Rob Sale gave new UL-Lafayette football coach Billy Napier his first swift kick — literally — in pushing him toward seeking the Ragin’ Cajuns job.
As expected Wednesday, Napier made his friend and coaching mate Sale his first hire to the Cajuns staff.
“As far as coaching and recruiting, he’s just a stud,” Napier said of Sale, a Monroe native who will serve as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. “Plus, he’s very familiar with this state.”
The pairing marks the third time the two have worked together. Their first stop together was at Alabama, where both were offensive analysts in 2011 and helped the Crimson Tide win the BCS national championship.
Then, following the 2016 season, Napier was named offensive coordinator at Arizona State, and Sale joined the Sun Devils staff shortly thereafter as offensive line coach and running game coordinator.
The two were in an ASU staff meeting Dec. 3 when news of the firing Mark Hudspeth began spread.
“When the job came open, he may have kicked me under the table during a staff meeting,” Napier said Tuesday night, one day before Sale’s appointment became official. “We both have the common belief that this place could be an outstanding place to put together a great football team and a great program, and a great place to raise a family, to settle in and have a great time. We’re looking forward to that.”
Sale’s addition to Napier’s staff had been all but confirmed by a statement issued by newly hired Arizona State coach Herm Edwards shortly after Napier’s acceptance of the UL-Lafayette job last Friday. Edwards said he would retain running backs coach John Simon and wide receivers coach Rob Likens on his Sun Devils offensive staff, with no mention of Sale.
Napier said in effect that ASU’s loss is the Cajuns’ gain.
“We hit a home run,” Napier said of the hiring. “He is a quality teacher that gets results on the field, and he’s a well-connected Louisiana native that will be a key part of our in-state recruiting efforts.”
Sale will be coaching offensive line at his third Louisiana institution — the fourth, if you count one year at Catholic-Pointe Coupee in 2006 following his three-year playing career at LSU. Sale served as offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator at McNeese from 2012-14 and was UL-Monroe’s offensive line coach in the 2016 season before taking the Arizona State position in February of this year.
In between, he was in the Southeastern Conference, serving as an analyst and as strength and conditioning coach at Alabama from 2007-11 and as Georgia’s offensive line coach in 2015.
Arizona State averaged 31.9 points per game, 180 rush yards and 428 offensive yards per game last year with Napier as coordinator and Sale as offensive line coach. The Sun Devils led the Pac-12 in red-zone efficiency and were third in time of possession and turnover margin, and averaged 40 points per game in going 3-1 in its final four games.
Arizona State finished 7-5, going 5-2 in the last two months of the season, and will play in the Dec. 29 Sun Bowl. Like Napier, Sale will also not coach in the bowl game and will begin his UL-Lafayette duties immediately.
Sale played in 35 games and started 25 during his playing career at LSU from 2000-02. The Neville High graduate started 13 games at right guard for the Tigers in his senior season, and started at both center and guard for LSU’s 2001 SEC championship squad. He started the final five games and in the Peach Bowl as a sophomore in 2000.
Napier said that more staff announcements will come quickly. Cajuns assistant and former standout quarterback Michael Desormeaux said on Twitter late Tuesday that he would be retained on the UL-Lafayette staff after coaching wide receivers in 2016 and running backs this season.
Athletic director Bryan Maggard had named Desormeaux as acting director of the football program during the transition period on the same day that he announced Hudspeth’s termination.