Video: Louisiana connections at Sun Belt football media day
NEW ORLEANS – The second Sun Belt Conference football championship game in December is projected to be the same as the first, with the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns meeting the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Coach Billy Napier’s Cajuns won the league’s West Division to reach the title game a year ago, and will start their quest to get back to the championship Aug. 31 against Mississippi State in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – the same location as the Sun Belt’s annual football media day on Monday.
Before the title game on Dec. 7, however, the Cajuns and Mountaineers will face off on Wednesday, Oct. 9, in Lafayette – a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Napier returns eight offensive starters, six defensive starters and three specialists from last year’s team. The list of returnees includes former Archbishop Shaw running back Trey Ragas and a trio of preseason first-team all-conference picks in wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley and offensive linemen Kevin Dotson and Robert Hunt.
The Cajuns were 7-5 in the regular season in 2018 before falling to App State 30-19 in the league championship game and 41-24 to Tulane in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.
In Monroe, Coach Matt Viator’s ULM Warhawks were picked third in the West in the league’s preseason poll. The Warhawks also return 17 starters from last year’s team, which finished 6-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play.
Highlighting the ULM non-conference schedule is a Oct. 5 visit from Memphis. The Warhawks also pay visits to Florida State and Iowa State.
As has become tradition, the in-state rivals close the regular season against one another. This year’s game is Nov. 30 in Lafayette.
Among the attendees on Monday was wide receiver Kirk Merritt of Destrehan and Arkansas State.
Merritt was a first-team all-conference selection last year who led the Sun Belt with 83 receptions and 1,005 receiving yards. He is on the preseason watch list for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s best player, and the Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s top wide receiver.
Watch complete press conferences for Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill and coaches Napier and Viator here:
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…