UL hits its mark with long corners, athletic receivers
Billy Napier knew what he and his Ragin’ Cajuns wanted when the NCAA’s three-day early signing period opened Wednesday.
Needs were very focused on a day UL wound up signing 15 commits who will be on scholarship next season as part of the Class of 2020.
“There were some specific things we wanted to go get,” Napier said.
The Cajuns were especially interested in adding depth in the secondary and athletic receivers, and they did just that.
Related:Get to know the Cajuns' signees
Five of the 15 project to play defensive back, including four at cornerback: Trey Amos, who played what amounted to Wildcat quarterback for Catholic High of New Iberia; Caleb Anderson, who played quarterback at East Feliciana High; and two Texans who also played at receiver, Stafford High’s Dabari Hawkins and Courtney Flowers of South Oak Cliff High in Dallas.
The fifth: Tyree Skipper, a safety from Sophie B. Wright in New Orleans who also had some experience at quarterback and receiver in high school.
All five stand 6-foot or taller, with Hawkins the biggest at 6-3.
“Length in the secondary was big,” said Napier, whose current group includes several youngsters standing 5-9 or smaller including sophomore starting cornerback Eric Garror and Class of 2019 signees Amir McDaniel and Bobby Holmes.
“The guys we signed last year didn’t have as much length; they were more quick, speed, instinctive, great competitors, tough.
“You don’t like to have a lot of guys that are the same … in the secondary, and receivers,” Napier added. “It’s like a basketball team. You want a combination of traits and skills, different lengths, sizes.”
With that in mind, Napier also signed three projected receivers to scholarships: Errol Rogers Jr., who played quarterback at three-time state title-winner Lafayette Christian Academy; Thibodaux High’s Kyren Lacy; and East St. John High’s Dontae Fleming.
“Receivers, there is an opportunity to impact our team," Napier said.
"Then in the secondary a lot of those guys are developmental players, not having necessarily a tremendous secondary background, but project to the secondary, and then we’ll see what happens.”
The Cajuns had a good bit of late competition for a few of their signees, Amos and Anderson in particular among them.
Amos picked up a offer from Tennessee last week; Anderson had Virginia, Miami and Utah after him.
Lacy, too, had some pursuit after pulling in 54 passes for 864 yards and 18 touchdowns during a stellar senior season.
“We had a number of those last year,” Napier said, “and certainly this year as well,” where we went toe-to-toe with some Power 5s and we were able to withstand that.”
But UL was able to hold intact a class that has long been in place.
The first to submit his signed National Letter of Intent was offensive lineman Cory Marshall of Northwood High in Shreveport, one of two 6-3, 330-pounders the Cajuns signed along with Jack McKenzie of Parklane Academy in McComb, Mississippi.
Marshall the first UL signee to commit, doing so last March.
UL has just one other Mississippi signee: Pelahatchie linebacker Ahmad Johnson, who several Group of Five suitors.
Five Texans were signed: Hawkins, Flowers, Plano Senior High tight end Christian Sabatini, Conroe defensive lineman Dominique Ratcliff and highly hyped running back Emani Bailey of Ryan High in Denton.
Bailey is a 5-9, 200-pounder whose team with 1,600-plus rushing yards this season whose team will play Friday night for a Texas Class 5A state title.
UL signed just one other defensive lineman: Jesuit’s Sonny Hazard, whose father and uncle both played at LSU.
Napier said more recruits will be signed beyond Wednesday, as the Cajuns have “a handful of initials left.”
But he said UL didn’t sign a full class this time around because they used some of their initial scholarships last year to count toward the 2020 class as part of an effort to play catch-up and to get to a full 85.
“I think we executed our plan better than we have at any point so far,” said Napier, whose class is his third as coach of the Cajuns.
“I think it’s a good thing,” he said of waiting to fill out the class, “because it gives you a chance to evaluate your roster and kind of see where you’re at once we get through exit meetings and that kind of stuff.”
UL did announce one other signing and acknowledge another, neither of whom will count on the Class of 2020 scholarship count.
They had hoped to have receiver Tanarious Achan, a Comeaux High product, in as a midyear signee, but he will not arrive until finishing junior college.
Highly regarded running back Andray Pope of Hillcrest High in Evergreen, Alabama, was announced as a signee but will not be on scholarship right away.
The Cajuns were able to announce him because he will arrive as an early high school graduate and already has paid for next semester’s housing fees.
Pope had said last week that he had reopened his recruiting, but — with his paperwork coming in late Wednesday morning — he wound up as the 16th and final Cajun signee to be announced.
“I think like a lot of young men there was some indecision on what he wanted to do,” Napier said of the 6½-foot, 200-pound Pope, whom he called a “a big, physical back” and “a good kid from a good family.”
Napier said Pope will arrive in time to take part in few bowl practices next month before UL faces Miami (Ohio) in the Jan. 6 LendingTree Bowl in Mobile. … Hawkins is an early graduate who will arrive in time for spring practice, according to Napier, who also said early grad Sabatini will arrive “at some point” next semester. … The Cajuns were believed to be in the running for St. Charles Catholic High defensive lineman Mason Narcisse, who visited UL last weekend and decommitted from Tulane on Monday but still had not tweeted out his plans as of early Wednesday night.