scores. He was named the Sun Belt’s newcomer of the year for his efforts.

Former Edna Karr defensive end Gerald Willis racked up 18 TFL with the Miami Hurricanes this season.

Wide receiver Damonte Coxie, a sophomore at Memphis who prepped at East St. John, has 63 catches for 1,062 yards and seven scores.

LSU’s Devin White, second in the SEC in tackles with 115, paired with teammate Grant Delpit, who led the SEC with five picks, help a defense that has the Tigers on the doorstep of a New Year’s Six bowl spot.

Tulane junior Darnell Mooney snagged 47 catches for 987 yards and eight touchdowns for the bowl-bound Green Wave. On the other side of the ball, Tulane sophomore defensive end Patrick Johnson totaled 10 sacks and 15.5 TFL this season.

GOOD KNIGHT: An intriguing story this season involves the eighth ranked UCF Knights. Currently on a 24-game winning streak, Central Florida will attempt to continue their perfect voyage without their leader, quarterback McKenzie Milton, who suffered a gruesome leg injury last week. They face Memphis in Orlando on Saturday to determine the American Athletic Conference champion.

The Knights are not just built on their offense. Defensively, they are surrendering 19.5 points per outing while boasting the 21st ranked pass defense in the country with 25 sacks and 12 interceptions.

Two major keys for the success of that UCF defense are former New Orleans Catholic League standouts Nate Evans and Brendon Hayes.

Evans, a product of John Curtis, is the team’s second leading tackler with 82 stops. The 241-pound thumper at middle linebacker also returned a fumble 94-yards for a touchdown earlier this season. He had a career high 11 stops against Navy on Nov. 10.

Hayes, a Brother Martin alum, is second on the squad with eight TFL in 10 starts this season. He has 35 tackles and three sacks.

UCF’s program took flight in 1979 and moved up to Division I in ’84. Such noteworthy players as quarterback Daunte Culpepper, cornerback Asante Samuel and a pair of current Saints wideouts – Brandon Marshall and Tre’Quan Smith – have donned the Black and Gold in Orlando. All have contributed to the program’s growth.

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