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Timeline of NCAA investigation into Louisiana-Lafayette, David Saunders

Sunday’s news that Louisiana-Lafayette was being investigated for major recruiting violations incurred by former assistant coach David Saunders was the product of an investigation that started almost two years ago.

Saunders was accused of directing players to a specific site in Mississippi to take their ACT exams, where their answers would be altered in order to get them passing scores. Saunders was also accused of providing cash payments to players for educational and living expenses.

In its response to the NCAA allegations, Louisiana-Lafayette outlined the investigation as it played out, starting in December of 2013. Here is how the investigation played out over the last 22 months according to Louisiana-Lafayette’s official response to the allegations.

  • December 2013 – The NCAA enforcement staff contacts Louisiana-Lafayette and requests to speak with Saunders and an unknown football player. The names of the players in question are redacted in the report.
  • December 16, 2013 – Enforcement staff and legal counsel for the University of Mississippi meet with Saunders and an athlete pertaining to violations incurred while at Ole Miss. During the interview, a player reported that Saunders “somehow affected his [redacted] ACT exam score [redacted] and he believed that Saunders similarly affected the ACT exam scores of several current or former Louisiana-Lafayette football student athletes.” Upon hearing this, Louisiana-Lafayette President Joseph Savoie and Director of Athletics Scott Farmer employed outside legal counsel to cooperate with the NCAA investigation.
  • January 22 – February 12, 2014 – Enforcement staff and the University conduct interviews with the student athletes and their families who were identified, plus those who were directly recruited by Saunders.
  • February 19, 2014 – Enforcement staff, outside counsel and University of Mississippi counsel interview Ginny Crager, exam administrator for Wayne County High School. Crager was Saunders’ contact at Wayne County High School, and Saunders disclosed in an interview he’d known Crager since 2005. It was determined that four Louisiana-Lafayette players had taken their ACT there and received NCAA-qualifying scores. This is two weeks after national signing day, when recruits sign letters of intent to attend universities on football scholarships.
  • February 25, 2014 – Saunders was interviewed a second time. His responses, combined with evidence obtained during the investigation, form the basis of the third allegation that he knowingly provided false or misleading information during the investigation.
  • May 2014 – Louisiana-Lafayette removes Saunders from all recruiting activity.
  • August 2014 – University and enforcement staff requests Saunders to provide a release to ACT to disclose payment records bearing his name to student athletes identified in the investigation. Saunders attorney withdraws representation before a release is provided.
  • September 2014 – Enforcement staff and the university learn that ACT had conducted its own investigation earlier in 2014 into Wayne County High School, and finds out Crager is no longer working as test administrator.
  • October 2, 2014 – The university again requests Saunders, represented by a different attorney, to allow ACT to disclose any payment records bearing Saunders’ name to student athletes.
  • October 30, 2014 – Having heard no response from Saunders with regards to the payment records, Louisiana-Lafayette terminates Saunders’ employment. The team plays a home contest against South Alabama two days later. The NCAA report indicated Saunders’ employment was terminated on November 2.
  • November 3, 2014 – Louisiana-Lafayette announces Saunders departure from the football team. It is originally passed off as a resignation, which was curious since it occurred at midseason. At the time, coach Mark Hudspeth said, “There is never a good time when you announce your resignation. … That’s what (Saunders) did yesterday for personal reasons, and that’s as far as we’re allowed to say.”

After the university terminated Saunders’ employment, it discovered that two additional players currently on the roster had taken their ACT at Wayne County High School while being recruited. After interviews, it was determined both were sent there by Saunders.

According to its report, the university reached out and requested a third interview with Saunders, which he declined through his attorney. His refusal to participate formed the basis of the NCAA’s fourth and final allegation, that Saunders “violated the NCAA cooperative principle by refusing to provide information relevant to the investigation.”


Beat Writer Q&A with Joe Vozzelli of the San Marcos Daily Record

Now that the Cajuns have started Sun Belt Play, we’ll try to fire up a weekly Q&A series with a beat writer from the opposing team.

This week, our guest is Joe Vozzelli, who covers Texas State for the San Marcos Daily Record. Joe will be covering the game at Cajun Field this weekend, and if you want an opposing team’s perspective, follow him on twitter by clicking here.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Luke Johnson: Texas State’s defense has compiled some truly ugly statistics through four games. What’s been the biggest issue so far?And how much could the change at defensive coordinator help the team?

Joe Vozzelli: Really, everything — missed tackles, blown coverages and the list goes on. It’s mind blowing when you actually look at the numbers. Texas State has allowed at least 56 points in three games, and has surrendered at least 300 yards through the air in every game, including to lower-division opponent Prairie View A&M.

By all accounts, the Bobcats have rallied around interim defensive coordinator Brad Franchione. Texas State won’t look much different schematically (it really can’t change much at this point in the season), but the Bobcats have cleaned up the “grey areas” that existed in John Thompson’s scheme. I’d expect Texas State to bring more pressure on defense something that Thompson shied away from this season for whatever reason.

Will this all result in better performances? It can’t get much worse.

LJ: It’s somewhat surprising to see Tyler Jones leading the team in rushing when it had a 1,000-yard rusher (Robert Lowe) returning from a year ago. Is this a product of the team falling behind early?

JV: That’s hard to say. It’s true that Texas State has fallen behind early in each of its games this season (save Prairie View A&M). Yet, the Bobcats also haven’t found many running lanes at least on called handoffs to its tailback combo of Chris Nutall and Robert Lowe.

More than anything else, it shows just how masterful Tyler Jones has been at knowing when to tuck it and run, which was on full display against Southern Miss. In fact, offensive coordinator Mike Schultz describes that skill set as the junior’s best and most underrated attribute.

LJ: Speaking of Jones, he’s really turned things on since last year’s game against the Cajuns. How different of a quarterback is he now compared to last October?

JV: It’s really night and day. For my money, the light turned on for Jones after an early November loss to Georgia Southern when he threw a pick-six touchdown that proved to be the difference in a 28-25 setback. Jones took the blame, and it was a galvanizing moment as the then-sophomore was deadly under center from there.

