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Football: Pool of candidates for UL coaching job taking shape

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Dec. 8, 2017

Bryan.Maggard.03.21-7680.jpg

First-year UL athletic director Bryan Maggard is spearheading the Ragin' Cajuns' search for a new head football coach. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/THE ADVERTISER)

While Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry’s candidacy for UL’s vacant head coaching position gets plenty of notice back in his home state of Pennsylvania, a few other names — including those of former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson and ex-New Orleans Saints quarterback Doug Nussmeier — also are known to be in the mix.

Not to be discounted are LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada and Texas-San Antonio head coach Frank Wilson, both mentioned as potential candidates by The Daily Advertiser since UL's firing of head coach Mark Hudspeth.

Canada and Wilson both are known to have expressed interest in the job, and the case is the same for former Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi State offensive coordinator Les Koenning, who currently is the offensive coordinator at Bahamas Bowl-bound Alabama-Birmingham.

Two other candidates — current Nicholls coach Tim Rebowe, a longtime former UL assistant coach, and current UL Monroe coach Matt Viator, ex-head coach at McNeese State — also are known to have camps of support among Ragin’ Cajun boosters.

Pry was on The Daily Advertiser’s original list of 10 potential candidates for the job since last Sunday, the same day the Cajuns fired Hudspeth after seven seasons in charge of the program.

More: Who will be UL's new football coach?

Related: What is UL seeking in its new head football coach?

Canada, Wilson, Rebowe and Viator also were on the original list, along with five others.

The name of Koenning, a Cajuns assistant coach in 1985, was added one day later. He, coincidentally, was Mississippi State's offensive coordinator when Hudspeth was receivers coach there and was the Bulldogs' pass game coordinator.

Among other names surfacing after Sunday have been those of Henson, currently the offensive line coach at his alma mater, Oklahoma State, and Nussmeier, an ex-offensive coordinator at Fresno State, Washington, Alabama and Michigan, who was fired as Florida’s offensive coordinator late last month.

It’s not known if the Cajuns have reciprocal interest in Nussmeier, a reserve quarterback for the Saints from 1994-97.

Henson was co-offensive line coach from 2009-12 and offensive coordinator from 2013-15 at Missouri, where current UL athletic director Bryan Maggard — who is spearheading the Cajuns’ search — worked for about 20 years before coming to UL earlier this year.

More: UL fires head football coach Hudspeth, citing inconsistent play, declining support

UL football coaching hire: 'Move swiftly,' but no rush

Pry was UL’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for five seasons from 2002 until 2006, when he was fired by then-Cajuns coach Rickey Bustle.

His ties to the vacancy gained national attention when Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman tweeted Wednesday, without identifying a source, that Pry is “among those getting consideration" for the vacancy.

Penn Live reported Thursday that on Wednesday Pry was “out and about recruiting even as reports earlier in the day said he was a candidate, and perhaps one of a final three, for the open head coaching job at Louisiana-Lafayette.”

It’s believed, however, that Maggard has not yet necessarily narrowed his list to three and that he instead continues to filter through a deep pool of coaches who have interest in the opening.

The Cajuns declined early this week to reveal if a search firm has been hired or a search committee formed to assist Maggard with the hire, with a spokesman saying only that there was “nothing to confirm.”

Related: Hudspeth sends thank-you letter to 'Cajun Nation'

Maggard said the day of Hudspeth’s firing that no search firm had been retained as of that time, and that he would not talk again about the search until the Cajuns' next coach was introduced.

Current Cajun assistant coaches, meanwhile, have continued their own work in the recruiting process even after Hudspeth was relieved of his duties one day after a third straight losing season ended with a 63-14 loss at Appalachian State.

Robert Hayes Jr., a cornerback from Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College who played previously at Southland Conference-member Incarnate Word in San Antonio, tweeted two days after Hudspeth’s firing that he was “Blessed to receive an offer from Louisiana Ragin Cajuns.”

Hayes is a product of Salmen High in Slidell, the same New Orleans-area high school that produced former UL receiver and ex-Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad member Jamal Robinson.

He’s also received recent offers from Southland members Lamar, Nicholls and, on Wednesday, McNeese State.

More: Will any of Hudspeth's commits be left in the lurch?

Also on Tuesday, speedster Kayshon Boutte — a wide receiver from Westgate High who is just a sophomore — tweeted that he was “Blessed to (receiver) an offer from ULL.”

With the NCAA’s new early signing period opening Dec. 20, Maggard instructed UL’s assistants — who will be out of jobs at the end of the month if they are not retained by the Cajuns’ new head coach — to continue recruiting.

Cajuns running backs coach Michael Desormeaux has been tapped to serve as acting director of the UL football program until a new hire has been made.

More: Cajun players react to Hudspeth's firing by UL

Related: How important is Saturday's game for Hudspeth and UL?