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Football: UL assistant football coach Saunders leaves program

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, November 4, 2014


David Saunders

UL safety Trevence Patt (33) gets instruction from cornerbacks coach David Saunders during practice. (Photo: Leslie Westbrook/The Advertiser)



Amid curious timing, outside linebackers coach and assistant recruiting coordinator David Saunders disassociated himself with the UL football program Sunday.

The separation comes as the 5-3 Ragin’ Cajuns prepare to take a four-game winning streak to New Mexico State on Saturday night.

It also came one day after they allowed just 336 yards in a 19-9 win over South Alabama.

"There never is a good time when you announce your resignation, and that’s what Sarge (Saunders) did (Sunday)," UL head coach Mark Hudspeth said Monday. "He’s resigned for personal reasons, and that’s as far as, really, we’re allowed to say – because that’s what they are, their personal reasons.

"But, never a good time – whether it’s offseason, now you’re right in the middle of recruiting, in-season it’s right in the middle of the games."

UL, however, did not announce Saunders’ departure as a resignation.

Rather, according to a three-sentence statement released late Monday morning, the school said "Saunders is no longer associated with the … football program due to personal reasons."

It’s believed that Saunders, who made $91,000 in 2013 and earned a raise after UL won its third straight New Orleans Bowl last December, will continue to be paid through the end of this year.

UL also announced in its brief statement Monday that former Texas Tech defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt, brought on as a consultant earlier this season, "will assume (Saunders’) coaching position on an interim basis for the duration of the season."

Wallerstedt is not drawing a salary from the Cajuns this season.

Rather, he continues to be paid by Texas Tech, where he worked until resigning early this season from a post that paid $425,000 annually.

As a consultant, Wallerstedt was not permitted to work hands-on with Cajun players. That changes now.

"He’ll be the ninth countable coach," Hudspeth said.

"He’ll be able to coach a position now, be in meetings (with players) and be more involved with our defense. So, we’re full speed ahead."

Saunders – previously UL’scornerbacks coach – was a part of the original Cajun coaching staff of Mark Hudspeth, who was hired after the 2010 season.

The recruiting specialist has worked as an assistant and/or recruiting coordinator at several schools, including Georgia Southern, Nicholls State, Baylor, Arkansas State, Tennessee and Ole Miss.

He had multiple stints at Ole Miss, and left an administrative coordinator’s job there to come to UL in 2011.

He becomes the first Hudspeth assistant to leave in-season at UL.

The only other assistant from Hudspeth’s first staff at the school no longer with the program is Greg Stewart, who was ousted as defensive coordinator after two seasons and now is defensive coordinator at FCS Central Arkansas.

UL’s defense is yielding 436.4 yards per game this season.

It started the 2014 season in a 3-4/multiple base, but has been playing much more four-man front lately.

There has been much personnel movement among starting and reserve outside linebackers throughout the season, including the move of outside starter Dominique Tovell to the inside Mike linebacker spot.

Saunders’ exit means UL now has two former Texas Tech defensive coordinators on its coaching staff – Wallerstedt and current Cajun defensive coordinator James Willis, who resigned as one season as the Red Raiders’ DC in 2010.

"I think we’ll be able to press forward," UL starting defensive end Chris Prater said Monday. "Around the country, staff changes happen all the time.

"Like during a game a change may happen, we have to improvise to make an adjustment on the field – and I think this is just part of an adjustment you have to make during the season too, to carry out the goals that we have to finish this season."