LAFAYETTE — After four years of marketing his program, Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth said Wednesday he has gone from selling a dream to building depth for the future.
That was the blueprint Hudspeth said he followed when pursuing the 21 players he announced make up the 2014 recruiting class that signed to play for the Cajuns.
Hudspeth said during a midafternoon news conference that he and his assistants were also more meticulous and had more opportunities than in the past to decide which players should be offered scholarships.
“We are not counting on many of these players to come in and play right away for us,” he said. “This class was signed for the future, so that next spring they can be in the hunt for a starting position.”
Hudspeth said nearly all of the players whose signings were announced Wednesday took part in the Cajuns’ summer football camps.
“The members of this class were evaluated more totally than any other signing class that we’ve had since we have been here,” Hudspeth said. “We also had more early commitments than we have ever had. Just about all of these 21 players were evaluated in camp this summer.”
Although some of the players, especially the three junior college players who signed, will be expected to provide immediate help, Hudspeth said that won’t necessarily be the case with the high school players.
The Cajuns have 17 starters returning. And Hudspeth said UL-Lafayette doesn’t have any immediate needs.
“With as many players that we have returning, we felt we needed to prepare for the future,” he said. “These are kids we feel have the necessary tools to be good players and, with another year of development, they will be able to help us. We are not really counting on these (high school signees) to come in and play as freshmen, although some of them may be called upon to do so.”
The Cajuns signed four offensive linemen and the same number to fortify the defensive front. Most of the linemen will be redshirted and given another year to develop, Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth said the high school signees will have a chance to carry the program to another level as UL-Lafayette begins construction on expanding one end zone’s seating capacity to approximately 5,600 and a new athletic facility that will be connected to the Leon Moncla Indoor Practice Facility.
Four of the signees have been enrolled since January. A fifth, tight end and former St. Thomas More standout Evan Tatford who did not play last year after transferring from Tulane, has been placed on scholarship, Hudspeth said.
Two high school quarterbacks — Jordan Davis of Klein Oaks High in Spring, Texas; and Dalvin Populist of Northshore High in Slidell — are also among the signees.
After not signing a quarterback last season, Hudspeth said he felt two were needed in this class because two-year starter Terrance Broadway is a senior. Hudspeth said one of the quarterbacks will redshirt.
The junior college signees include defensive back C.J. Bates and receiver Antoine Adkins, who played at East Mississippi Community College last year.
Also signed out of a junior college is Darzil Washington, an outside linebacker who played at Hahnville and West St. John before signing in 2011 with Texas A&M. Since then, Washington has played at a couple of junior colleges, including last year at East Los Angeles Community College.
Hudspeth said he developed a special relationship with Bates because they are both natives of Louisville, Miss.
“I’ve known C.J. for a long time, and I’m excited that he will be able to come in and have three years to play for us,” Hudspeth said.
Washington has had a somewhat intriguing career, Hudspeth said.
“We recruited Darzil three years ago but, at the last second, he signed with A&M,” Hudspeth said. “That didn’t work out for him, and since then he has gone to a couple of junior colleges and bounced around some, and now he’s gotten a chance to come back home.”
Hudspeth said the remaining four scholarships could eventually be used, probably in signing junior college players.