Photo courtesy of Louisiana athletics
It was a beautiful night for spring football.
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns had questions that needed to be answered on Saturday. They needed to replace the two-headed monster running back combo of Tray Ragas and Elijah Mitchell. The two combined for 1,636 of the Cajuns’ 2,601 rushing yards in 2020.
Head coach Billy Napier alsoneeded to find a backup quarterback. Levi Lewis returns for a fifth season and ranks third all-time in passing yards for the Cajuns.
The final question involved the defense. Could the defense improve on a great 2020? Defensive coordinator Patrick Toney’s crew allowed just 22 points and 355 yards per game (184 rushing and 171 passing) last season.
Next man up
Going into spring camp, all eyes were on redshirt sophomore running back Chris Smith. He finished 2020 with 62 carries for 350 yards and a touchdown. Smith made a statement to be the starter with 61 yards on 14 carries for the Vermilion team to go with 31 yards receiving on three receptions.
We feel his performance made him the Vermilion team’s Most Valuable Player on offense. Emani Bailey played well for the White team. He ran for 46 yards on 13 carries.
Bailey did not have the advantage of running behind the first-team offensive line but he did not face the first-team front seven either. Look for Smith to start, Bailey to be next up and for one of the true freshman to be part of a three-man rotation.
The man behind the man
Behind starting quarterback Levi Lewis were five potential backups. First is Chandler Fields, who has attempted just nine passes in two years. In early spring, Napier stated Fields was the man to beat for the No. 2 job.
Fields played extremely well for the White team. He was 12 of 15 passing for 136 yards and a touchdown. Fields showed quickness, decisiveness and good arm strength.
He led the White team down the field at the end of the fourth quarter for what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion.
Transfer Ben Wooldridge made a strong case for the third-string quarterback spot. He was 6-for-11 for 54 yards passing. Wooldridge looked very smooth throwing the ball and comfortable with the offense. Transfer Lance Legendre, freshman Zy McDonald and Hunter Herring only played one series apiece.
Defense won the game
The defense was the story of this game. Even without starters Lorenzo McCaskill and Chauncey Manac, they controlled the scrimmage. Their absences were no problem as Kris Moncrief and Andre Riley stepped up.
Moncrief had four tackles and intercepted Lewis in the end zone to prevent a touchdown. Despite somewhat pedestrian tackles numbers, both were making plays all over the field.
Mekhi Garner led the White team with eight tackles and four pass breakups. Amir McDaniel had a tackle and three pass breakups. Jourdan Quibodeaux, Jordan Lawson and Tayland Humphrey all had sacks for the White team.
Vermilion team defensive standouts included Blair Brooks and Tyrone Lewis Jr. Brooks tallied 10 tackles while Lewis added seven. Sonny Hazzard and Kendall Wilkerson had a sack each for the Vermilion team.
Smith is the obvious starter at running back. Bailey played well and should be a solid No. 2.
Fields surprised with his poise and leadership. His size and style of play are similar to Lewis, so should he be forced into action, not much would have to be altered offensively. Wooldridge is close behind as the No. 3 quarterback.
The defense should definitely be improved with greater depth and experience.