Three Local Products Spice Up Cajun Signing Class
The best meals are prepared with local products, and the same can be said about college football programs.
South Louisiana is rich in resources, in terms of food and football. Relationships with local high school coaches turn into pipelines, and Ragin' Cajuns Head Football Coach Mark Hudspeth used the Cajun connection for three of the members for his 2016 signing class.
Jake Arceneaux, Raymond Calais Jr. and Korey Louis all carried their teams in high school. One played in Youngsville, the other in Cecilia, and the last laced up his cleats in Breaux Bridge. If they can do the same right down the road in the heart of Lafayette, Cajun Nation will lift them up on their large, welcoming shoulders.
In the Cajuns' gumbo pot of a roster, let's start with the meaty position: quarterback.
What's the most important position on the field? In the modern culture of football, the answer is quarterback. The Ragin' Cajuns only signed a single passer to their 2016 signing class, and his name is Jake Arceneaux. He was one of the most improved high school players in the entire Acadiana area as a senior at Ascension Episcopal, and his head coach and mentor's name will ring a bell with the Cajun faithful.
Coach Hud certainly knew who Arceneaux's coach was, and his history at UL certainly didn't hurt.
"Jake’s a winner," Hudspeth said. "This guy has been coached by one of UL’s greatest in Michael Desormeaux, so he’s already got a great background as far as his coaching.”
As a Cajun, Desormeaux was a fan favorite at quarterback. In his final two years on campus, he passed for 3,281 yards and 23 TD's, while rushing for 2,196 yards and 12 more TD's. He is still third all-time in the Cajun record books with 2,843 career rushing yards. His play on the field earned him some looks at the next level, and he now coaches on the south side of Lafayette.
Wearing a whistle, Desormeaux pushed Arceneaux to new heights as a senior, and they led the Blue Gators all the way to state semifinals, where they came up a single score short of reaching the championship. Together, they set a new standard at Ascension Episcopal and built a beast on the south side of Lafayette. As Hud said, Arceneaux is a winner, and above all else, he is a Cajun through and through.
The first time he steps out on the field to throw a pass, his hometown will be behind him...as well as a certain running back from Cecilia.
Raymond Calais Jr., a.k.a. "The Great Calais," was unstoppable in high school. He ran for 2,574 yards and 31 TD's his senior year, averaging 214 yards per game and 10.6 yards per carry. Countless plays for the Cecilia Bulldogs ended in Calais running through, around and away from entire defenses, from as far as 90 yards out. On any play, from any point on the field, Calais can take it to the house.
Speed kills, and Calais could be an assassin for the Cajuns early on in his career.
“Raymond brings a dimension of speed that we really, thoroughly needed in some areas, especially in the return game," Coach Hud said. "He’s a guy that I think can make an immediate impact. He’s a guy that if he continues and he has a really good summer, I can see him returning kickoffs next year."
At 5'9" and well under 200 lbs (listed at 185), Calais doesn't look like your typical college running back. People underestimated him the same way in high school, and they paid the price. His head coach at Cecilia High School, Terry Martin, would disagree with anybody who tries to call Calais too small for collegiate ball.
"He's stronger than people think, and he runs the ball inside," Martin said. "He gets through seams that some other backs honestly don't even see."
Don't pigeonhole him into the role of a scat back or soft kick returner. Hud said, "he plays a lot bigger than his size,” and there's a very solid chance he could see the field in his first year on campus. Paired up with Archbishop Shaw RB Trey Ragas (5'11-210 lbs), you can already see the makings of a classic thunder and lightning combination. Arceneaux can run the read option to the tee as well, so the equation makes sense.
If Arceneaux is the meat in the gumbo pot, Calais is the spice. Nothing like a little kick in the teeth to remind you you're in Cajun country. Arceneaux and Calais will try to hold down the fort on offense and special teams, and it will be up to Louis to lead the defense when he's ready to shoulder the load.
At Breaux Bridge High School, Louis was an absolute terror. He's an all-around linebacker, and at 6'2" and 200 lbs, he still runs a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. He's the rice in the gumbo pot, the solid base that holds it all together.
Football instincts? Check. Explosive playmaking ability? Check. Pedigree? Genetically, the Cajuns hit the jackpot.
Louis' father played basketball for Louisiana Tech, and his brother, Lamar, played as a linebacker for LSU. Hudspeth described Louis as "a guy that we did not want to let get away." A lot of other schools had interest in Louis, but he never wavered on his early commitment to UL.
Back to food. Fresh fish is always the best, and the best catches come from local streams, rivers and bayous. Hudspeth landed a big one, with a ton of fight, and he didn't let him off the hook.
"He’s a guy that can run sideline to sideline," Hudspeth said. "We’ve had a lot of good players from Breaux Bridge, and I think he’ll be the next one.”
Louis can play on the inside or the outside, which helps out the linebacking group even more. Right now he's a puppy with big paws, but he could grow into them rapidly and become a fierce watch dog for a Cajun defense that needs a boost badly.
Who knows, maybe Louis, Arceneaux and Calais will bring along some of their friends whenever they graduate. Calais's former teammate, WR Kenya Dartez (6'2"-190 lbs), and Arceneaux's favorite target, WR Ronald LeBlanc (6'5"-192 lbs), are going to get college attention, along with several members of the Breaux Bridge defense. Why not bring them along to join the party in Lafayette?
When you cook with local products, it tastes delicious. When you play with local athletes, the fans love it.
It's a win-win for everybody involved. Hudspeth gets quality players to help his football program, and they get to play on Cajun Field in front of all their friends and family members. Allow me to paint the full picture of how this cycle perpetuates itself.
As a young player at Catholic High in New Iberia, Michael Desormeaux watched the Ragin' Cajuns play and decided he wanted to play his college football there. After playing a fantastic career in Lafayette, he came back to coach in the same city. When it came time to build his football program, he chose a young man named Jake Arceneaux to lead the charge. He developed, mentored and coached Jake to become a winner, and then sent him off to play at the same university where he wrote his own story. Years down the line, maybe Arceneaux will do the same.
Arceneaux, Louis and Calais grew up on Cajun soil, and we all get to watch them grow in front of our eyes. Before long, Cajun Nation could be tasting the fruits of a championship again, made in their own backyard.