Lee Brecheen’s Recruiting Recap: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
by Lee Brecheen and Jace LeJeune
As all 12 Louisiana college teams are currently participating in spring practices, that could mean only one thing and that is the upcoming college football season is approaching near. As we continue to wait the days before fall practice, for the next three weeks, we will recap the National Signing Classes for all 12 Louisiana collegiate football teams. Today, we will recap the National Signing Class for the UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. The Ragin’ Cajuns have a bright future under Billy Napier. In only his first season leading the program, Napier picked up where Mark Hudspeth left off and that was leading the team to Sun Belt conference relevancy once again by winning the Sun Belt West Division with an overall record of 7-7. Now, with another season, Coach Napier is ready to take the next step and lead the team to a conference championship. With a talented recruiting class such as this year’s, the Ragin’ Cajuns are taking the next step in doing so. Louisiana Football Magazine’s recruiting expert Lee Brecheen has watched all of the Louisiana high school signees featured below at one point. Whether it is watching full game film or seeing them in person, Brecheen has gotten the chance to see a lot of these signees play. In today’s college recruiting recap, Brecheen takes a dive in the UL Lafayette football program as he gives out his top five talented high school signees, top college transfer, sleeper players to keep an eye on, players that are in an unique position to start right away, and also, his final thoughts on the entire signing class in general!
Lee’s Overall Thoughts on UL Lafayette’s Signing Class:
“I think Coach Billy Napier did his homework in state as it is a strong in-state haul for UL Lafayette. There are a lot of guys that have high potential, but at the same time, are underrated. I watched all of these guys that they have signed from Louisiana over and over again. So, from a Louisiana standpoint, I think they got some diamonds in the rough. The amount of these big time signees that they got is the highest it has been in a very long time for this program going back to the days of the late Head Coach Nelson Stokley when they had the likes of Jake Delhomme (Teurlings Catholic/New Orleans Saints/Carolina Panthers/Cleveland Browns/Houston Texans), Brandon Stokley (Comeaux High School/Baltimore Ravens/Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos), the late Orlando Thomas (Crowley High School/Minnesota Vikings), and plenty of others who have played under him. I also think that Billy was smart in signing more high school players than junior college players because you need to grow your program with Louisiana high school players, and I think that was smart. Former Coach Mark Hudspeth went more towards the junior college route, which could also work, but at the same time, can bite you if they don’t pan out since they are older. In their in-state signing class, I was a huge fan of OG A.J. Gillie (Natchitoches Central), QB Chandler Fields (Archbishop Rummel), OLB Tyler Guidry (Southern Lab), SS Jaden Henderson (McDonogh 35), DT Dalvin Hutchinson (West Monroe), WR/FS Peter LeBlanc (Catholic New Iberia), WR Brandon Legendre (E.D. White), OG Logan Newell (Neville), WR Brian Smith Jr. (Barbe/Glendale Community College), OG Nathan Thomas (Chalmette), OL/DL O’Cyrus Torrence (St. Helena), OLB La’Kamion Franklin (Neville), and DE Kendall Wilkerson (Kentwood) if he enrolls at the university. Then, out of state, Coach met some needs and picked up Shomari Hayes (6-1, 294), who is a defensive tackle from Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, Arizona, which certainly helped knowing his ties at Arizona State when he was an assistant coach there. They picked up Neal Johnson (6-3, 223), who is an intriguing tight end out of West Mesquite High School in Mesquite, Texas. Clifton McDowell (6-2, 200) is also an intriguing quarterback prospect just out of Spring, Texas. Then, of course, UL Lafayette is always great in recruiting the Florida area, and they got one in CB Amir McDaniel (5-9, 170) from West Florida Tech in Pensacola, Florida. They also got a junior college defensive tackle in Ja-Quane Nelson (6-3, 280) from Hutchinson Community College, which is located in High Point, North Carolina. It is an impressive class, and two years from now, this can be a recruiting class that puts them over the top. It might not get them back to ten wins this year, but it is a strong start.”
Lee’s Top Five Talented High School Signees in UL Lafayette’s Signing Class (In No Particular Order):
OG A.J. Gillie
Natchitoches Central High School
Bio: In the team outlook, Brecheen mentioned that the Ragin’ Cajuns did a good job of picking up guys with high ceilings that flew under the radar, and one of those type players is A.J. Gillie from Natchitoches Central High School. Gillie was very high on his radar even as an underclassmen. He was so high on Gillie that he actually made the cover of the North Louisiana edition of Louisiana Football Magazine magazine as well as making the 1st Team All-North Louisiana preseason team. The All-District offensive lineman chose to sign with the Ragin’ Cajuns over other programs such as Grambling State, North Carolina Central, and Army.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “I was a huge fan of A.J. Gillie. I thought this kid has as good of feet and blocking ability as anyone in North Louisiana. He is athletic enough to play all five positions among the offensive line, and has a chance to be special for UL Lafayette.”
