LAFAYETTE — Two consecutive bowl championships and 9-4 seasons played major parts in configuring the extended scope his program’s 2013 recruiting class, University of Louisiana at Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth said Wednesday.
The 22-player list of signees released by the school featured recruits from six states, something that Hudspeth said is due to ULL’s 18-8 record since he arrived in Lafayette in December 2011.
“I think we’ve increased our footprint this year and I think we were able to do that based on the national exposure we’ve received in the last two years, after winning the (R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl) the last two years having back-to-back 9-4 seasons,” Hudspeth said in a late afternoon press conference.
The Cajuns signed five high school players from Florida, including three from the Miami area.
Hudspeth said ULL defensive assistant Dave Saunders recruited the Miami area extensively to land some of the Florida players.
In addition, Hudspeth said that Florida International, a former Sun Belt Conference opponent who will join Conference USA this season, lost some recruiting traction after the school fired head coach Mario Cristobal.
“David Saunders did an incredible job and FIU being without a coach for most of the recruiting season meant that was one less team that we would be going head-to-head with,” Hudspeth said.
Several of the Florida recruits could provide immediate help to areas of need, Hudspeth said.
Hudspeth said linebacker George Williams (Miami-Hialeah), running back Darius Hoggins (Coconut Creek-Monarch) and defensive back Troy McCollum (Miami-North Miami) could be key additions.
Hoggins has run a 10.6 100-meters and will return kicks, while Williams (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) has the size that will help at linebacker, said Hudspeth.
McCollum is one of six defensive backs signed by ULL.
The secondary and kicking game received intense scrutiny when it came to selecting a recruiting class, Hudspeth said.
ULL lost two starting cornerbacks from last year’s team and punter and placekicker Brett Baer will also be gone in 2013.
“It was going to take two people to replace Brett Baer and so we signed (placekicker) Stephen Brauchle and (punter) Daniel Cadona,” Hudpseth said.
Brauchle, who kicked for Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College last season, has three years of eligibility remaining. Cadona is 6-foot-4 and a native of Austrailia.
“Daniel Cadona is one of the top punting prospects in the country. He worked in a couple of scouting camps. Once I read about him, I was a little bit interested because of his background with Australian rules football,” Hudspeth said.
ULL still has four scholarships remaining, but Hudspeth said those are being held for several potential recruits who chose not to sign on Wednesday and for possible transfers from other colleges.
Hudspeth said he didn’t feel the need to sign a quarterback.
“We have three redshirt freshmen quarterbacks. We were able to see these three guys work in the bowl preparations in December. We were able to work them more than they would normally work. All three have different talents,” Hudspeth said.
The Cajuns also announced the signing of three junior college players who enrolled in classes last month. Those include Cadona and Brachle and (6-6, 285-pound) offensive lineman Johnny Kight, from Hudspeth’s hometown of Louisville, Miss.
Also enrolling early were high school signee Nick Byrne from Rogers, Ark., and Rummel High’s Dominick Bilich, who signed at ULL last February and opted to delay his enrollment.
Hudspeth said the Cajuns were able to sign several recruits away from BCS schools.
“Who we are recruiting against has changed. If you are going to take the program to a new level, you have to recruit to do that,” Hudspeth said. “There are still a lot of goals left to reach. Right now the Cajun nation is excited about the direction we are going.”