What could have been a devastating blow to Louisiana-Lafayette’s depth chart may have been averted.
In late April, UL-L announced that a whopping 13 players, tight end Matthew Barnes, defensive end Joe Dillon, left guard Robert Hunt, defensive back Denarius Howard, defensive end Jarvis Jeffries, defensive tackle LaDarrius Kidd, linebacker Terik Miller, defensive back Damar’ren Mitchell, running back Trey Ragas, defensive back Simeon Thomas, defensive back Levarious Varnado, left tackle D’Aquin Withrow and running back Jordan Wright, had been indefinitely suspended after they were charged with criminal conspiracy to commit felony theft. It was alleged that, based on surveillance video evidence, that the baker’s dozen players broke into a dorm room and stole in the neighborhood of $2,400 worth of items from the residence.
While each player was initially facing a felony count, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser has reported that all of the charges have been reduced to criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. Furthermore, the newspaper writes, “all 13… can have the charges against them dropped upon completion of community service, drug testing and other intervention program requirements.”
“The fact that they’re football players is not a factor,” District Attorney Keith Stutes told the Associated Press. “Without significant prior criminal involvement, I believe in the opportunity for redemption and to not have scar on their records for the rest of their lives.”
The reduced charges were welcome news to the football program, although it’s unclear if the incident will cost any of those involved playing time.
“We are relieved that this issue is nearing closure,” a statement from head coach Mark Hudspeth. “These young men have learned and will continue to learn from this tremendous life lesson. We will continue to be respectful of the legal process as it runs its course.”
Seven of those involved started games last season — Hunt (13), Withrow (13), Mitchell (11), Dillon (eight), Jeffries (seven), Thomas (seven) and Howard (two). Dillon was named a Freshman All-American by several organizations after leading the Ragin’ Cajuns with 12.5 tackles for losses and seven sacks in 2016.
Wright (pictured, No. 27) wasn’t a starter, but he was fourth on the team last season with 192 yards rushing. With the departure of leading rusher Elijah McGuire (1,127 yards), Wright, Ragas and Darius Hoggins (281 yards last season) are expected to compete or the starting running back job this season.
UL-L is scheduled to open the 2017 season Sept. 2 against Southeastern Louisiana.