Football: After quick class, Cajun recruiting infrastructure in place
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Feb. 11, 2018
Another UL signing class, the first for new Ragin’ Cajuns coach Billy Napier, is mostly in the books.
The next one shouldn’t be nearly so challenging to assemble.
This one was put together in the mere month-and-a-half or so after Napier was hired to replace to the fired Mark Hudspeth, and the players in it essentially are ones Napier didn't have any sort of relationship with prior to December.
He did it with a new recruiting coordinator, former UL Monroe recruiting coordinator Tim Leger, who’ll also coach Cajun receivers; the retention of a few recruits to originally committed to Hudspeth’s former staff, including high school products Percy Butler, Luke Junkunc and Chris Smith; and the signing of several others, many of them culled from relationships established when Napier's new assistants were at their previous jobs.
Now, though, Napier will have a full year to come up with the 2019 UL signing class.
Two pieces — blueshirts Eric Garror and Keon Jean-Batiste — already are in place.
So too is a staff foundation to help with the rest, many members of it hired to positions newly created only after Napier was introduced as UL’s new head coach on Dec. 18.
Napier retained longtime player personnel director Ryan Trichel, whose book on recruits from Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama — including many invited to Cajun evaluation camps — has been invaluable to the program.
He quickly hired Alabama alum Katie Turner as director of on-campus recruiting, responsible for visits and related activities, and Joshua Thompson from Texas A&M, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as director of recruiting and football logistics.
“Those are our three core people relative to recruiting,” Napier said.
But the additions didn’t stop there.
Others now on the UL staff with what primarily are recruiting-related responsibilities include Andrew Burkett, director of recruiting research and evaluation; Nick McDonald, player personnel quality control; Effrem Reed, on-campus recruiting quality control; and holdover Ainslee Dyer, recruiting assistant.
Napier said Reed, a Cajuns running back from 2011-15, has “a lot of passion and pride for this place, and certainly was a sharp young man that represented this place the right way.”
Like Reed, some of the new hires are not far removed from being college students themselves.
“The objective here is to establish an infrastructure,” Napier said. “We want to have a good work flow in the building relative to what we need to accomplish, and I think we need to do it in a pretty cost-effective way.
“So obviously the number of people may be increasing, but financially I think we’ve got to be responsible and make sure we’re going about it in a certain way.
“But we’ve been fortunate to put together a good team of people — people that complement each other, people that understand the college football dynamic,” he added. “I think it’s resources well-spent.”
After his class was announced on National Signing Day last Wednesday, Napier — who still has two 2018 scholarships left to offer after losing Tylan Knight to Ole Miss and Kameron Jones to Mississippi State late — had nothing but praise for the new behind-the-scenes support structure now in place.
It’s a group that will aid not only him, but also Leger and other Cajun assistant coaches who spend hours upon hours of their work weeks focused squarely on recruiting.
“There are so many people that have helped us as we’ve been on the road, as we’ve invited these families (of recruits) into town for official visit weekends,” he said.
“There’s too many to list. They know who they are, and certainly at some point I’ll make a point to reach out to all those people. But I want to say thank you to all those people that helped us.”
They really did prove to be difference-makers, Napier suggested, especially for a coaching staff also put together on-the-go — and with Signing Day coming so soon after the change at the top.
“A lot of the young people in the building — the grad assistants, the quality-control people that joined us right out of the box, or maybe they were here before — we put a lot on their plate,” Napier said.
“It was two-fold for me. I could evaluate them, and what type of worker they are — get an insight into how they think. Then, also, they did a lot of work for us.
“They did a masterful job of getting a little better every week. … We’ve put people in place,” he added, “that I think are talented and can do a great job for us.”