Ragin’ Cajuns coaches will spend open weekend recruiting _lowres

Advocate photo by LEE CELANO -- UL-Lafayette Mark Hudspeth greets fans as he arrives for the Jaguars' season opener against Southern on Aug. 30. With an open date this weekend, Hudpseth and his assistants will be out and about, catching up with commitments and scouting other potential recruits.

With no game to prepare for this weekend, many members of the UL-Lafayette coaching staff hit the open road Wednesday night.

They’re not going on vacation. Ragin’ Cajuns coaches use the open date to hit the recruiting trail, visiting recruits Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“That’s where we’ve made our hay in the last few years,” coach Mark Hudspeth said.

This is the first of four Saturdays without football for the Cajuns, though those open dates won’t all be available for recruiting purposes. Two of those Saturdays will be the equivalent of Wednesdays as the Cajuns prepare for a couple Tuesday night contests.

Hudspeth said select members of his staff will be using the next several days to check in on current commitments while scouting some potential Cajuns as well.

“That’ll be huge as they get out to see all of our committed guys, and to go out and evaluate other players,” Hudspeth said.

A big target for the Cajuns this recruiting period is the defensive backfield, which will lose three starters this year.

“That’s a part that’s got to be addressed in recruiting this year,” Hudspeth said.

No looking back

Hudspeth did not hesitate when asked if he would’ve preferred to play one of the Cajuns’ big nonconference games later in the season rather than all in a row before Sun Belt Conference play opened up.

“Without a doubt,” Hudspeth said.

The Cajuns open up conference play at home against Georgia State next weekend — and like last year, they will play eight consecutive conference games to close the season.

But in Hudspeth’s first two years, the Cajuns played schools from Power Five conferences later in the year.

“Every team we’ve played later in the year, we’ve competed much better against some of the Power Five teams,” Hudspeth said. “You sort of catch your stride and it maybe levels the playing field a little bit.”

History backs up Hudspeth. The Cajuns nearly pulled off an upset in a late-season matchup against a Florida team that went on to play in the Sugar Bowl in 2012, and played within a score of Arizona in 2011.

Hudspeth quickly clarified that he wasn’t using the scheduling date as an excuse.

“Regardless of how (the schedule) fell, we had high hopes of competing much better than we did the last two weeks,” Hudspeth said. “But it’s part of life. It hasn’t been easy.”

Not before he’s ready

Hudspeth and doctors are optimistic Jamal Robinson will be ready to play when the Cajuns’ Oct. 4 matchup against Georgia State rolls around.

But they aren’t going to rush Robinson to the field before he’s ready.

“If he’s not 100 percent ready to go, he’s not going to play,” Hudspeth said.

Robinson underwent surgery on Friday, Sept. 12 to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Ranking roundup

The Cajuns haven’t played well against tough competition, and their national rankings in various statistics show it.

The Cajuns have the nation’s No. 109 scoring defense (36 points per game), the No. 102 passing defense (268.5 yards per game) and they are one of just five teams to force fewer than two turnovers this season.

Offensively, the Cajuns are ranked No. 102 in third-down conversion rate (35 percent). They are struggling with the downfield passing game, evidenced by their No. 122 ranking in yards per passing attempt (5.4), but they are one of just 40 teams nationally to average better than five yards per carry on the ground.