UL assistant Looney draws praise in back-to-school week

Tim Buckley
The Daily Advertiser

STARKVILLE, Miss. — He played at Mississippi State from 2007-10. He coached tight ends at Mississippi State last season. And on Saturday D.J. Looney, UL’s assistant offensive line coach, worked against Mississippi State.

UL's assistant football coach D.J. Looney directing his players on the sidelines as the Ragin' Cajuns play their Spring football game. Looney played at Mississippi State from 2007 to 2010 and coached tight ends last season.

Looney left the Bulldogs following a head coaching change after the season at Mississippi State, where as it turns out the tight ends coach is now Mark Hudspeth — who was fired last December, after seven seasons as the Ragin’ Cajuns head coach.

In the week leading up to his return to Starkville, Looney — from Birmingham, Alabama — drew plenty of praise at his new place of employment.

Hudspeth, who was on staff at Mississippi State as receivers coach for part of the time Looney played there, called him “a top young coach.”

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“The contacts that he has throughout some of the fertile areas that we recruit have been critical,” said first-year UL head coach Billy Napier, who hired Looney.

“I think he’s also done a really good job in terms of his relationship with the players,” Napier added. “I think he’s a good teacher. He’s a good young coach, and a guy that has a bright future in this profession.”

Looney replaced Mitch Rodrigue, who was UL’s offensive line coach for all seven seasons under Hudspeth.

Rodrigue is now offensive coordinator at Spanish Fort High in the Mobile area of Alabama, where he coached previously at South Alabama.

“I like him a lot,” junior starting offensive guard Kevin Dotson said of Looney, who also was a graduate assistant at Georgia in 2016 and tackles/tight ends coach at Southland Conference-member Central Arkanas from 2014-15. “He keeps the energy up.

“He likes to get technical with you. He’ll come at 6 o’clock in the morning and watch film with you,” Dotson added. “So, he’ll do anything to make sure you get better.”

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They weren’t sure beforehand when, or even if, they’d get to see him.

But if they did, several Cajuns suggested, there would be nothing but kind words for Hudspeth in Starksville.

There is “no bad blood,” Dotson said, adding, “I just hope he’s having a good time over there.”

“I would thank him just for giving me a chance to play at my dream school,” said slot receiver Jarrod “Bam” Jackson, a product of East St. John High in Reserve. “It’s the school I that wanted to play at since I was in the eighth grade.”

The dismal of Hudspeth wasn’t easy for some Cajuns to handle, but most made the adjustment to Napier without missing a beat.

“We handled it,” senior receiver Keenan Barnes said, “and it’s working out for the best.”

MORE:Dotson squarely focused on season opener


After opening Sun Belt Conference play at home against Coastal Carolina on Sept. 22, UL visits No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 29.

The Cajuns won’t be staying in Tuscaloosa for their game against the Crimson Tide.

They’ll be in Birmingham.

But Tuscaloosa, go figure, is where they set up headquarters for Saturday night’s game against Mississippi State — at Hotel Capstone on Paul Bryant Drive in Tuscaloosa, which serves as Alabama’s usual team hotel for its own home games.


“This is something we’re familiar with,” said Napier, who was Alabama receivers coach from 2013-16.

The Capstone was available because Alabama spent its Saturday playing at Ole Miss.

College teams frequently do not stay in the same town in which they’re playing, and in the case of Mississippi State most visiting programs set up a full-service hotel in either nearby Columbus, Mississippi, or Tuscaloosa, which is about an 80-mile bus drive from Starksville.

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