This past offseason, he spent extra time in the weight room and really worked on his throwing motion to add more zip onto his passes. Head coach Dennis Franchione always had a plan for Jones ever since the latter’s true freshman season, and finally everything is starting to come together with a strong start to 2015.


LJ: An earlier-than-normal open date in the schedule helped the Cajuns get some guys healthy earlier this season. Was Texas State able to use it to its advantage as well?

JV: When it comes down to getting healthy, I don’t think the break has been as much of an advantage as Franchione originally hoped. The Bobcats were without their top four defensive tackles against Houston on Sept. 26, and they’re still up in the air as to whether any of them will be back on Saturday night.

Given the fact that John Thompson stepped down when he did, the break did still provide a huge benefit for Texas State. The Bobcats needed every minute of practice time to retool their defense.

LJ : How has Texas State prepared for the different styles brought to the table by Cajuns quarterbacks Jalen Nixon and Brooks Haack? Are they preparing for one more than they’re preparing for another?

JV: Practice has been closed to the media this week, and the players and coaches haven’t divulged much, so it’s hard to say. Franchione seems to feel that no matter which quarterback Mark Hudspeth chooses that both of them will see snaps.

I will say this: The Bobcats haven’t fared well against dual threat quarterbacks the past two seasons, so they’re probably more scared of what Nixon can do. Houston quarterback Greg Ward had a field day against Texas State’s defense two weeks ago.

LJ: What do the Bobcats need to do to slow down Elijah McGuire this week?

It’s going to have to be a team effort. The weakness of the Bobcats’ defense in each matchup with the Cajuns has been the front line. That could put added pressure on the linebackers and safeties to make plays on McGuire out in space, which isn’t exactly a fun proposition for any defender. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Texas State load the box, and dare UL Lafayette to throw the ball downfield.

Cajuns looking for more explosive plays out of McGuire, Robinson

LAFAYETTE – No offense to senior tight end Nick Byrne, said Louisiana-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth, but he shouldn’t be the guy who winds up with the Cajuns most explosive play.

Except that was the case last week against Akron. Byrne rumbled for 23 yards on his first catch of the season, and it was the only play of 20 or more yards the Cajuns managed.

“That’s one thing I mentioned to the coaches, you know we’ve got guys like Jamal Robinson and Elijah McGuire and Al Riles and some of these guys who can really run … and our tight end makes the biggest play of the game,” Hudspeth said. “Nothing bad about Nick, … but we need our big-time players to make some bigger plays for us.”

That’s a point of emphasis for the Cajuns this week, particularly with regards to McGuire and Robinson, the Cajuns two most explosive players.

Three games into the season, McGuire and Robinson haven’t quite found their launching pads over and through opposing defenses – at least not with the consistent degree of success they’ve shown throughout their careers.

McGuire has recorded two 20-plus yard runs – both for touchdowns against Northwestern State – and hauled in a 43-yard pass against Kentucky on a wheel route. Robinson has caught one pass longer than 20 yards – a 58-yarder, also against Northwestern State.

Take the Northwestern State game out of the equation, and McGuire (43 carries, 169 yards) and Robinson (8 catches, 83 yards) have turned in more pedestrian numbers than they’ve been accustomed to putting up throughout their careers.

Part of the lack of big plays can be traced back to the offseason. Robinson is coming off a pair of injuries that ended what would’ve been his senior season, and coaches made him take it easy as the season ramped up.

Robinson missed all of spring practice and was limited in what he could do during summer practices. Hudspeth admitted earlier this season that he may have been too cautious getting Robinson up to speed.

“I think I should’ve gotten a little more reps, gotten a little more physical with the defense, get tackled a couple times,” Robinson said. “Get the feeling. It’d been a year. I think I should’ve gotten more reps, scrimmaged more, got full contact, got tackled to the ground. That sort of stuff.”

McGuire also missed spring practice, and coaches eased him into working shape this summer as they prepared him for what would be the largest workload of his career.

It’d be foolish to say McGuire’s struggled this year. He still carries a robust 5.8 yards per carry average and he’s scored five touchdowns heading into this weekend’s games. But the Cajuns have been going through a learning period of figuring out the best way to use McGuire in a feature back role.

Particularly, they’ve been trying to figure out the best way to put McGuire in position to do the dazzling things he did throughout his first two years.

That could involve using McGuire more in the passing game, or finding clever ways to get him in the open field, where his next-level agility is most lethal.

McGuire isn’t concerning himself with schematic questions though. He’s focusing on making sure he does what’s asked of him to the best of his ability.

“I think what needs to happen for me to make the plays the coaches want me to make, (running backs coach Marquase) Lovings preaches about it all the time: getting on the point of attack,” McGuire said. “I don’t think I did a good job of that starting the season. I think getting on my point of attack for this game is going to be really important.

“That just to get the defense to think I’m going one way then go back the other way. Maybe I could break some big runs.”

McGuire’s confident he’s going to get rolling. As he said Tuesday, “the game’s going to come.”


Healthy again, Jamal Robinson looks to regain 2014 form

Elijah McGuire ties school touchdown record in romp over Northwestern State

Mark Hudspeth upset with timing of move into Athletics Performance Center

Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth made it clear after Saturday’s disheartening 35-14 loss to Akron that he wasn’t happy with the distraction provided by moving into the team’s new $30 million Athletics Performance Center this week.

I’ll offer my two cents on this monologue later, but here are Hudspeth’s full comments after the loss. It was clear that this was an issue that had been boiling up to the surface for Hudspeth, and he let it out Saturday night after the game.

I told our team this a while ago, I told my wife, I told our director of football operations this earlier in the week: I saw this coming a mile away.

I was hoping that it wouldn’t happen. I saw it coming a mile away. This was too much of a distraction, too much to do in the middle of the season, bad timing on everybody’s part with moving in or planning to move in during the season.

We’re over there in the slums and we move in to some shiny new Disney World. It’s just – these are kids. I saw this coming a mile away. It was like it’s been too much. Too many things to do over here – game room, fancy locker room, fancy weight room, everybody’s thinking now we’ve got this, we’re going to magically win because we’ve got this great facility.

