Predicting which or how many prospects in a particular signing class are going to make big impacts is a total guessing game no matter what the stars, recruiting websites or court of public opinion say on national signing day.
Take UL’s 2016 class, for example.
The Cajuns signed 22 that day in February, only three made huge impacts in Raymond Calais, Trey Ragas and Jacques Boudreaux. Calais and Boudreaux were considered two-star prospects, but both excelled before leaving the program.
Then there’s the 2017 class. UL only signed 17 that year, but what a difference that group has made. That list includes Bennie Higgins, Zi’Yon Hill, Ja’len Johnson, Andre Jones, Levi Lewis, Elijah Mitchell, Ryheem Malone, Carlos Rubio and Bralen Trahan.
Signing day is even more complicated these days with Division I transfers included in the signing day equation more than ever.
So good luck predicting which of UL’s 24 additions over the past two months will make the most significant contributions to future success.
With that said, it didn’t take a magnifying glass to notice a few of the 2021 crop that has UL coach Billy Napier and his staff buzzing.
One is Jalen Clark out of Alabama Christian Academy in Montgomery.
The 6-2, 185-pounder high school quarterback displayed his athletic ability this past fall by throwing for 1,794 yards and 21 touchdowns and also running for 1,311 and 25 more scores. That’s in addition to playing both safety and cornerback on occasion.
UL announced him as a safety, but Napier made it clear that’s only a guess at this point.
“He might actually be able to play corner,” Napier said of Clark. “We think he has a similar skill set to maybe a Trey Amos or a Caleb Anderson. This is guy who has wildcat potential, a guy you could use on offense. This guy is a dynamic player now.”
Clark is originally from New Orleans and his father still lives there. Napier described his character as “exceptional” and Clark’s high school coach Nate Sanford called his personality and leadership skills “larger than life.”
Athletically, he could also be a return threat in college.
“It also wouldn’t be a surprise if he ends up being a return threat in college,” Napier said. “He’s got that kind of gear. We’ve got to get him here and he’s got to earn his stripes. But I think he’s one of these that we’re going to look around and say ‘Hmmm, how did that guy end up here.’”
If Clark turns out being that good, not sure that prototype's ever existed at Cajun Field.
Another signee Napier seemed especially excited about was 6-2, 220-pounder tight end Jathan Caldwell from Dickinson, Texas.
Caldwell did damage in high school as a running back, tight end, inside receiver and outside receiver, in addition to being a district defensive MVP in basketball and an academic all-stater in the classroom.
“Overall, I think he’s a run-after-catch, mismatch type player that’s a sufficient blocker,” Napier said. “We’re really pleased to get him here in the second period. He’s a guy that had power-five offers. We stayed the course there and I think he’s a guy that fits a need there. We need that type of player in that room.”
Let's just say, the closest thing to Ladarius Green in a decade.
Linebacker KC Ossai from Conroe, Texas drew extra high praise as well.
“He’s extremely intelligent,” Napier said. “That’s a really loose-hipped and really physical and smart player with a lot of versatility. This guys can play inside backer on first and second down and rush on third down. I think we got a steal there.”
Ossai has a brother playing at Texas and another at Houston Baptist. He’ll fit in perfectly in Cajun Country coming from a “devote Catholic family,” and his computer science mind works well academically as well.
“We had a couple professors on campus do an exceptional job down the stretch,” Napier revealed. “We had a couple of virtual meetings with two professors that really helped us close the deal.”
A likely Ferrod Gardner 2.0.
Another signee that causes Napier’s smile to get larger when discussed is 5-9, 215-pound running back Dre’lyn Washington from Hemphill, Texas.
“The verified speed, the production,” Napier said. “We’re very excited about him.”
In his prep career, Washington rushed for 5,390 yards and 68 touchdowns.
“Dre Washington is a player that if you look closely,” Napier said. “You say, ‘Alright, that guy’s 215 pounds and he’s run a 10.8-100 meters and you watch that tape.’ I know it’s Hemphill, Texas and it’s out there in the middle of nowhere, but for that guy to be that big and to be that fast and to have that much production, I think is pretty special.”
The next Ragas perhaps?
Unfortunately for now, all we can do is wait for that 2021 signing day report card a few years down the road.