Before Mark Hudspeth was hired as the head coach of the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns football program, the program had not been to a bowl game since the 1970 Grantland Rice Bowl and had not had a winning season since going 8-3 in 1993. In the three years he has been there, the Cajuns have won nine games every season, going to and winning three consecutive New Orleans Bowls in the process. He has taken one of the more moribund football programs in the country and turned them into one of the better teams in the Sun Belt Conference. This weekend, the No. 14 Ole Miss Rebels will host the Ragin' Cajuns for their home opener in Oxford, giving Hudspeth a bit of a homecoming in his own right as well as an opportunity to show his potential for bigger jobs.
Hudspeth, a native of Louisville, Mississippi, played college football at Delta State before beginning his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Central Arkansas. In the mid-1990s, he returned to his hometown as the head coach of the Winston Academy Patriots, a position he held for two years while amassing an impressive 25-1 record. He left the high school game to return to the college level, moving back to Central Arkansas to coach defensive backs before spending time at his alma mater as their offensive coordinator. After Delta State, he held the OC job for the Naval Academy for a season before getting his first college head coaching job at Division II power North Alabama.
At North Alabama, Hudspeth went 66-21 (45-15 in conference) from 2002 to 2008, winning two conference titles and appearing in the D-II playoffs five times. He then made the jump to Division I football, coaching wide receivers at Mississippi State under Dan Mullen for two years before eventually taking the head job at Lafayette.
At Lafayette, he has made recruiting Mississippians a bit of a priority, with sixteen different Magnolia State natives on his Ragin' Cajuns roster. This is clearly due to his upbringing and successful career in Mississippi high school football, which provide him with the connections necessary to recruit talented high school athletes in the South.
Last season, with Mississippi State at 4-6 heading into the final two weeks of the season, Bulldog fans were seen often debating the merits of firing Dan Mullen if it meant that Mark Hudspeth could get the Bulldogs' head coaching gig. He's a proven winner who can recruit and is a native Mississippian to boot. He would be a natural fit, it seems. Of course, the Egg Bowl win reversed Mullen's fortunes (surprise!) and largely put that discussion to rest, but sentiments still linger that Hudspeth - a supposed Bulldog fan - would be on a short list of candidates to take the Mississippi State job if it were to come available. He was even mentioned by a certain group of dumb Ole Miss bloggeurs as a potential replacement for Houston Nutt in 2011.
Considering that chatter and his successful career thus far, there really is no doubt in our mind that Mark Hudspeth is bound to one day take a job at a power five conference school, if not one in the Southeastern Conference.