Last time I checked, this facility don’t run fast enough to cover anybody man-to-man, and it can’t block anybody and it can’t catch a ball. But it’s shiny and it’s new and our players, you know, it was fun to move into. We owed it to these seniors who have worked hard to move into this building.

While we’re working all week long, there’s 97 tours going through here. It’s like the Grand Canyon, when you’ve got tour guides leading people to see everything. We can’t even work. Every time you look up there’s 19 people walking down our hallway. So I’m going to fix that this week. Tours are over. Work is fixin’ to begin. We’re fixin’ to get our edge. I told our team, all the newness, you’ve seen it now, it ain’t new no more. We’re fixin’ to get back to work.

We didn’t play well. We played good enough in the first half, even though we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers.

I thought they whipped us physically. We couldn’t score from six inches out. There at the end they ran one in from about 10 yards and drug about three or four of us.

I told coach Bowden, ‘That was just a good butt kicking, coach.’ I shook his hand and I looked him in the eye. Sometimes that’s what you do. They came and took it to us, and that’s a thing we had prided ourselves on. Being tough, being physical. If we could’ve punched it in earlier, we could’ve tied it up and it may have been a different ball game.

We couldn’t get anything going in the first three quarters offensively, and our defense couldn’t hang on any longer.

We’ve got to find some answers on offense. We’re going to do that this week, but 285 yards of total offense and 14 points – you got a late cheap touchdown (so), seven points. We wouldn’t have beat Northwestern (State) tonight. … We’ve got to find some answers.

I told our guys, this is that wake up call that you get every once in a while. I’ll be honest with you, wake up calls sometimes are the best things that can happen to you. Luckily, it’s happened to us now and we didn’t move in midway through the conference schedule – that would’ve been really bad.

The wakeup call came at a good time. Hopefully that will re-focus our coaches and our players. We’ll come back and hit it tomorrow better than we ever have.

Here starts the question and answer portion of his post-game press conference.

I told the players it was my fault for this happening, because I saw it coming. I just couldn’t stop it. I had to re-start practice on Tuesday because practice was sloppy. I saw this coming a mile away. I hate that it happened tonight because we take a lot of pride in playing well at home.

We couldn’t get into a flow because of all the penalties. Some of those penalties I didn’t see, but I didn’t get to change them. Nevertheless, we had a lot of penalties and it was disappointing to have that many. We went from hardly having any penalties to a lot. I find that hard to believe, but I guess they say we did it.

I don’t know. All I know is we had seven points going through three quarters. That wasn’t enough to merit getting the last quarter or last quarter and a half, so I made a change and went with Jalen.

We’ve got to find a quarterback that can put our team in the end zone. Right now I don’t know who that’s going to be. We’ll decide that this week. We’re going to open up the quarterback position. I don’t know who the starter’s going to be right now. Don’t know.

We’re going to go back and watch the film. Both of them did some good things. Brooks did some good things, too, but all I know is at the end of the day we had seven points after three quarters and very little offensive production.

What happened out there was because of the way we practiced and the way we prepared. We didn’t have the best week of practice. When you’ve got to start practice over, that’s not a good thing. That’s not great preparation.

He moved pretty good for a big guy. We knew he was going to play quarterback. For the most part, I thought we did a good job. On the second series of the game we stopped them and then we had a defensive facemask penalty that gave them an automatic first down.

He hurt us on the quarterback draw a couple times, he was effective on the quarterback draw. He threw the ball pretty decent. I thought we played pretty good with the exception of a couple passes and we kept ourselves in the game. Fourteen points in the first half, we’ve got a chance to score right before half and tie it up. We can’t do it. We’ve got to find some answers there and get better.

We knew he threw the ball pretty well.

This wasn’t Northwestern (State) that come in and beat us, this was a really good football team. This was a team that was picked to finish second in the (Mid American Conference). This team beat Pittsburgh last year and played them close this year, they gave Oklahoma trouble in the first half. They’ve got good players, this is a really good football team and they were better than us tonight. I give them total credit. They had a great game plan, they played harder, they executed good and they’ve got an excellent team.

We pretty much know where the rest of them are at, but we’re going to go look at the film and make sure the guys are doing the right things. If some guys are missing lots of assignments, yeah, some guys will get some opportunities.

Penalties hurt us. It seemed like every time we’d get a positive play we’d get a penalty and now we’re in long-yardage situations. We did get some things going there in the second quarter, we moved the ball and got seven points and had a chance for 14. We couldn’t score from six inches. We’ve got to make plays on the outside. We’ve got some good wideouts and we’ve got to have those wideouts make plays – and we’ve got to give them a chance to make plays too. This was a team loss, not one person, not one group. This was a total team loss so you can’t point fingers at one person or one group tonight.

I’m very concerned considering we haven’t had many all year long and miraculously we had a lot (of penalties). So we’ll go back tomorrow and figure that out. We’ve got to clean that up.

I think it was just a little bit of a downer. Maybe a little loss of confidence, because that was a big swing. Then we come out and we start the first drive of the second half and we throw an interception.

(On if his team was looking forward to La. Tech) No, I don’t think so. But they better be lookin’ now. They’ve got an outstanding team and we’ve got a lot to get ready for. But it’s not the APC’s fault. We had to move in and that’s part of it. We’re really proud we’ve got this great facility and it’s going to pay off in the long run. But it was just too much, too early. Too much, too much. Kids are kids, a lot of immaturity showed, I saw it coming, but this will end up paying big dividends in the future. It wasn’t the reason we didn’t win tonight. We’ve got to handle ourselves in a more mature way in the way we prepare and the way we move around and how we act when we get something new.

I’ll save my personal reaction to this for later. Consider this getting the full context from tonight’s outburst from Hudspeth.

For more coverage on tonight’s loss:

Three and out

Cajuns QB outlook still unclear

Akron QB Thomas Woodson goes off

COACH SPEAK: Mark Hudspeth on Kentucky

The following is a transcript of coach Mark Hudspeth’s comments at his weekly press luncheon previewing the next week’s opponent. This week, Hudspeth assesses his inexperienced team as it prepares to open its season on the road against Kentucky.


