Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football coaching hot board (2.0): UL search starts to narrow

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

The search for Billy Napier’s successor as Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns football coach continues.

Napier, whose hiring by Florida was announced last week, will coach No. 21 UL (11-1) on Saturday (2:30 p.m. CT, ESPN) against Appalachian State (10-2) in the Sun Belt Conference Championship game.

But the Dec. 15 start of the NCAA’s early signing period and a fourth consecutive bowl appearance for the Cajuns aren’t far off.

Will athletic director Bryan Maggard find his new hire in-house? Will he seek someone with prior UL ties? Or will he go outside for the program’s third coach since 2011?

A few early potential candidates are out.

Former UL and Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry, the presumed hire before Maggard turned to Napier to replace the fired Mark Hudspeth, was hired to coach Virginia Tech.

TRAITS:What UL is looking for in next coach after Billy Napier heads to Florida

Former West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez – who wanted the UL job – left UL Monroe after one season as offensive coordinator to take over at Jacksonville State, which is transitioning  from FCS and will be joining Conference USA.

And Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, a Missouri assistant coach when Maggard was an administrator there, is following Lincoln Riley to Southern Cal as defensive coordinator.

With one notable addition, UL co-offensive coordinator Michael Desormeaux, here’s our new hot board of potential candidates as Maggard closes in on a hire:

Hammond native Pete Golding is Alabama's defensive coordinator.

Pete Golding

Alabama defensive coordinator/inside linebackers

Profile: Golding has worked at Alabama under Nick Saban since 2018, as co-defensive coordinator for one season and defensive coordinator for two. He previously was Texas-San Antonio’s defensive coordinator, coached Southern Miss defensive backs and was defensive coordinator under former UL defensive coordinator Ron Roberts at Delta State and Southeastern Louisiana.

Would he say yes to UL? After a 2020 national-championship season Golding has been catching heat at Alabama, so taking his first top job could prove tempting. He makes $1.5 million, and perhaps could land a Power 5 defensive coordinator position elsewhere. So the Cajuns, who were paying Napier $2 million, would have to pony up. But it could be a convenient transition away from somewhere memories are short. Other Louisiana ties – Golding is a Hammond native – also could make the move enticing.

Co-offensive coordinator Michael Desormeaux is a former Cajuns quarterback.

Michael Desormeaux

UL co-offensive coordinator/tight ends

Profile: An All-Sun Belt quarterback at UL, Desormeaux briefly spent time on NFL and CFL practice squads before embarking on a coaching career with stops as offensive coordinator at his old school, New Iberia Catholic High, and coach at Lafayette’s Ascension Episcopal School. He joined Hudspeth’s UL staff as running backs coach in 2016, transitioned to tight ends coach in 2017, remained when Napier took over and added co-coordinator duties this year.

Would he say yes? Almost certainly so – unless he was talked into joining Napier’s Florida staff. Desormeaux, the interim head coach after Hudspeth was let go, has interviewed for the job. Experience may be lacking but football knowledge isn’t, and the quarterback-becomes-coach path is storybook. Strong local recruiting ties is another reason Desormeaux could jump at the opportunity.

Patrick Toney is in his second season as UL's defensive coordinator.

Patrick Toney

UL defensive coordinator/outside linebackers

Profile:Toney jumped from California high school/juco offensive assistant to safeties coach and special teams coordinator under Roberts at Southeastern Louisiana, then secondary coach in 2015 at Sam Houston State and UTSA safeties coach from 2016-17. He joined Napier’s first UL staff as safeties coach, then was promoted to defensive coordinator when Roberts left for the same post at Baylor in 2020. 

Would he say yes? Tough to tell. Toney is in his early 30s. He received a recent offer to be Joey McGuire’s Texas Tech defensive coordinator, but it’s uncertain if Toney accepted the offer or if it’s still on the table. Some suspect he might follow Napier to Florida, but otherwise it could become an interesting option for the California native. Then again, Toney – who harbors NFL coordinator ambitions – could be wanted as a Power 5 defensive coordinator elsewhere.

Former UL offensive coordinator is in his first season as Michigan State's offensive coordinator.

Jay Johnson

Michigan State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks

Profile: The well-traveled Minnesota native has worked as assistant at eight FBS programs since the late 1990s, including offensive coordinator gigs at Southern Miss, Minnesota and Colorado before following Mel Tucker to Michigan State. Johnson also was Hudspeth’s first offensive coordinator from 2011-15, a span that included four New Orleans Bowl wins.

Would he say yes? Also tough to tell. Tucker has job security with a 10-year, $95 million deal at Michigan State, and Johnson seems secure there. He received a hefty pay raise from $550,000 to $975,000 when leaving Colorado for Michigan State, so it could take a lot to wrestle him away. Johnson would be welcomed with open arms from many in Louisiana, though.

Former UL defensive coordinator Ron Roberts now holds the same post at Baylor.

Ron Roberts

Baylor defensive coordinator

Profile: The former California high school coach was Delta State’s coach from 2007-11 and Southeastern Louisiana’s from 2012-17. Roberts worked two seasons for Napier before former LSU defensive coordinator Doug Aranda hired him at Baylor in 2020.

Would he say yes? Roberts seems to have a good thing going at Baylor. He seemed burned out on being a head coach after leaving Hammond. He embraced the defensive coordinator role and might not want to abandon that for top-job headaches. But he has strong Louisiana and Texas recruiting ties, so perhaps it’s possible.

Former UL offensive coordinator Rob Sale now coaches the New York Giants offensive line.

Rob Sale

New York Giants offensive line coach

Profile:Sale, a Neville High product from Monroe who played on LSU’s offensive line, is a former Alabama offensive analyst who coached offensive lines at McNeese, Georgia, UL Monroe before working as Arizona State’s offensive line coach when Napier was offensive coordinator there and UL’s offensive line coach under Napier from 2018-20.

Would he say yes? Leaving his first NFL job on his own accord could be tough. But joining Napier at Florida could be an option, especially considering the Giants recently fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Returning to UL could be another, if being a head coach is what he wants.

Former New Orleans Saints backup quarterback Doug Nussmeier is now the Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach.

Doug Nussmeier

Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach 

Profile: The former New Orleans Saints backup quarterback has had offensive coordinator stints at Fresno State, Washington, Alabama, Michigan and Florida. Nussmeier began as Dallas’ tight ends coach in 2018, and has been the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach since 2020.

Would he say yes? Almost certainly. Nussmeier lobbied for the job when Napier was hired and is interested again. Besides getting back into the college game, the move would get Nussmeier closer to his son, LSU redshirt quarterback Garrett Nussmeier.