WATCH: Mark Hudspeth On Ragin’ Cajuns 2017 Signing Class
National Signing Day is one of the biggest days of the year for a college football program. It lays the foundation for the future, so how did the Ragin' Cajuns do?
Louisiana signed four local kids and got commitments from several others as either walk-ons or blue-shirts (basically, delayed commitments), keeping some of the area's top talent in Acadiana. On top of the local haul, Head Coach Mark Hudspeth also thought they addressed their needs in a number of places.
One of their areas of strengths features one of the best players in the Acadiana area, one of the Wreckin' Rams' finest.
"Our defensive backfield, I really feel like we helped ourselves there," Hudspeth said. Then he talked about Acadiana's star safety, Bralen Trahan, "Size-wise, I would like him at CB...but ball skills-wise, he's really a ball hawk."
Trahan is one of three DB's in the 2017 signing class that also includes Central Catholic-Morgan City's Ja'len Johnson (6'3"-200 lbs) and SchDarren Archie (6'3"-180 lbs) from Mississippi. All three are incredible athletes with versatility in the secondary. A couple years from now, all three could be impact players on defense.
Speaking of impact, Coach Hud thinks tight end Chase Rogers (6'3"-240 lbs) could see the field as a freshman. He caught over 60 passes and 1,000 yards as a senior, tacking on 13 touchdowns, which would get any college coach excited.
"With losing Nick Bryne, we feel like we really went out and addressed our tight end position with Chase Rogers," Hud said. When asked about his usage in the passing game, Hud responded, "The players tell us how much to give them the ball, just like when we had Pee Wee [Ladarius Green]."
Rogers is a specimen at tight end. Tight Ends Coach Reed Stringer will have a field day grooming such a talented player, and don't be surprised if he sees the field a lot as a true freshman.
Rogers isn't the only player in this class expected to shoulder a heavy load next season either. When you bring in junior college players, the expectation is to immediately fill a position of need.
The Ragin' Cajuns lost all three starting linebackers to graduation, which put a lot of pressure on the staff to bring in more bodies. They lost two recruits late in the process, but they still signed one from the junior college ranks, Karson Block.
Hudspeth admitted they didn't address their needs at LB, which means Block will have to come in and carry a lot of the load by himself. When asked if Block would get a chance to earn a starting spot early in the spring, Hud didn't hesistate.
"Right away. He's going to get a strong opportunity early because he started 20 college football games," Hudspeth said.
The pressure is also on for SMU transfer Ryheem Malone and Blinn College speedster Earnest Patterson Jr.
"We needed to improve our stock of slot receivers and kick and punt returners," Hudspeth said, referring to Patterson and Malone.
Last but certainly not least, Hudspeth talked about one of their top priorities in this year's recruiting class, the quarterback position.
They missed out on a junior college QB, but Hud's staff still brought in two very promising prospects in this year's class.
Levi Lewis was the Warrick Dunn Award recipient in the state of Louisiana and he orchestrated a high-octane offense for Scotlandville High School in Baton Rouge. The other QB, Kadon Harrison, is a coaches' son and a well developed athlete at 6'3" and 180 lbs.
"We have some outstanding cannons coming in at quarterback," Hudspeth said proudly. When asked if they could compete for a starting job as freshman, he said, "Both those guys we feel like are far enough along that they can compete."
Throwing a freshman into the fire at quarterback is risky business, but both young men will have an opportunity to fight for the starting gig, alongside Jordan Davis and Dion Ray.
Hudspeth left no stone unturned when discussing the signing class either. He loves the potential in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and he even compared Catholic High-New Iberia defensive lineman Ziyon Hill to Christian Ringo.
Hudspeth said offensive lineman Carlos Rubio and defensive end Andre Jones had the length and strength to grow into big time players, and he gushed about LeVante Epson, one of the top lineman from the state of Mississippi.
Every signing class has its weaknesses too. On top of missing out on two LB's, the Cajuns came up four spots short of filling out their class. Hudspeth said they didn't want to make a snap decision on a player just to round out their class, and he also referenced that with a small graduating senior class the didn't necessarily need a massive signing class.
"We could have easily tried to just fill a spot, but we wanted to be very thorough," Hudspeth said.
Also, remember that National Signing Day is just the beginning of the process. It's the first day players are allowed to sign, but it's not the only day they can make their decision. Hudspeth's staff will keep working to address their needs, so keep your eyes peeled for more recruiting news as the team moves closer to spring practice.
At the end of his press conference, Hudspeth also handled a couple curveballs when he was asked about new Athletic Director Bryan Maggard and the addition of new Offensive Coordinator Will Hall. Make sure to watch the video above to hear his candid thoughts on the two newcomers.