Photos: South Alabama takes on UL Lafayette _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Head coach of the Ragin Cajuns' Mark Hudspeth seen on Saturday Nov. 2, 2014 against South Alabama at Cajun Field.

LAFAYETTE — With the winningest senior class in school history now gone, this year’s UL-Lafayette signing class takes on special significance for Mark Hudspeth and his staff.

The staff has worked around the clock lately, securing five verbal commitments in the 10 days before Wednesday’s National Signing Day. A couple of those players chose the Cajuns over offers from teams in the so-called “power five” conferences.

“It says something about the things that are going on at UL — the facilities that they’re finally building and the advancements that are going on in athletics,” said Louisiana publisher B.J. Thompson. “Because it would’ve been really tough to beat everybody to those kids in most years.”

The Cajuns have more than 20 solid commitments and have a good idea of how their class should shake out Wednesday — but never rule out a shocker on signing day.

“Sometimes you lose someone that you think is solid and you have to scramble and go back to someone that you’ve got hanging out there, but they feel pretty confident,” Thompson said. “There may be a surprise or two (Wednesday).”

The big player to keep an eye on will be Northwest Mississippi Community College defensive back Trestan Decoud, who will announce his selection around midday Wednesday.

Decoud, rated one of the top junior college defensive backs in this year’s class, recently included the Cajuns as one of his top five choices on Twitter, along with Oregon State, Eastern Carolina, Toledo and Utah State. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Louisville was making a late push and could offer the corner a scholarship.

“I think everybody is kind of sitting back and waiting on Decoud’s final decision,” Thompson said. “I guess he’s going to string it out ... but they feel good about him and they think they have him.”

The 6-foot-3 Decoud, who originally hails from Hammond, was named an NJCAA All-American after intercepting six passes a year ago for Northwest Mississippi.

“We’ll see how that goes, but I think they’re counting on his national letter of intent to be there,” Thompson said.

It also appears that the Cajuns will have to wait to learn whether they signed Port Allen lineman Marcus Keyes, who was scheduled to visit Oklahoma State this week but instead planned to take part in a signing ceremony Wednesday.

Interest has always been there for Keyes, who originally committed in June of last year, but it built after a solid senior season.

“He’s a kid that previously had offers from Missouri and Central Florida, so I’m not surprised by that at all,” Thompson said.

The Cajuns are also in the mix for Ackerman, Mississippi, receiver JaMarcus Bradley, who visited Cal a couple weeks ago.

But for the most part, it appears the Cajuns have most of their class solidly locked up, and the emphasis of this class is speed.

The Cajuns already have fleet-footed dual-threat quarterback Dion Ray enrolled in classes, and they should receive a signature from Manvel, Texas, wide receiver Gary Haynes III, a speedster who has been active trying to commit other players to join him with the Cajuns.

“They’ve added a lot of speed at defensive back as well when you look at Kamar Greenhouse from Marksville and Ethan Rose from Northside, (junior college defensive back Christian) Goodlett, all those kids can run,” Thompson said. “It’s obvious to me that coach Hudspeth wants to improve speed at the skill positions.”

Rose is one of three local products in this year’s class, joining kicker Stevie Artigue of Lafayette High School and center Cole Prudhomme of Eunice. Though Rose played quarterback in high school, Northside coach Trev Faulk doesn’t think he’ll have a problem adjusting to becoming a full-time defensive player.

And it’s not just because the 6-foot-2 Rose — who projects as a safety — can fly.

“You really didn’t see his physicality a whole lot at the quarterback position ... heck, I needed him to protect himself,” Faulk said. “But the kid really loves the noise, he has the mentality of a linebacker in a skill player’s body.”