Thoughts on UK …

To me, Kentucky is a very good football team. If you look how they improved last year, how they improved as a team, then you take the players they have returning, including a quarterback that started 12 games? I think they’re an outstanding football team. They had some really talented players last year defensively, they lost one of those players, but they’ve got a lot of quality players on that side of the ball as well. Offensively, they’ve got four returning starters up front … with Boom, they’ve got a great running back who I think is a really good back, and they’ve got some big receivers.

They’re hoping to take that next step. For me, this is their season when they take that next step in the SEC. It’s going to be a tall order going in there to a newly renovated stadium. Man, you look at the money they spent on that thing, that’s unreal. So that’s going to be a challenge for our team.

All the pressure being on UK to win the game …

I don’t want our team to feel any pressure going into this game. I just want our team to go in and play hard, to execute, play the way that we play. Our football team, we know how to win football games around here. I just want our guys to play hard, execute, take care of the football and follow our plan to win. If we do that, hopefully we can play well and make it competitive, because they’re going to be fired up, now. They’re going to be on the Kool Aid. It’s going to be a challenge.

What would it mean to get a signature win …

You know, everybody talks about signature wins. To me, we’re just trying to win the next game. I know that’s coach speak, but for us, we look at every win we get as a signature win. I don’t know what win is more important. Conference wins, to be honest with you, probably are more important when it’s all said and done. But you always want to compete well when you go up against the best, and the SEC is the best. We want to compete well and have a great showing on national TV in front of an unbelievable crowd and excitement there. We want to represent and our kids are anxious, they love playing on the big stage, and we’ve played well on some big stages. I’m hoping that we go in there and play hard and play well again.

On the changes at UK …

Even though they’ve got a new offensive coordinator, I still think any team takes on the personality of their head coach a little bit, too. Obviously, coach Stoops being a defensive guy, to me, is a guy whose defenses have always been physical, been tough. I’m sure he’s going to want his offense to be a tough, physical offense too. But they’ve also got a quarterback that can spread the ball around, and this guy is a big guy that can run the football. I’ve had some big quarterbacks in the past that could really run the ball, so I know that’s a weapon when you have that. He’s a kid that can do both, so it creates challenges.

On channeling the team’s energy into something positive on the field …

Man, if you can’t get fired up to play this game, I don’t know if you can get fired up. Our guys have practiced, I thought we had good juice Sunday night. Guys flew around. These guys are ready to play. Whether we play very good or not, we’ll find out. We’ve got a bunch of guys that are on their first day at the office – our kicker, our punter, our quarterback – a whole group of guys on their first day at the office. We’ll see how their first day at the office goes. That’s sort of the joke I’ve been telling everybody, we all had our first jobs one day, but it wasn’t in front of 65,000 on national TV. But that’s the fun part of it, and that’s what college football is all about. To be honest with you, one of those guys is going to step up and play lights out, I guarantee you. Some of those guys are going to have the first-game, first-play jitters. But you know what? We’re going to move past it and hang in there. We’re excited, I’m excited for those kids to have this opportunity. That’s why they come to our place and play here, to play in these type of games and to get to play early. We’ll see how they do.

Did you accomplish the goals in camp that you wanted to?

You know, no, I really didn’t. Just for the fact that with the number of injuries that we had at the offensive line throughout camp and at the wide receiver position, we were really limited in the amount of time we could scrimmage live and tackle. We got a great 120-play scrimmage in the first scrimmage, and got a lot of good live work, a lot of good tackling in. After that, we were very limited and had to pick and choose our places to tackle live. Tackling in space and tackling live in a game is way different than doing the tackling drills against the scout guys and tackling bags. That’s my concern. How quick can we get ready for the speed of the game when you’re put in space in a one-on-one position to make an open-field tackle against a running back or receiver. But here’s the key how you can compensate for that – you get a lot of guys running to that football. You get enough guys running to the football you can cover up missed tackles. Hopefully we can play hard and get better as the game goes along and adjust to the speed of the game.

On piping in crowd noise in practice …

I think so, that’s one thing we’ve improved at. The first day we did that we were not very good. I think it can’t be any louder than the juice machine we’ve had out there. It’s been cranking. I bet I know the Kentucky fight song as well as anybody else in Kentucky, because I’ve heard it every day when we were doing our live situations. I think our guys are going to be ready. Communication is a huge part of the game, and how well we communicate and get our checks to each other will determine what we do.

On fining players for disciplinary reasons …

We have not set a fine policy yet. We’ve talked about that as head coaches and that’s an interesting thing to do, but right now, I’m not planning on doing that. Right now, this is the kid’s money. There are some other ways that I feel like I can hold them accountable, and I don’t want a kid who can’t eat, can’t pay his rent, can’t buy some clothes because you’ve fined him for missing a meeting or being late for a meeting. To be honest with you, we don’t really have too many of those issues. If you’re a program that has to fine your kids $10 for missing a meeting, you might need to make sure your guys are there a little bit earlier. We can handle that without the fine part of it. There’s lots of other discipline issues.

Our guys would much rather give me $10 any day of the week than to go protect the stadium for being late. I would do the same thing, I would say, ‘Coach, let me tell you what, just take $50.’ That’s what I would do. To me, there’s way better ways to discipline your kids than taking $10 if they’re late for a meeting. But everybody’s got a plan, and everybody’s trying to figure this out. To me, it might not be any right or wrong reason, I’m just saying that’s what we’re doing. I’m not saying that’s a total bad idea, I’m just saying that’s not going to be our approach starting off.

On Jamal Robinson …

I think right now he’s confident at practice, but just to get in that game and really go at the speed he wants to play at, see how he holds up. You remember, he finally came back last year and wasn’t quite the same guy then got injured again.

If he can stay healthy and get back to the speed he plays at? He’s a guy we can go to on Saturday. This is a guy who loves and relishes this type of opportunity to play against good people.

On Eddie Gordon …

Another one of those guys who’s on his first day at the office. I’d love to say that he is ready, and I think he is. One thing he does a nice job of is he’s going to get everybody going in the right direction. But can we do that consistently all game long on critical plays of the game? Time will tell. We’ll get better as the year goes along, no doubt about it.