SS Jaden Henderson
McDonogh 35 High School
Bio: McDonogh 35 High School in New Orleans, Louisiana is making a strong case for being DB High in Louisiana especially in recent years with the likes of Delvin Breaux (New Orleans Saints), Brad Stewart (Florida), and Joe Foucha (Arkansas). Now, the Roneagles can add another DI player to the list in safety Jaden Henderson. The three star prospect followed in the footsteps of other great players before him by leading the team to the playoffs as a senior. Before signing with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Henderson also considered Indiana, ULM, Louisiana Tech, Troy, Toledo, Texas State, and South Alabama.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “Jaden Henderson is one of the best hitters coming out of this year’s class in Louisiana. Henderson was the best player on the McDonogh 35 team in 2018 and is a big time steal for the Ragin’ Cajuns.”
WR Brandon Legendre
E.D. White Catholic High School
Bio: Brandon Legendre will come down as arguably the greatest player in the history of E.D. White football. Legendre’s electrifying speed on the field and athleticism drew the attention of Notre Dame, West Virginia, TCU, Kentucky, Arizona State, Vanderbilt, and Utah. However, it was the fit of the UL Lafayette program that drew not only Legendre to sign, but even sign with the team in December. The stats back it up as one of the best offensive playmakers in the state over the last few seasons as the three star playmaker accounted for over 6,000 yards of total offense along with 80 touchdowns. The All-State selection often showed his versatility playing multiple positions including quarterback and kick returner. That asset of his game will be a nice addition to Coach Napier and his staff.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “Brandon Legendre was one of the fastest players in the state from last season. He runs a legit 4.39/40 and backs that speed up on the football field watching him play. He can come in and play slot receiver, punt returner, or kick returner for the Ragin’ Cajuns.”
OL/DL O’Cyrus Torrence
St. Helena College & Career Academy
Bio: Not only did O’Cyrus Torrence stick out like a sore thumb during St. Helena football games thanks to his 6-5, 325 pound frame, but his ability also spoke for itself. Torrence, who was the biggest signee of any of the other lineman signees, showed that he has great endurance playing on both sides of the football during games. The two time 1st Team All-District selection was on the front cover of Louisiana Football Magazine’s South edition before the start of the season. The three star prospect chose UL Lafayette over Georgia, Louisiana Tech, ULM, South Alabama, and Middle Tennessee.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “O’Cyrus Torrence is a NFL prospect. I don’t know why more schools offered him, but Coach Napier and his staff got themselves a huge steal. Torrence can play offensive tackle, offensive guard, or even play on the defensive line. Nobody moves better than him as a lineman coming out of Louisiana. He can come in, make an instant impact, and become a dominant lineman. ”
DE Kendall Wilkerson
Kentwood High School
Bio: The Kentwood Kangaroos may have been known for its great offensive skill talent, but the team may have never gotten to win two Class 1A state championships without the dominant efforts of senior defensive end Kendall Wilkerson. At 6-4, 275 pounds, Wilkerson was nearly unblockable as a senior when he posted 95 tackles, 10 sacks, and eight tackles for loss. The two time All-State selection received offers from Wisconsin, Kansas, UCF, Southeastern, and Tulane. Also, according to Kentwood Head Coach Jonathan Foster, even LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron showed interest in the three star prospect. In the end, it was Lafayette that felt the most at home for Wilkerson as he signed with the Ragin’ Cajuns in December.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “Even if Kendall Wilkerson does not in fact enroll at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, I think that he would be a sign back for them after he plays at the junior college level or he will go to another school. Hopefully, he enrolls, but he would be a big time player for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Lee’s Top Sleepers of the Class:
OLB La’Kamion Franklin
Neville High School
Bio: Like a lot of great Neville High School defenders, senior OLB La’Kamion Franklin dominated the competition. Franklin was a force to be reckoned with before his senior year, but he even broke out even further with a great senior campaign. In his final season as a Neville Tiger, Franklin recorded 78 total tackles, 42 solo tackles, 11 sacks, 25 tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, and one fumble recovery. The three star outside linebacker’s ability to disrupt the opposing passer drew the attention of Arkansas Tech, Louisiana College, Arkansas Monticello, and East Texas Baptist University. However, when the Ragin’ Cajuns offered Franklin, it was too good of a deal to pass up as he signed with the team on National Signing Day.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “Everybody is coming in and looking for a big time linebacker to make 80 tackles right away. I think La’Kamion Franklin from Neville High School can be that guy. I watched this kid play and he is a hard nosed type player. He is going to make tackles and he can run. I am a huge fan of him, and I think he is finally starting to fill out. If he would have been 220 pounds coming out of high school, he would have been getting some SEC offers.”
