Elijah Mitchell rushed for more than 200 yards his freshman year at UL before getting hurt.
New Cajuns head coach has plans for former Erath running back when he is healthy
NEW ORLEANS – Elijah Mitchell has barely scratched the surface of how good he can be.
The Erath High product gave fans and coaches a peek at that potential – a tease frame, more than a freeze frame – during UL’s 2017 season.
But a foot injury against Idaho put Mitchell on the shelf for half of the season and all of spring drills, robbing him of a chance to impress new coach Billy Napier and his staff on the field.
Not to worry. Napier has plans for Mitchell as soon as he gets healthy.
“We want to get Elijah ready to play,” Napier said during Monday’s Sun Belt Conference Media Day activities. “He will be on a modified schedule, but we’re eager to have him work his way in there and be part of the offense.
“He’s got a lisfranc injury, which basically is a dislocation of the foot. It’s a two-operation kind of thing. It’s very subjective. There’s no textbook for when he should come back.”
Sophomore Trey Ragas has earned the right to be the lead back heading into fall drills after a team-best 813 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2017. But Napier’s fast-paced attack has room for many contributors, such as Mitchell and Cecilia High-ex Raymond Calais Jr.
Mitchell rushed 11 times for 56 yards and a touchdown against SLU, gained 84 on just 8 carries at Tulsa – scoring both on the ground and through the air – and totalled 107 yards and a pair of scores versus UL Monroe.
“Obviously, you can see on film that he’s got talent,” Napier said.
The new coach also sees bright things ahead for Calais, whose main contributiion has been special teams with a pair of kickoff return touchdowns against SLU the highlight.
A former track star at Cecilia, Calais has 1,044 yards in career kick returns and 205 yards on 38 carries in limited action on offense. He saw extended time on offense in the spring.
“Raymond will be a big part of our offense,” Napier said. “We want to be creative in ways we try to get him the ball.”
Trying to best utilize talented running backs is just one of many tasks Napier must solve as the program’s leader.
“The challenge is in front of us,” said Napier, who is already hard at work on his 2019 recruiting class. “We want to create a personality that can deal with adversity within a season, within a game, within a quarter.
“It starts with how we go about our business inside the building, and a belief that we can do special things.”
It is clear Napier is expecting special things from his pair of Acadiana area backs.
“We have Calais for two more years, and Mitchell hopefully for three more, and we could see both of them become household names before their Cajun careers are over,” he said.