5 things Michael Desormeaux must do right away as Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football coach
Michael Desormeaux has a huge task ahead of him.
The No. 17 Cajuns have won 12 straight, including the Sun Belt Conference championship game against Appalachian State on Saturday, since a season-opening loss at Texas.
Desormeaux, who has been on UL’s staff for six seasons under Napier and for two seasons under Mark Hudspeth before Napier arrived, was promoted from tight ends coach/co-offensive coordinator.
Here are five things Desormeaux must do to ensure the Cajuns continue their winning ways:
Find a Cajuns quarterback
Levi Lewis has been UL’s reliable starter for three seasons. He was a backup who played regularly in 2018, Napier’s first year at the school. And he burned his freshman-season redshirt with four late-year appearances in 2017, including three starts.
The lefty is 34-7 as the Cajuns’ starter, and as a super senior will be finished after UL plays its bowl game.
With three mostly late-game appearances last season and seven this season, backup Chandler Fields is inexperienced and unproven — he is 8 of 12 passing this season.
Ben Wooldridge has been listed as co-backup along with Fields all season, but the Fresno State transfer hasn’t appeared in a game. Transfer Lance Legendre arrived with much hype from Maryland, but he’s spent the season working with UL’s scout team.
The Cajuns have two freshman QBs on scholarship, Hunter Herring from Quachita Christian in Monroe and Zy McDonald of Ridgeland High near Jackson, Mississippi. They also have one quarterback commit in their 2022 recruiting class, Zeon Chris of Madison Prep in Baton Rouge.
Depending on who’s around the spring, Desormeaux could choose from among that group – or he could dip into the NCAA transfer portal.
UL recruiting issues
UL has nine commits in place prior to the Dec. 15 opening of the NCAA’s early signing period, down from 11 when Napier’s hiring by Florida was made official.
Texas high school tight end Hayden Hansen reopened his recruiting right after Napier’s exit was made public, and Texas high school edge rusher/tight end Camron Cooper decommitted Sunday and picked up an offer from a couple hours later from Louisiana Tech. A 12th commit, Texas high school offensive lineman Van Wells, decommitted a week before Florida announced it had hired Napier.
Desormeaux must keep the rest of the class together, and perhaps fortify it soon, and he won’t have a lot of time to do it.
Replenish the offensive line
UL’s starting right tackle, NFL prospect Max Mitchell, is headed to the Senior Bowl. Its starting left tackle, Ken Marks, is a seventh-year senior who plans to get into coaching.
Starting center Shane Vallot took part in senior day activities, indicating he doesn’t play to stay in 2022. So did backup right guard David Hudson, who started UL’s final regular-season games while starter O’Cyrus Torrence recovered from a concussion sustained in an auto accident.
That’s a lot to lose.
But left tackle Carlos Rubio, whose early season injury prompted Marks to move from guard to tackle, has eligibility remaining. AJ Gillie gained valuable experience this season starting in Marks’ spot at left guard. Torrence is back too.
It’s a start, but Desormeaux must rebuild a line that has dominated in Sun Belt play up front.
Reload with linebackers and at safety
The Cajuns will lose starting inside linebacker Ferrod Gardner and sacks-leading outside linebacker Chauncey Manac, both of whom will be playing in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Safety Percy Butler, who is headed to the East-West Shrine Game, also exits.
That makes reloading the linebacking corps and in the secondary important, especially with Gardner’s knowledge of the defensive scheme being as strong as it is. The talent may already be in-house, but decisions must be made in the spring.
Win over fans
Mark Hudspeth owned the town after going 9-4 and winning the New Orleans Bowl for four straight seasons from 2011-14, but he fell out of favor the final three seasons and ultimately was fired.
Napier won back fans when he arrived and retained their support throughout his four seasons in Lafayette, so no one’s about to hold his departure for Florida against him.
But it’s imperative for UL’s new hire to keep that fan support going, especially in a market where Cajun Field is hard to fill, the program relies heavily on booster money to prop up the head coach’s salary and a massive stadium renovation projected is planned.
Being a New Iberia native, and a former UL quarterback, should help Desormeaux immensely with that task.