OLB Tyler Guidry
Bio: Like how McDonogh High School is making a name for producing defensive backs, Southern Lab in Baton Rouge, LA is doing the same thing at linebacker especially in recent years with the likes of Christopher Allen (Alabama), Damone Clark (LSU), and now Tyler Guidry. Guidry, along with teammate DE Christopher Welch (Nicholls State), have really flown under the radar compared to LSU signees RB Tyrion Davis and OG Kardell Thomas, but in their own way, dominated other competition. Guidry was in fact the second highest signee according to a lot of recruiting sites for the Ragin’ Cajuns’ signing class. In his senior year, Guidry was a quarterback’s nightmare with 68 tackles, 12 sacks, and a pick six. The three star athlete received offers from South Alabama, SMU, Western Kentucky, ULM, Southern Miss, Rice, Tulane, and Arkansas State before signing with Billy Napier’s squad on National Signing Day. Along with fellow OLB La’Kamion Franklin, they could potentially form a deadly pass rushing linebacker duo.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “I think Tyler Guidry has a chance to be a three year starter for UL Lafayette. He is a hard nosed player.”
WR/FS Peter LeBlanc
Catholic High School (New Iberia)
Bio: Whether it has been as a wide receiver or as a defender, Peter LeBlanc was born to be a football player. As a versatile athlete, LeBlanc also was a standout in track and field, but it was football that was the sport for him. LeBlanc played an integral role in leading the Catholic High School (New Iberia) Panthers to a Division III state championship as a junior as well as a Division III state championship runner up finish as a senior. As a junior, LeBlanc, who was on the front cover of our South Louisiana magazine preview this past season, had 36 catches for 793 yards and ten touchdowns. The two time All-District playmaker followed his junior campaign with another strong season in his senior year this time being more heavily used as a runner with 44 carries for 668 yards and nine touchdowns along with 22 receptions for 617 yards and eight more scores as a receiver. The versatile player was also not only a hard hitting defensive back, but also the team’s starting punter as well. LeBlanc’s versatility drew the attention of Louisiana Tech and Nicholls State, but it was the Ragin’ Cajuns that was the best fit for the three star prospect.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “Peter LeBlanc is a guy that started four years at Catholic High School in New Iberia, Louisiana. He was 6-2 at an early age. Once Peter fills out, he can become a big time player. He reminds me of Jordy Nelson (Kansas State/Green Bay Packers/Oakland Raiders) because he has a great feel for the game with great speed and toughness. Either he is going to be 200 pounds in a year and become a free safety or he is going to be a receiver. I think he is going to help the team early. It might not be his first year, but he can be a player that comes off a redshirt freshman season and become an impact guy.”
Lee’s Top College Transfer (Including DI and Junior College Signees):
“Defensive tackles are heard to get for small DI schools and when you are recruiting the Conference USA or the Sun Belt Conference, it is hard to get a top tier defensive tackle, but DT Ja-Quane Nelson (6-3, 280) was a big get from Hutchinson Community College in High Point, North Carolina. He is obviously going to be counted on to play and start right away.”
Lee’s Other Key Signees From This Year’s Class (Includes Both High School Signees and College Transfers):
DT Dalvin Hutchinson
Wossman High School/West Monroe High School
Bio: Whether it was his spending his first couple of years at Wossman High School or spending his last couple of seasons at West Monroe High School, DT Dalvin Hutchinson created havoc in backfields. As an All-State performer, Hutchinson led a dominant Rebel defensive line his senior year, which had four shutouts in the team’s first four playoff games. He was a major reason for the shutouts as he posted 67 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, and recovered a fumble. There were plenty of instances in which he took over games, and now he will be bringing his ability to Lafayette despite receiving other offers from SMU, ULM, Southern, Memphis, Tulane, McNeese State, Northwestern State, South Alabama, Nicholls State, UTSA, and New Mexico State.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “Dalvin Hutchinson was offered by Tulane and plenty of other FBS programs. At West Monroe, he was a true nose guard and was a big time player for them. Now, he will take his talents to the next level at UL Lafayette.”
OG Logan Newell
Neville High School
Bio: It is clear that Coach Billy Napier and his staff went in-state to bulk up on the offensive and defensive lines. Once again, they got themselves another talented offensive lineman prospect in Logan Newell from Neville High School. Newell, who made the cover of our North Louisiana magazine, was the best offensive lineman on the team the last couple of seasons. The three star prospect chose the Ragin’ Cajuns over other programs including ULM, Texas State, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, and Southern.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “I am a big fan of Logan Newell from Neville High School as an offensive guard. “Newell is a no brainer D-I player. I saw that he had good feet as a junior in person against Lakeshore High School. He could be a very good player, and I think he is a SEC quality lineman. I think he will be a starter once he gets a little stronger. He’s a good looking kid and might be able to play as a freshman if there are injuries along the line for the Ragin’ Cajuns.”