On a third-down back

Right now, Elijah McGuire is our best pass protector. Man, I’m going to tell you, that guy in practice and we were watching last year’s game clips, he is one of our best pass protectors along with Effrem Reed, who’s been that third down back. I’m looking for Elijah to take most of the snaps, Torrey Pierce is going to get some snaps, Montrel Carter a little bit.

Concerns for the defensive staff with the Kentucky offense …

When you’ve got a new coordinator, all you can do is go on what he’s done before at other places. He was a little bit different at West Virginia than he was at Stephen F. Austin and some other places. You wonder was that the head coach’s flavor that he added to a little bit? Is coach Stoops going to put his stamp on some of those things … or is he going to turn it over to him and let him go 100 percent? Time will tell. We’ve got a plan, then we’ve got a secondary plan. Hopefully one of those plans will be sufficient, we’ll find out soon enough.

What’s the concern going in about adjusting to the new defensive staff …

It’s such a drastic change, I’m sure we’re still learning a little bit on the run. As far as buying in, I’ll tell you, these kids and our coaching staff, they are one heartbeat. That’s where it all starts. How much we feel like we can carry into the game, game-plan wise, is to be determined. We don’t want to carry too much to the fact that maybe we’re not quite ready for some of the packages that we have, but we want to carry enough to feel like we can make adjustments and be competitive.  Time will tell that too. We’ve got a lot of new guys, a new scheme, a new staff, a lot of new players. Every year, just like we’re talking about right here with Kentucky and us, every year is different. Your team changes by 30-35 percent every year along with always  a coaching change or two.

Surprises on the two deep with Lightfoot, Walker listed as second team …

To me, that’s probably we’re just getting some guys’ attention a little bit. They’re going to play, they’re going to play a lot. It might not be the first play of the game, but they’re going to play an awful lot. Those guys are critical to our success.

Mid major schools to a power five school, the depth differences in the trenches …

We played awfully well against Ole Miss’ front last year and they had one of the best fronts in the country. The thing I challenge our offensive line, I went up to one of them and let them know that they weren’t good enough to play against Kentucky – or at least Kentucky didn’t think they were good enough. We’ve got a little chip on our shoulder. Everybody wants to play against the best, they want to show that they belong. I’m hoping we use that as a way to play hard and give an unbelievable effort to show we belong on the field with an SEC team on the road. That’s the huge challenge. But we’ve got some really good guys up front, we’ve been good up front since we’ve been here. We haven’t had a whole lot of turnover, we had a little bit this year, but I really like our guys and I think they’ve worked awfully hard.

Press box/sideline dynamic with the coaches …

Coach Smith and coach Lucas will be in the box, coach Harbison and coach Harbin will both be on the sideline. Really, that’s a huge advantage for us because of coach Harbison’s defensive coordinator experience down on the sideline, and then our (defensive coordinator) in the box. So we’ve got a coordinator at both places and those guys are attached at the hip. For people in the coaching community that know those two guys, they’re attached at the hip. It’ll be an easy way for those guys to communicate and make adjustments.

James (Willis), last year, I just felt that the experience that coach Smith has is an awful lot. He brings a lot of experience here with his staff. James being in the box last year sometimes might’ve been hard to get things accomplished to the sideline. Nevertheless, we’ll see how we do.

Final verdict at quarterback …

We’ve got a plan and we’ve always got a contingency plan, then we’ve got a contingency plan for the contingency plan. We’ll see if any of those plans are successful, but you better have a plan regardless.

We’re excited about the direction we’re going and we think it’s going to be successful. I think the guys are going to rally and play hard. Our team is confident in all three of the quarterbacks. Even though Jordan has been pushed out of the race a little bit, he’s a guy that’s going to eventually play. He’s going to play one day. He’s a talented kid.

They’ll be the only two that know. They’re still going to both get reps … with the ones.

We just want the guy to … to start preparing in his head. We want the other guy to start preparing in his head, too, because he’s got to be ready also.

Two freshmen in special teams, two freshmen in offense …

Keenan Barnes is going to play, he’s going to play a lot early. Gary Haynes is going to play, he’s going to play a lot early. Both of those guys. Ja’Marcus Bradley is going to maybe play a little bit, he’s going to play a lot before the season is over.

Cole Prudhomme is listed as the second center, probably would not really be the second center in the game. It would probably be Grant Horst. But he will travel, and he’s a guy who is going to be a phenomenal center in the future. Just a freshman, we’ve got to make sure he’s ready for big-time ball.

On the center position …

That’s one area that we’ve struggled with. We’ve signed some centers, one transferred, one ended up getting injured and didn’t play anymore. Our true centers that we’ve recruited ended up not working out, so we had to convert guys to center. Generally, that’s not really what you want to do at the center position, but that’s sort of what we were forced to do.

Luckily, Eddie’s a true center. Cole now is a true center. But if we had to move Grant, he was not a center in high school, he’s been developed into that along with Donovan Williams. Both those guys would be the next two guys we would go to in a game situation right now. Not saying Cole couldn’t do that before the year’s out.

Benefits of traveling for someone who will redshirt …

We’ll travel kids each week. We want them to get used to the routine, especially quarterbacks. We want those guys getting used to … how we do things on the road, business-like, being very professional. So next year, when they do travel and Cole Prudhomme is the starting center one day, it’s not his first time to get on the plane, first time to go to the team hotel along with those freshman receivers also. It’s a learning experience and something they’ve got to be able to do.

What’s the identity of the team …

Every year we try to be a tough, physical team, and I think we displayed that last year. We want to be physical. That’s who we want to be first and foremost. We’ve got a bunch of young guys, they’re getting tougher. Some of our veterans already are tough. That’s the way we try to develop our guys and train our guys. We always want to have that sense of toughness, but also offensively, we want to play with great tempo and get the ball to our playmakers. Whomever the quarterback ends up being, he’s got Elijah McGuire beside him and Jamal Robinson out to one side and Al Riles to the other. To me, we’ve got some outstanding skill players and that quarterback doesn’t need to feel like he’s got to do it all himself. He’s got to do a good job managing the game, distributing the ball and carrying out his execution. If we can do that, I think we’ve got some guys who hopefully can make some plays.

