The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns have finished the spring portion of their schedule. Now comes the long wait between now and the beginning of the college football season in the fall. However, there are some unanswered questions when it comes to this iteration of the squad.
Perhaps the biggest of all is the quarterback position. Cajuns’ second-year head coach Michael Desormeaux presumably has three legitimate options at quarterback. There’s the veteran who won the job last year and played well in a second chance down the stretch. There’s the transfer who took over the starting job and found some consistency, but then went down with injury and may not be ready for the start of the season. And then there’s the redshirt freshman with all the talent in the world who flashed in brief opportunities but has the least experience of all.
What will go into the decision? I took a look at all three options to be the Cajuns’ starting signal-caller.
CHANDLER FIELDS (REDSHIRT JUNIOR)
The case for: Chandler is the most experienced of the options for the Cajuns. He has appeared in 21 games over his career including being the starter two separate stretches last year. Fields has proven to be capable and played well in the last couple of games during the 2022 season. He also had a chance to learn under Levi Lewis and has been in this system the longest.
The case against: Fields struggled with decision-making at times as the starter. Too many times he tried to force things. That may have partly been caused by some of the Cajuns’ offensive line struggles, however. He also lacks elite size or athleticism, specifically when compared to the other options the Cajuns have.
BEN WOOLDRIDGE (REDSHIRT SENIOR)
The case for: Ben has the biggest sample size of successful play as the Cajuns’ starter of the three. Once he took over mid-season last year, Louisiana had its best stretch of offensive play, including a five-touchdown performance against Arkansas State. Wooldridge’s 6-foot-4 frame and athleticism as a physical runner brought a unique element that helped the offense at times.
The case against: Unfortunately, Ben tore his ACL late last season and therefore was unavailable for the spring. His timetable for a return is not fully clear and therefore it would be difficult to go into fall camp with him as your undisputed starter. Additionally, while he played well at times, he struggled with inconsistencies at certain points as well. He also has the least eligibility remaining, currently listed as a redshirt senior.
ZEON CHRISS (REDSHIRT FRESHMAN)
The case for: Zeon likely has the highest ceiling of any of the Cajuns’ options. He is the best athlete of the three and while an argument could be made for Fields, Chriss might have the best arm talent of the group as well. We saw flashes of brilliance in his limited opportunities last season. Then, due to injuries to both Fields and Wooldridge during the spring, he essentially got all of the reps and got a chance to shine during the spring. As a redshirt freshman, Chriss has four years of eligibility.
The case against: It’s simple — he does not have much collegiate experience. He has only appeared in four games, all as a true freshman last year. While there were moments that showed his potential, that does not change the fact that he has only thrown fifteen collegiate passes and we have not seen how he can perform over the course of an entire game, much less a whole season.
MY PICK: This decision is difficult, and the added caveat of Wooldridge’s injury makes it even more difficult. If Ben was fully healthy going into the season, I would probably go with the senior. However, his status questions cause me to go in the opposite direction. Between Chandler Fields and Zeon Chriss, I ultimately have to go with the endless potential of the freshman. We saw in the case of Levi Lewis a player that was ready to take over the reins earlier than some of us thought. I think playing Chriss early and dealing with the growing pains may be the best option. Chandler has proven that he can step up if called on later in the season, and I would trust the veteran to deal with that situation if it arose. Coach Desormeaux saw the dangers of trying to play multiple quarterbacks at times last season. For that reason, I think he goes with one true starter this time, and Chriss has a chance to take over as the Cajuns’ starting signal-caller.