A 'Proud' Cajun, Desormeaux feels blessed to stay at UL
When Mark Hudspeth was fired last December after seven seasons as head coach of the UL football team, someone had to run the show until a full-time replacement could be hired.
Ragin’ Cajuns athletic director Bryan Maggard tapped the most-junior member of the staff, and the only one who had actually played for UL.
Michael Desormeaux had a standout career as a Cajuns quarterback from 2005-08, passing for 3,893 yards and 23 touchdowns while rushing for 2,843 and 16 including a Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year season.
The move made sense.
Desormeaux played football, basketball and baseball and also ran track at Catholic High of New Iberia. He started his coaching career as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at his old high school. From 2013-15 he was head coach at Ascension Episcopal School in Youngsville.
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He has UL ties and Acadiana-area ties too.
And now he is the lone full-time assistant coach tying the old staff of Hudspeth to the new one of first-year Cajuns coach Billy Napier, the former Clemson and Arizona State offensive coordinator that Maggard and the Cajuns hired later in December.
Desormeaux didn’t have to be retained. With new hires often wanting to clear the deck, interim head coaches not always are.
But Napier did keep Desormeaux on board, and for that the ex-Cajun QB is genuinely grateful.
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“It was really humbling for Coach Napier to think enough of me to keep me on staff,” Desormeaux said during UL’s recently concluded spring drills.
“And to say Coach Napier has been good to me in the way he’s treated me through this whole deal is the biggest understatement you can make.
“I’m humbled. I’m blessed. I’m honored to have the opportunity,” Desormeaux added, “and I’m gonna give them everything I’ve got to try to make this thing work.”
Under Hudspeth, Desormeaux coached receivers in 2016 and running backs in 2017.
Now, under Napier, he’s coaching Cajun tight ends.
After also playing quarterback at UL, the 32-year-old knows he is compiling a vast array of offensive experience that could pay big dividends in years to come.
“There’s no doubt,” said Desormeaux, who spent parts of 2009 on the practice squads of both the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders.
“You know, there’s a saying in football: ‘The more you can do.’ … The more you do, the more value you have.”
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By working with tight ends in a new offensive system, Desormeaux figures he can both teach and learn along the way.
He suggested transition to the new position has been smooth thanks in large part to help from new UL offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Rob Sale, who has coached o-lines at McNeese State, Georgia, UL Monroe and Arizona State, and assistant offensive coach D.J. Looney, who was Mississippi State’s tight ends coach last season.
Early in spring practice, those two were instrumental as he learned the language of a new offensive system.
“For me,” Desormeaux said, “you’re able to draw on some things you’ve done in the past — some of the blocking schemes, route running, stuff like that.
“But some of it is new too, and I think … any opportunity you have to broaden your scope of what you can do is always a positive.”
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THE SEASON AHEAD
What’s much more important to Desormeaux than broadening his resume, however, is the immediate work to be done in the season to come.
After experiencing two losing seasons in the last two years — 6-7 with a New Orleans Bowl loss to Southern Mississippi in 2016 and 5-7 in 2017 — he wants to see things at his alma mater turn around.
For someone who self-describes on his Twitter bio as a “Proud” Ragin’ Cajun, it really does matter to Desormeaux.
And he thinks he has a tight ends group with the makeup to help get it done.
It’s one whose likely would-be starter before recently getting reinjured, sophomore-to-be Chase Rogers, is glad Desormeaux got to stay.
“He’s doing a great job,” Rogers said not long ago.
“I mean, (Reed) Stringer (UL’s tight ends coach from 2011-17) did a good job last year. But Coach Des is filling his shoes real well. … He’s coaching us up real well on technique, helping us learn the plays out there.”
Rogers considered leaving UL after his first season in the program, but Napier convinced him to stay.
The retention of Desormeaux may have played a part too.
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“It definitely does (help with the switch in staff),” Rogers said, “because we had that relationship with him beforehand.
“He was there for me, and I feel like him transitioning and being the only one (as a holdover) and being with (the tight ends) is an advantage for us.”
Rogers experienced a setback during June offseason work, apparently sustaining the recurrence of a freshman-season broken foot bone that required surgery.
It’s a hard-luck break that could lead to Rogers taking a medical redshirt in 2018, which for UL starts with a Sept. 1 home game against Grambling.
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But, even beyond Rogers, Desormeaux has plenty with which to work.
He suggested during the spring that he was especially high on newcomer Johnny Lumpkin, a juco-transfer from Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College who originally committed to Miami (Ohio) of the MAC in 2015.
Experience comes from Matt Barnes, who is expected to play next season on a sixth season of eligibility following multiple knee-related medical setbacks.
Chris Turner, Alex Allen and Carlos Robinson also should offer ample depth.
And an additional boost could come from so-far-unannounced juco transfer Peyton Aucoin, who played at Brother Martin High in New Orleans, redshirted at Texas in 2016 and spent last season at Mississippi Delta Community College.
Related:Louisiana hospitality lures juco tight end Lumpkin to UL
It’s no wonder Desormeaux seemed sincerely amped about the latest position he’ll be coaching.
“It’s something I was excited about,” he said of getting the assignment from Napier.
“I think other than quarterback, tight end is probably mentally the toughest position to play — just because they’ve got to know everything that’s going on.”
'I CAN HELP'
Desormeaux certainly can help with that.
But he also can help Napier and his new staff with all they need to know about UL, the Acadiana region and Cajun Country.
Desormeaux already has made a huge contribution in that regard on the recruiting front.
He went deep into the Louisiana Bayou — his primary territory — to secure a mid-June commitment from Brandon Legendre, a highly sought receiver from E.D. White Catholic High in Thibodaux who has a long list of Power 5 offers including ones from Notre Dame, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, TCU and Arizona State.
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The way he sees it, Desormeaux will do whatever it takes to earn his keep.
He wants to help the Cajuns get to the other side of the road, back to winning, and not just be a bridge.
“Obviously this program means everything to me,” Desormeaux said.
“But I did tell Dr. Maggard, and I told Coach Napier, I don’t want to be here because ‘I have to be.’ You know, I don’t want it to be like that. I want to be here because I can help.”
He’s doing just that, including a few weeks as interim head coach in December that really did make Desormeaux feel he was wanted at UL.
“Dr. Maggard and those guys — the vote of confidence they gave me whenever they kind of put me in that position,” he said, “it meant a lot.”
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