On Otha Peters’ debut …

Whenever you have to sit out a year, you talk about being hungry to play. You think our guys are hungry, take a guy that hadn’t played in two years. So he’s really ready to play. He’s played, probably, against Kentucky. He’s been in the SEC, he knows the speed of that game and that’s what he brings to our defense. He’s one physical joker, now. When he tackles, he tackles hard. I’m excited for him being on our sideline, I can tell you that.

On Hud’s gut feeling about this team …

A little harder to put my thumb on it this year because of so many new guys. Last year, we knew what we had. Did we start off great? No, we had some injuries and didn’t play well early, a combination of all those things. But we sort of knew what we had, and then we got it going and we reeled off (six) straight. This year, there’s some question marks. I think we’ve got an outstanding team, I think we’ve got some young, talented players, but they’ve got to get an opportunity to grow, develop, get their feet wet, hope they can show their composure, do all those things you’ve got to be able to do in a big-time game. I know one thing though, they’re going to be excited to play. This freshman class we have, they’ve got more juice and passion than I’ve seen in any freshman class we’ve had. They love to play the game. It’s going to be fun.

Ragin’ Cajuns fans belt out the anthem at NCAA Lafayette Regional

LAFAYETTE — Since it was the start of the third game of the day, there were no plans to play the national anthem before the start of the NCAA Lafayette regional championship game between Louisiana-Lafayette and Baylor.

The hometown crowd was not having any of that though.

After some failed attempts to get the PA booth to play the anthem for a second time, the fans decided to take it into their own hands. This was the result.


THREE UP, THREE DOWN: Red Wolves 10, Cajuns 4

The Cajuns did not play one of their better games this season in dropping the series opener to Arkansas State 10-4.

Their bullpen had an off night, their starter went from lights out to tough-luck loser, and their offense didn’t back either of them up.

As usual, we’ll look at the good and the bad from Friday night’s game. First, as always, the good.


  1. GUNNER LEGER’S START TO HIS START: For 3.2 innings, Gunner Leger looked as good as he has all season. He is leading all starters in strikeouts per nine innings despite not throwing the ball very hard, and the reason is that he has grasped the art of pitching at a tender age. The changeup is a hard pitch for young pitchers to master, because they can get by with their fastball in high school. Leger had his working early, using it to get a couple swinging strikeouts, and he had the A-State batters off-balance because of it. He’ll bounce back from those rough 1.1 innings to end his start.
  2. BRIAN MILLS GOES YARD: The Cajuns junior left-fielder socked a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to knot the game at two runs apiece. It was his first career home run, and he got all of it. He also made a nice running catch near the warning track in the left-center power alley to rob extra bases. He’s been a nice surprise hitting near the bottom of the order, and his batting average now stands at a healthy .294 on the season.
  3. TROSCLAIR DOUBLES AGAIN: Another positive sign that Trosclair is fully removed from a two-week swoon at the plate. He hammered a run-scoring double for the third consecutive game, again to left-center field, to cut the Red Wolves’ lead to three in the bottom of the eighth.


  1. TURNING OFF THE FAUCET: This was the analogy du jour for coach Tony Robichaux, whose staff allowed the Red Wolves to pick up five of their first seven runs in innings they started with two outs. A pitch here or a defensive play there could’ve gotten the Cajuns out of all of those innings and it would’ve been a completely different ball game. But, as Robichaux said several times after the game, they didn’t turn the faucet off and a leak turned into a deluge again and again.
  2. CLUTCH HITTING: The Cajuns got the leadoff runner aboard in each of the first three innings, but the only time they were able to make anything happen was with the benefit of a throwing error by Arkansas State’s catcher in the third. They had a chance to get to Arkansas State pitcher Tyler Zuber early thanks to Zuber’s uncharacteristic command troubles (3 BB, 2 HBP in first three innings), but they weren’t able to do it and Zuber settled into a groove, lasting six innings.
  3. BAD LUCK — AND EXECUTION: The Cajuns could’ve minimized the Red Wolves damage with better results in either of these two areas. Two key hits landed just inches past Greg Davis outstretched glove for blooper base hits, another glanced off Leger’s glove on what might’ve been a rally-killing double play. But the Cajuns also didn’t take advantage of their opportunities. The Red Wolves’ fourth-inning rally started when Leger lost a two-strike breaking ball that plunked a batter. A surefire inning-ending double play in the fifth turned into a run-scoring error when Brenn Conrad lost control of a ball while attempting a tag on a ground ball to second. The Cajuns also had this string in the eighth inning to turn a close game into a four-run Arkansas State lead: Walk to load the bases, passed ball to score a run, walk to load the bases, walk to score a run.


9: Walks issued plus batters hit by pitch by four Cajuns pitchers. See ensuing quote.


“We can not give people free bases. It’s going to be tougher for us to recover because we don’t have the firepower that we had last year. We’ve got to keep the score down.” — Tony Robichaux.


With two outs the Wolves dug in

Again, and again, and again,

The Cajuns mistakes put runners on base

And Arkansas State cashed in.

THREE UP, THREE DOWN: Colonels 3, Cajuns 1

The Cajuns played a sloppy defensive game and it cost them in a midweek loss to Nicholls State, who has now topped the two premier programs in the state this season.

It wasn’t all bad for the Cajuns, but there were plenty of things they can work on after Wednesday’s effort.

First, the good.


