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Football: The Cajuns didn't sign a quarterback now, but may later

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Dec. 23, 2019

When UL unveiled its early 2020 signing class on Wednesday, one omission seemed glaring.

There was no quarterback on the list.

There was a standout running back, Texan Emani Bailey. There were a couple of beefy linemen, 330-pounders Cory Marshall of Northwood High in Shreveport and Jack McKenzie of Parklane Academy in McComb, Mississippi. There was plenty of help on the defensive side of the ball.

There were a few receivers, including highly regarded Kyren Lacy of Thibodaux High, and a projected receiver who led his team to a state championship playing quarterback, Errol Rogers Jr. of Lafayette Christian Academy.

There even were two projected cornerbacks who played quarterback in high school, Trey Amos of Catholic High in New Iberia and East Feliciana's High Caleb Anderson.

Related: Ragin' Cajuns land two local football stars

More: Catholic of New Iberia's Trey Amos among recruits UL confident in

More: Get to know the Cajuns' signees

But there was no actual QB.

Or was there?

Not all, it appears, is as it may seem on the surface.

The Sun Belt Conference West Division-champion Cajuns, 10-3 while preparing for their Jan. 6 LendingTree Bowl game against MAC-champion Miami (Ohio) in Mobile, currently have five quarterbacks on the roster: junior starter Levi Lewis, redshirt sophomore juco-transfer Jaiave Magalei, true freshmen reserves Chandler Fields and Clifton McDowell (both being redshirted) and redshirt freshman transfer Brayden Hawkins.

“We’re excited about Levi and the progress he’s made,” Napier said, “and all those others and the competition they’re gonna be part of going forward.”

More: UL hits its mark with long corners, athletic receivers

Magalei has appeared in six games this season, mostly in mop-up duty.

He’s 20-of-28 for 224 yards and one touchdown, with 103 of those yards coming in a blowout win over Texas Southern.

Fields and McDowell have played limited snaps in three and two games, respectively, and both seem to have favorability as developing freshmen.

Then there’s Hawkins, a product of Myers Park High in Charlotte, North Carolina, who arrived at UL earlier this year following short stops without playing at both UTEP, where he was on scholarship before leaving after about a month in the summer of 2018, and Maryland, where he was on the roster but did not play last year.

The twist?

“We kind of view Brayden as our quarterback for this class,” Napier said of scout team QB Hawkins, who, although eligible now, has not played since transferring or even since finishing high school. “He just blueshirted and then came on in.”

Related: Hawkins eligible, but Magalei holds No. 2 Cajuns QB job

Blueshirts essentially arrive with their scholarship delayed and assigned to the ensuing signing class, which in this case means 2020 for the Cajuns.

It’s all part of the games played to make recruiting numbers work.

So Hawkins, in a sense, counts for now.

Which, double-negative excused, is not to say another QB will not be signed before next season begins, or so Napier also seems to suggest.

“I think quarterback is the position you’re always evaluating,” the Cajuns coach said. “You’re never gonna pass up a good player when you can add a good player.

“You can’t have enough of them, right? I mean … there’s just not enough to go around.

“So we’ll never be done at that position,” Napier added, “relative to evaluating what we have and then what’s available.”

More: UL's Dotson named AP All-American; Hunt to miss bowls

The Cajuns will have ample opportunity to add another quarterback, or more, between now and the start of 2020, if they so choose.

They can bring in a juco transfer at the semester break, though that seems unlikely for now, or in the summer.

They can use one of their remaining unused Class of 2020 scholarships to add someone when the NCAA’s regular signing period rolls around in February.

Or they can add a graduate transfer, at almost any time in the offseason really.

Another option: simply staying pat.

But don't assume UL will do that just because it did not sign a QB before the early signing period closed last Friday.

Instead, Napier is keeping all doors open for quality QBs.

Only time will if one will walk through to help provide depth next season behind Lewis, who has thrown for 2,804 yards with just one four interceptions in his first year as a full-time starter.

Until then, though, no option is off the table and Napier's eyes remain to all possibilities.

The reason? It's obvious.

 “Certainly," Napier said, "you’re never gonna pass up a great one if you can get one.”

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