New UL QB commit Herring was a ULM baseball pledge
Hunter Herring was a diamond guy for the longest time.
Last October, he even committed to play for UL Monroe baseball program.
But so much became so different in the last several months, and so too did the focus for Herring, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound quarterback from Ouachita Christian School in Monroe who on Friday committed to the UL football team.
Herring’s non-binding verbal pledge that cannot be finalized until the NCAA’s early signing period in December came just two days after he was offered by the Ragin’ Cajuns.
So what changed?
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Debuting as a starting quarterback for his junior season in 2019, Herring — according to his MaxPreps.com stats — completed 104-of-197 passes for 1,794 yards and 27 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
The Class of 2021 recruit also ran 121 times for another 1,123 yards and 25 TDs.
Herring led his team to a 67-22 Class 1A-Division IV championship game win over Pointe Coupee-Catholic last December at the Superdome in New Orleans.
He ran for four touchdowns and threw for three in the title game, breaking a 1990 LHSAA Class 1A-Division IV state championship game record while amassing 335 yards of total offense.
All this after attempting just one pass — it was picked off — as a sophomore.
Attention from college football recruiters grew steam soon after the title game win.
“Really until this past year I was all baseball,” Herring, who is from West Monroe, said in a telephone interview.
“I really had never even thought about playing college football, and then it was kind of a week-by-week thing through football season, and having the success that I did the first year at quarterback, it kind of opened my eyes as to what would come.”
Fellow Sun Belt Conference member South Alabama extended Herring his first football offer in early April.
By that time, Herring had already visited UL.
He was impressed by what he saw, and felt, in Lafayette and he enjoyed the recruiting visit he got back home from Rob Sale, the former ULM assistant coach and Monroe-area high school product who is now UL’s offensive coordinator.
“It’s like a big family down there, and I love that,” Herring said. “I love what Napier (Cajuns head coach Billy Napier) is doing with it.”
Still, an offer from the Cajuns — who 11-3 last season with a LendingTree Bowl win over Miami (Ohio) and a second straight Sun Belt championship game appearance — did not come right away.
UL already had recently secured a commitment from one quarterback, Ridgeland (Mississippi) High’s Zy McDonald, and it picked up a roster spot for another QB when former Maryland redshirt Brayden Hawkins, a Cajuns reserve who spent last season with the scout team, entered the NCAA transfer portal.
Meanwhile, another heavily recruited QB who had received his first offer from the Cajuns and who had visited UL twice — Lucas Coley from Cornerstone Christian in San Antonio — was still on the market until he committed in the past week to SEC-member Arkansas.
But offers to Herring from two FCS Southland Conference members did soon follow the one from South Alabama — one from McNeese later in April and one from Nicholls in late May.
Tulane and Louisiana Tech both were actively recruiting Herring too, and the real-deal QB had the opportunity as well to perhaps play both football and baseball at ULM.
“I think (Herring was better than what we saw on film),” Pointe Coupee head coach David Simoneaux said, according to The (Monroe) News Star, after the state championship game.
“We knew he was the straw that stirred the drink. He was as advertised. I thought he made some really nice, tight throws. And he was extremely hard to get on the ground. That last long run he had, he broke one of our defensive tackle’s tackle. The kid’s a competitor, total package. He’s a good sized kid.”
But beyond a Junior Day trip to Southern Mississippi, Herring never got a chance to visit — except for UL — any of the schools recruiting him primarily as a football player.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had shut down almost all sports activities nationwide in mid-March, putting a halt to both in-person college football recruiting and most of Herring’s junior-year high school baseball season.
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That’s when he slowly began to realize that college football, not college baseball, was the route he should take.
“After all this COVID stuff hit and baseball season was taken away from us, I thought I’d be sad,” said Herring, who as a sophomore also hit .500 playing in the outfield on a 34-5, nationally ranked state championship Ouachita Christian team.
“But it really didn’t affect me that much. I think after last season I never really kicked it out of football mode.”
It was only in the past week, though, that Herring stepped out of his non-binding baseball commitment to ULM.
“It was more hard just saying I’ll probably never play baseball again,” he said, “but this definitely came easier to me (now).”
The fact that by week’s end Cajuns recruiting coordinator Tim Leger finally extended UL’s offer confirmed to Herring that he had made the right call.
“I’ve been working for this one for a long time,” said Herring, who has been training with the Shreveport-based Gunslinger Quarterback Academy’s Jeff Harper, someone who also has worked with Cajuns senior-to-be starter Levi Lewis.
Herring said he has not talked with Napier about the possibility of trying to play both football and baseball at UL, but that he has spoken “a little bit” with hitting coach Jake Wells of the Cajuns baseball team.
But that’s probably not in the cards.
“He (Wells) said if it was something I wanted to do he would definitely be up for it,” Herring said.
“I think at any other position I could, but at quarterback, with spring ball and all that, and trying to learn the system, it would be hard.”
So baseball, at least for now, is in the rearview mirror, so much so, in fact, that Herring does not even plan to play in what would be his 2021 senior season for Ouachita Christian.
Instead his plan is to play one more season of high school football, graduate early and join the Cajuns in time for spring practice next year.
“I just talked to Coach Napier about it,” he said Friday.
“I think it definitely would put me ahead if I’m competing for a spot like that, to introduce me to the college life and college football and just learning the system and hopefully getting stronger and faster.”
It really is all about football now for Herring, who readily acknowledges he still needs to grow into and fill out his lanky frame.
Still, letting go of that ULM baseball offer took some time to play out.
“We stayed in contact,” Herring said of the Warhawks’ baseball coaches, “and whenever a football coach reached out to me I let them know, because I didn’t want to be disrespectful in any way.
“I didn’t want to drag it out. But once I had my mind made up, I went ahead and made that call.
“I didn’t lose any sleep over it, I’ll be honest,” Herring added. “It is weird saying I probably won’t play baseball. I know I committed for baseball, and I had always been baseball. But the decision wasn’t too hard for me.”
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