  1. RARELY USED PITCHERS: Connor Toups hasn’t gotten much of a chance this season to get a lot of work in, but he made the most of his six innings Wednesday despite being credited with the loss. Of the eight hits Nicholls picked up off him, only four left the infield and all three of his runs were unearned. This was only his second appearance of the season, but he didn’t show much rust. He was aggressive in the zone and did not walk a batter. He would’ve walked away a winner if the defense backed him up. The same goes for Nick Zaunbrecher  and Reagan Bazar, both of whom last appeared in a game on March 4 against Northwestern State. No rust from those two, who cruised through three scoreless innings allowing just one base runner.
  2. STEFAN TROSCLAIR: Tuesday night’s hero came up with the lone big hit of the ball game when he lined a double into the left field corner to drive in the Cajuns only run of the night. He also got a ninth-inning rally started with a five-pitch walk to open the frame. After getting off to a hot start, Trosclair went into a 3-for-23 skid and was out of the lineup for four consecutive games. But he’s started each of the last five and has rediscovered his stroke a bit, with seven hits in his last 21 at bats. He’s also on a five-game hitting streak.
  3. RALLY TIME: It was not a good overall night for Cajuns hitters, but they made a game of it late, loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. They weren’t able to cash in on the opportunity, but after so much didn’t go their way early, it was a good sign to see the team battling hard in the ninth.


  1. KENNON FONTENOT: This space is not intended to pile on a young player looking for answers, but the Cajuns have got to figure out what’s going on with their young infielder. He let a routine ground ball roll between his legs Wednesday, which means he’s now tied for the team lead in errors (6) despite only playing in nine games. Tony Robichaux was high on Fontenot before the year, and I don’t think this is representative of his talent as a fielder. Maybe his early season struggles have gotten in his head, but at this point he’s a liability on the defensive end. The good thing is he has a lot of time to turn around what’s been an inauspicious start as an infielder, and my bet is that he does it.
  2. TOO HOT CORNER: Tyler Girouard was out of the starting lineup again with hamstring soreness — something Robichaux said was precautionary — but the Cajuns could use him back out there. Brenn Conrad made a pair of costly errors while playing third, and Joe Robbins made another immediately after he replaced Conrad at third. Girouard made another pinch-hit appearance in the ninth, when he slapped an opposite field single to make the Cajuns’ rally serious, but they need him back in the field.
  3. QUIET STICKS: The Cajuns have been a very good offensive club all year, but they couldn’t muster much against the Colonels’ pitching staff. They were held without a hit for the first three innings, and had only five before the ninth inning rally started. It might’ve been enough to win the game had the defense played up to standards, but the Cajuns needed more than that Wednesday night.


4 – Errors committed by the Cajuns infield, three of which directly led to Nicholls State runs.


“It’s a real simple game, you pitch, you play defense and you hit. Tonight we did one thing. You can’t do one thing and expect to win.” Robichaux, who has a knack for making complicated things simple.


The wonderful and talented Jay Walker of ESPN 1420 decided to have a little fun with me over the air during his broadcast by saying how much I love John Fogerty’s Centerfield during the seventh inning stretch. He even went as far as saying on his broadcast that I sing it in the shower. Those of you who read this blog or follow me on Twitter simply know that’s untrue (though I hope nobody really knows what I sing in the shower), but of course I can’t defend myself against the guy with the microphone. That’s a low blow, Jay…


Bad things happen when you leave the keys in the ignition of your vehicle, like one idiot (read: me) did Wednesday night. Worse, it was my motorcycle, which of course does not have locks or doors. Somebody could’ve easily stolen my bike. Thankfully, the good folks attending the game left their thieving hats at home, and instead my battery just died. Moral of the story: Don’t be a dummy, take your keys with you.

Maybe I shouldn’t be evaluating the performance of others after a night like tonight? Nah.


THREE UP, THREE DOWN: Cajuns 6, Cowboys 5 (11)

The Cajuns delivered a little payback in Lake Charles, swiping an extra-innings win against McNeese State exactly one month after the Cowboys beat the Cajuns in 17 at the Tigue.

There was a lot to like about this performance from the Cajuns, who have seen five of their last six games decided by one run, and a few things that will be filed in coach Tony Robichaux’ memory bank for things to improve on. Let’s take a look at them.


  1. BULLISH ON THE ‘PEN: Yet another standout performance from the Cajuns bullpen, who locked down the Cowboys after starter Wyatt Marks left the game. Will Bacon, Colton Lee, Chris Charpentier and Dylan Moore logged eight scoreless innings while striking out 11 batters, allowing the Cajuns offense to get the team back in it. If you’re like me and you’re counting these sorts of things, here’s the bullpen’s line in two games against McNeese: 21 IP, 18 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 23 K.
  2. DYLAN BUTLER: Somewhat lost in the dramatic finish and fine performance by the bullpen was Dylan Butler’s excellent day batting out of the eight hole. He was responsible for the lion’s share of clubbing the Cajuns out of a four-run hole, with a two-run laser over the left field wall and an RBI single that tied the game at five.
  3. FINDING A WAY: Though it sucked for his team to lose three consecutive games in the last inning, Robichaux said it was critical for his young team to go through that and experience that feeling. Maybe he’s on to something. The Cajuns didn’t look so hot early, but clawed back into the game and eventually won the thing. It wasn’t the prettiest performance and won’t go down as a season-defining type of game, but good teams find a way to win games like this one.


  1. MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: Even after giving up a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, the Cajuns had their chances at blowing the game open against McNeese starter Cory LaPeze, who had all kinds of trouble finding the strike zone. But the Cajuns just couldn’t crack the code. LaPeze walked the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters to bring up Blake Trahan with the bases loaded in the second inning, but Trahan watched a called third strike. The Cajuns then had runners on second and third in the third inning, but Joe Robbins struck out on three pitches. After tying the game up, the Cajuns had two good opportunities to plate the go-ahead run, but they ran into two rally-killing outs on the basepaths — Brenn Conrad was caught in a rundown at the plate on a failed double steal and Joe Robbins was picked off at first by the catcher in the seventh.
  2. TOUGH LUCK, WYATT: Freshman starter Wyatt Marks would do best just to purge this outing from what has been a great start to the season. The bounces were going McNeese’s way early, with balls finding holes they probably shouldn’t have, but it was the three straight hits Marks gave up to start the third that was his undoing. It was made worse when Marks fielded a squeeze bunt perfectly and had the runner dead to rights at home, but he spiked his throw into the turf, allowing the runner to score. Marks showed some resiliency, getting three straight outs to get out of the jam, but he should flush the rest of that start.
  3. WEIRD BALL PARK MUSIC:  Y’all are familiar with my opinion of John Fogerty’s Centerfield, so let’s not go there. But McNeese took it to another level by finding seemingly every song written about our national pasttime in the last 70 years and playing it over the speakers — even if it only has a cursory reference. Just because Nickelback wants a “bathroom I can play baseball in” in the song Rockstar doesn’t mean it needs to play at a ball park. Nor do I need to hear a weird song straight out of the 50s about baseball and a “Hullaballoo.” I love baseball more than a lot of things, but just because a song is written about it doesn’t make it a good or enjoyable song. If you’d like to respond to this hot take of mine, you can find me chilling with the Grinch.