WR Brian Smith
Barbe High School/Glendale Community College
Bio: The Ragin’ Cajuns did not just fill their needs at the high school level, but also at the junior college level in WR Brian Smith. Smith was once a Louisiana high school product from Barbe High School in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He, then, went to the junior college ranks to Glendale Community College in Glendale, Arizona where he was a two time All-Conference performer combining to have 55 receptions for 868 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons. Since Coach Napier is familiar with recruiting in Arizona based off his experience as an assistant coach for the Sun Devils along with being the head coach of a Louisiana college team, it made sense for the Ragin’ Cajuns to get this big bodied wide receiver that represents both areas.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “Brian Smith, who once played at Barbe and played at the junior college level, is a great big receiver that can make an impact for the Ragin’ Cajuns.”
OG Nathan Thomas
Chalmette High School
Bio: Stop if you have not heard this before just reading this recruiting recap, but the Ragin’ Cajuns signed another offensive lineman prospect in Nathan Thomas from Chalmette High School. Thomas was a main reason why the Owls made the Class 5A playoffs the last couple of seasons. He was the best player on an offensive line that made running lanes for a rushing offense that produced over 2,000 yards on the ground and averaged over 300 points a season. Thomas received other interests from other in-state schools such as Northwestern State, McNeese State, and Grambling State before signing with UL-Lafayette.
Lee’s Scouting Report: “Nathan Thomas is a strong offensive lineman that is raw, but has good feet. He can be a really good player down the road for the Ragin’ Cajuns.”
Lee’s Two Signees That Are In An Unique Position:
For our recruiting recaps, this is the first time that we had this new section, but based on the fact that the Ragin’ Cajuns are trying to find their starting signal caller for the upcoming year. Whether it is Levi Lewis, Jake Arceneaux, JaI’Ave Magalei, Wesley Blazek, Beau Kalbacher, or Josh Bolfing, it remains to be seen who has or will be taking the job full time, but what is certain is that these two incoming freshmen have a chance to make their mark in the quarterback room.
Chandler Fields (5-11, 185), from Archbishop Rummel High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, is trying to make his mark as a freshman just like his predecessor Chase Fourcade did when he came on Nicholls State’s campus. Like Fourcade, Fields may be a little undersized, but he will come down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play at Archbishop Rummel High School. While leading the Raiders to a 9-3 record in Jay Roth’s final season as head coach, Fields threw for 2,359 yards and 30 touchdowns. Fields was the sixth UL-Lafayette signee to be featured on the cover of Louisiana Football Magazine joining A.J. Gillie, Dalvin Hutchinson, Peter LeBlanc, O’Cyrus Torrence, and Logan Newell. Fields, who was one of the top quarterbacks in the state this past season, chose the Ragin’ Cajuns over the likes of Memphis, Nicholls State, and Jackson State.
Like Fields, Clifton McDowell (6-2, 200) is another highly regarded quarterback in his own state. Coming from Spring High School in Spring, Texas, McDowell was one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in the state accounting for over 3,000 yards of total offense along with 37 total touchdowns. In the season before, he accounted for 31 more touchdowns along with 2,160 more total yards. McDowell chose the Ragin’ Cajuns over the likes of ULM, Texas Southern, Texas State, and Georgetown.
“Quarterback signees Chandler Fields and Clifton McDowell are both in a really unique position as incoming freshmen. There is a job opening at UL-Lafayette, and UL-Lafayette is looking for a guy that can take them to another place kind of like what Chase Fourcade did when he signed with Nicholls State from Archbishop Rummel. Fourcade helped change the face of the Nicholls State football program. UL-Lafayette is looking for that guy, and I really believe that Chandler as well as Clifton can come in to challenge the starting quarterback job. The veteran quarterbacks on the team are good, but they are definitely not certain on who the quarterback may be. One of these two guys can win that job.”
*(Make sure to visit our website tomorrow when we recap the LSU Tigers’ 2019 recruiting class!)
Hey football fans. Like our recruiting interviews, stories, and other content on our website? Click on our website daily to view articles on recruits, coaches, and so much more at our website: http://www.lafootballmagazine.com/. Also, we have exciting news that for the second straight year, we will have our North and South LA issues and both are now out! Both issues will continue to cover all the Louisiana colleges as well as all the high schools in state, but there will be 16 pages that will focus on North Louisiana as well as South Louisiana. For more information, please check the following link to where you can find the magazine in a store near you. Also, below are the two covers as well as where you can order both magazines on our website.
North Cover: South Cover:
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