Hudspeth shining at ULL

The selection committee for the new Ole Miss coach and AD is not talking, but there are whispers ULL's Mark Hudpeth is a candidate for the head coaching job. Former Rebel staffer David Saunders, now on Hud's staff, shared his insights into ULL's leader.

To this point, the Ole Miss coaching search – led by the selection committee co-chaired by Archie Manning and Mike Glenn and supported by Eastman & Beaudine consulting firm – has been underground, the way Manning and Glenn obviously want it.

The most common names being discussed are nothing more than educated guesses with a little logic applied.

One name that has surfaced is current University of Louisiana- Lafayette Coach Mark Hudspeth. It's not surprising to see his name pop on the radar due to his success at both Delta State and North Alabama and his familiarity and exposure in Mississippi.

The 43-year old Hudspeth, known as Hud to most, last coached in Mississippi under Dan Mullen at Mississippi State. He's been at ULL for a year.

Obviously, we can't connect the dots between Hudspeth and the search committee, but it's not a stretch to imagine him being a legitimate candidate.

Fortunately, The Ole Miss Spirit has a connection to Hud in the form of David Saunders, who was on Ole Miss staffs led by David Cutcliffe, Ed Orgeron and Houston Nutt.

Saunders is currently the cornerbacks coach at ULL and was gracious enough to talk to us about Hud, a Louisville, Miss., native and a 1992 Delta State University graduate where he played safety and quarterback from 1987-91.

There are many bullet points one looks at while vetting a coach – organization, recruiting, academics, coaching philosophy, coaching personality, discipline, communications skills and familiarity with the area are some of those.

Mark Hudspeth
US Presswire

Saunders has an inside look into the those aspects of Hud's current program.

"Coach Hudspeth is a stickler for organization," Saunders began. "We have detailed calendars in place – both short term and long term – for academics, workouts, practice, recruiting, you name it. With each of those calendars, we have a checklist and we meet daily to make sure those goals and demands have been met in all phases of the program.

"All of us under him – players, coaches and support personnel – know those checklists must be met. They are non-negotiable. If you work or play for him, you will be accountable in every area or you will answer to him. Organization and discipline go hand-in-hand with Coach Hudspeth. He can be harsh when he has to administer discipline, but he always doubles back to that kid and says ‘I love you and care about you as an individual, but you have to do things the right way.' That's strict, but fair, like parenting. He's very fair, but consistent, with discipline. Mess up and there are consequences. Do right and you will be rewarded."

A by-product of the discipline in Hud's program can be measured, according to Saunders.

"Last spring, our first semester at ULL, the football team posted the highest grade point average in the program's history," David continued. "Think about that for a second – in the football program's history, in just one semester.

"It was also pretty amazing to me that in a short amount of time, in our first signing class we were able to use his connections and relationships to sign a very good class, which included 16 Mississippi kids, some of who are playing a lot and well as true freshmen."

Ahh, recruiting. The lifeblood. The spokes of the wheel.

Saunders said Hud, who was the offensive coordinator and strength coach on Delta State's 2000 Division II National Championship team that set six DII offensive records, gets it.

"Through the years, Hud has built so many relationships with coaches in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, and beyond, that it's hard to go anywhere as a staff member and not have a connection back to him," Saunders stated. "There are a lot of coaches who are relentless recruiters, and Coach Hudspeth is one of them, but with his relationships and his comprehensive recruiting plan, it all ties together for an efficient package.

"Last year, we were able to sign the Mississippi High School Offensive Player of the Year in Qyen Griffin from South Panola and a great back from Gadsden, AL, in Alonzo Harris, who rushed for 186 yards in a recent game for us. We were able to do that through Hud's relationships."

Mark Hudspeth
US Presswire

From a coaching personality standpoint, Saunders says Hud, who was the head coach at North Alabama from 2002-2008 and led the Lions to four straight 10-win seasons, is a get-on-board-and-follow guy.

"Coach Hudspeth is our pacesetter, in every area. He tells us all the time ‘keep up with me and our program will work.' He has a lot of energy and he's a great communicator with the college generation," Saunders said.

"For instance, he doesn't assume players – with all the demands on their time – will show up motivated for practice every day. We plan something every day to motivate them for practice and workouts because he practices the old saying that you can't get time back. You have to make the most of every opportunity."

Hud's coaching philosophy is to be aggressive on offense, defense and special teams, but he's also flexible.

"If he's got the personnel, he wants to be an up-tempo, no-huddle offense, but he's very good at adapting when we need to shorten a game. He likes a high octane, spread and spread option offense, but our plan can change weekly based on what we have to work with. On defense, it's attack, attack, attack and force turnovers," Saunders explained, "but there are times when we realize that doesn't fit our best interests or the way to win a game against some opponents. He can adapt to the situation well.

"This year, we are not doing everything he'd like to do because our personnel doesn't always match that style, but we are recruiting toward getting the players that match his systems to a tee."

Player development is also a major part of Hudpeth's criteria.

"We have a workout we call ‘Protect The House.' It's grueling, but it has enabled us to come from behind several times this year and remain undefeated at home," said Saunders. "It's a pride thing – the kids believe they are in better shape than the opposition."

Saunders said Hud is also savvy when it comes to communicating with the fans and media.

"Coach Hudspeth is very involved in community service and in getting to know the fans of the program. He is also media friendly. Because of those things, the Lafayette community has embraced him quickly," Saunders closed. "He encourages interaction with fans and the media."

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