Updated: August 8, 2003, 4:18 PM ET

LAFAYETTE, La. -- When your team has not had a winning season since 1995, it doesn't do much good to talk about improvement or site statistics.

"The statistic that concerns me most is 3-and-9," Louisiana-Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle said.

That was the Ragin Cajun's record in 2002. They were 2-4 in the Sun Belt Conference.

Bustle was brought in from Virginia Tech last year to turn things around. Since then he's drummed up enthusiasm -- attendance was up 13 percent last season -- and sparked ticket sales.

Now he knows he needs wins, but getting them won't be easy.

Only nine starters return from last season.

"When we let the seniors go after our last game, I was looking at 46 kids on scholarship in the room," Bustle said. "That's not a lot of people."

Bustle brought in a dozen junior college players. Six of them were with the Cajuns this spring to get a jump on learning the system. But Bustle still has to find new starters at quarterback, running back and the entire secondary.

"Competition will be the best thing about this team," Bustle said. "Last year, we pretty much played with what we had. A year ago we were teaching everything."

Senior quarterback Eric Rekeita, who completed 65-of-113 passes for 652 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2002, missed the spring with elbow surgery and Jon Van Cleave (2,081 yards) left the program.

That left freshman Jerry Babb working with the first team after spring practice, backed by Matt Lane.

"Jerry is athletic," Bustle said. "He's going to learn and feel his way some. I have no problem with competition at any position, but Jerry is No. 1 coming out of spring."

With the loss of Jerome Coleman, who accounted for two-thirds of Louisiana-Lafayette's rushing yardage last season, Chester Johnson and Dwight Lindon will try to fill the void.

In the secondary the only player with experience is safety Jamal Smith, the team's top returning tackler. Corners Jerrel Carter and Terryl Fenton had limited play last year.

"We're very young and inexperienced," said cornerback coach Clay Jennings. "Our numbers are down but the players we have are very talented."

Louisiana-Lafayette also has an ambitious schedule that includes road games against Minnesota, Oklahoma State and Southern Mississippi, which will make victories harder to come by.

Still, Bustle is optimistic.

"There's no question we're better," Bustle said. "Now, does that mean over .500? Just under .500? I don't know where that measuring stick is."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index