Big secret: UL's Napier keeps lid on recruiting strategy

Tim Buckley
The Daily Advertiser

As far as UL coach Billy Napier is concerned, how the Ragin’ Cajuns managed to add as many players as they did on National Signing Day last Wednesday and during the NCAA’s early signing period last December should remain a matter of mystery.

Class limits? Total scholarships?

Don’t get hung up on the precise numbers, and don’t worry about how it’s getting done, Napier suggests.

“I think those specifics are something we’d probably like to keep to ourselves in terms of strategy, you know?” Napier said. “That would be like me telling ULM what plays we’re going to run on Saturday.”

More:Surprise defensive lineman joins Cajuns on Signing Day

Press Conference where Head Coach Billy Napier speaks about UL's new signing class on National Signing Day. . Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.

Counting back. Counting forward.

Using every color "shirt" available.

Even bringing in several players as preferred walk-ons with the anticipation, if all goes right, that they might receive a scholarship after the season to come.

UL announced 19 signees in December, though there actually were only 18 because one, receiver Kalem Reddix, who no longer is with the team, actually was a preferred walk-on.

The Cajuns signed four more last Wednesday, plan to blueshirt at least two additions — meaning their scholarships will forward — and have added an indeterminate number of preferred walk-ons in recent weeks.

Another recruit initially indicated to be a preferred walk-on, King McGowan, an offensive lineman from Willis High in Texas, is now known to be scholarship signee.

UL has not announced McGowan's signing, however.

McGowan went with the Cajuns about a week after decommitting from SMU.

The Cajuns also have grayshirted in the past, and they added one player this year — defensive back SchDarren Archie, a former redshirt — who doesn’t count on the 2019 class because he’s back at UL after spending time at a Mississippi junior college.

Related:Cajuns redshirt Archie finds his way back home to UL

“I think we did a great job,” Napier said, “of evaluating the rules, looking at different ways to add players to our roster. … I think we’re a little bit ahead of the game in terms of how we did it.

“But the good thing is we’re gonna add close to 26 scholarship players here. (There) will be some count forward, some count back. But a lot of that has to do with the ins and outs of roster management.

“I think there a lot of games won and lost in terms of how you manage that 85-scholarship roster,” he added. “The good thing is we found a way to get it done.”

The Cajuns evidently used all tools available while adding the numbers they did.

Take Grant Paulette, a kicker out of Hebron High in Texas.

He told The Daily Advertiser back in January that “I am going to Lafayette as a preferred walk on spot hoping to receive an offer next spring.”

Neville High outside linebacker La’Kamion Franklin, meanwhile, also confirmed to The Advertiser that he’s coming as a preferred walk-on, and said he picked UL “because the culture remind(s) me of Neville.”

Yet, Franklin, Paulette and fellow preferred walk-on A.J. Gillie of Natchitoches Central High all were announced by UL as part of its “2019 Signing Class,” confusing many into thinking they are actual scholarship signees.

More:Two from STM among fresh Cajun commits

It’s all part of the new numbers game.

But for Napier, the number that matters most may be this one:

UL finished No. 1 in 247Sports.com’s final ranking of Sun Belt Conference recruiting classes, both by average and in total points, followed in order, according to average, by Troy, Appalachian State, Georgia State and Arkansas State.

The Cajuns also finished 72nd nationally in total points, ranking eighth among Group of Five programs led by Boise State, Central Florida and Florida Atlantic.

That’s up from 104 last year.   

It should be noted, though, that 247’s points total for UL isn’t entirely accurate, in part because it includes preferred walk-ons including Paulette and Gillie.

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A couple more names to add to UL’s lengthy list of preferred walks-on additions from National Signing Day: Receiver Markavon Williams and defensive end/outside linebacker Marcus Cormier, teammates from St. Martinville High, also both have joined the Cajuns.

Cormier played for the Lafayette-area All-Star team in its I-10 Bowl win over Lake Charles.

The Cajuns, Napier said, intend to carry 50 walk-ons in addition to their eventual 85 scholarship players.

UL put 10 former walk-ons on scholarship last season to bring up an inordinately low number of scholarship players he inherited when taking over in December 2017.

More:Ex-wildcat quarterback Ray leaving UL's program  


North Desoto High’s Aubrey Scott, previously committed to UL, wound up joining Northwestern State.

At one point in the recruiting process, Scott was offered by Florida.

He pledged to the Cajuns, but they did not add him during the NCAA’s early signing period in December.

UL had hoped to help place him in a junior college, but he signed instead with the Southland Conference’s Demons last Wednesday.

Related:UL football recruit picks the Cajuns over SEC's Florida


UL put out Signing Week offers to multiple Class of 2020 recruits, including G.W. Carver defensive end Khari Coleman, Holy Cross offensive lineman Josh Remetich and Catholic High of New Iberia quarterback/athlete Treynavion Amos.

More:Napier says Cajuns 'met most of our needs' with signing class