5 – Bases covered by Nick Thurman on two separate Stefan Trosclair hits to left field. He went first to third on a single to left, which was a great heads up play because Thurman has no business going first to third on a single to left field. He also scored the game-winning run from first base on Trosclair’s double to the left field corner. Thurman’s not a burner on the base paths, but he had enough in the tank tonight.


“Adrenaline can do lots of things. It can even make me fast.” — Thurman, who might’ve been joking.


  • Jam Williams did not travel with the team because he was involved in a minor traffic accident Tuesday morning. Robichaux said Williams was a little sore, nothing more, but he wasn’t able to see the team doctor so he couldn’t make the trip. Williams should be fine for Wednesday’s game.
  • Tyler Girouard did not start the game because of a sore hamstring, but he entered the game as a pinch hitter in the 11th. He should be fine moving forward.
  • Robichaux was credited with 19 more career wins by McNeese Tuesday before the game. He spent the 1987 season as the head coach in every aspect but title, and the school saw fit to officially attribute those wins to his slate.


I love the atmosphere at the Tigue, but being at Cowboy Diamond made me remember that I miss one thing in particular: there’s no better way to get a feel for the game than to be sitting in an open air press box. Hopefully that’s part of the upcoming renovations.

THREE UP, THREE DOWN: Cajuns 10, Trojans 5


The Cajuns completed the sweep of Troy Sunday with a 10-5 win thanks to some timely hitting from senior first baseman Greg Davis and another lockdown performance from the bullpen. It was an imperfect game for the Cajuns, but they keep chugging along as winners of six straight.

Here’s a look at what went right, and what still needs some work after the Cajuns finished off an undefeated week.


  1. GREG DAVIS’ WHEELS: Who knew the big guy could motor like that? Davis hit a sinking liner into left-center that skipped under a diving center fielder Shaw Pinnell’s glove, and Davis saw an opportunity for a rare triple. He cruised into third base with a bases-clearing triple, igniting both his teammates and the crowd. After the game, Davis was joking about the fact that he doesn’t get an opportunity for a triple unless the outfielders are stumbling around. We won’t get the opportunity to recognize a Davis triple often, so let’s lead off with it today.
  2. BLAKE TRAHAN’S BAT: I’m going to keep this one real simple. Here’s Trahan’s stat line from this weekend: 6-for-10, 5 2B, 1 HR, 6 R, 4 BB, 3 IBB, 1 HBP. That’s a .600 batting average, a .733 OBP, and a 1.40 slugging percentage. The quiet kid from Kinder continues to let his play speak for itself.
  3. BULLPEN’S DOMINANCE (AGAIN): This is getting a little old hat, though I’m sure y’all don’t mind a bit. The Cajuns young bullpen has become the team’s strength. Wyatt Marks and Dylan Moore tossed another 4.1 innings of awesome relief to lock down the win Sunday. Check out this line from the Cajuns bullpen this weekend: 15.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 7 BB, 25 K. TWENTY. FIVE. That means they struck out 40 percent of the batters they faced. A really good number is 33 percent. Just as crazy, the Cajuns only used four pitchers out of the pen this weekend, and those four threw more innings than the three starters did (13.2). The Trojans hit just .113 against the Cajuns bullpen.


  1. SQUEEZED OUT: As I’ve said before on this blog (and I’m sure I’ll say again and again), Tony Robichaux has forgotten more than I’ll ever know about the sport, so I’ll usually cede to his expertise when it comes to strategical matters. Plus, this play ended up being inconsequential. That being said, I didn’t understand why Robichaux opted for the squeeze attempt in the first inning with Trahan on third and Davis at the plate with one out. The Cajuns were in a 2-0 hole, so I understand wanting to get a run back early, but the chances of driving the runner in from third with one out and a masher like Davis at the plate are pretty high. I didn’t like the call when I first saw it, I didn’t like the call when Davis didn’t get a good bunt down, and I still don’t like it now.
  2. RAN DOWN: Trahan played his tail off this weekend, but he probably wants what happened after the failed squeeze back. With Tyler Girouard at the plate, Troy starter Ben Tidwell threw a wild pitch, but it didn’t get too far away from catcher Tripp Calhoun. Trahan made his break for the plate and was easily caught in a rundown.
  3. CRAZY HOPS: I don’t know why, but I always thought turf would eliminate some of the nasty hops you’ll usually see on dirt and grass infields. That didn’t prove to be true on a third-inning ground ball to Trahan, who was set up for a routine inning-ending double play before the ball hopped and nearly took his face off. Trahan was able to glove it, but it threw him out of rhythm and resulted in an infield single.


5 – Greg Davis’ pair of bases-loaded knocks in the sixth and seventh innings drove in five runs and turned a close game into a comfortable win.


6 – Trahan collected six hits on the weekend, and every single one of them went for extra bases, with five doubles and one home run. The best thing about it, in my opinion, was that not all of them were ripped. Trahan turned at least two of those from singles into doubles based purely on his speed and hustle. Six also represents Trahan’s season-long hit streak.

45 – The Cajuns pitching staff missed a lot of bats this weekend — 45 in 29 innings of work to be precise. Three straight double-digit strikeout games for the Cajuns pitchers, who rung up 19, 13 and 13 in the three-game set.


“When the game volume gets loud, we want to quiet our personal volume. The crowd gets going, the adrenaline gets going, you want to slow things down.” — Greg Davis on his solid handle of the clutch dial.


Blake Trahan proved why he’s the face of this program in the last week, but the program also proved that it’s more than just Blake Trahan. He’s elevating the play of others, and they’re making sure pitchers can’t just throw around him.