Heading into its nationally televised football matchup against rival Southern Miss, Louisiana will be the healthiest in weeks.
Junior running back Chris Smith and sophomore quarterback Chandler Fields, who both missed Marshall and Arkansas State games, will be available to play for the Ragin’ Cajuns (4-3, 2-2 Sun Belt), head coach Michael Desormeaux told reporters during his press conference Monday.
It’s unclear how many Fields, who has been dealing with an undisclosed upper body injury, or Smith, who has had a hamstring issue, will play. The pair will dress with the team.
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“Chandler is available this week. Our coaching staff is very comfortable that if he needs to play, he can,” Desormeaux said. “I’ve spoken to Chandler about this before, your concern is always that a guy who doesn’t have contact during the week, especially this week where there really isn’t – the reps are handled differently.
“He’ll be the backup this week. Ben will play this game, especially on a short week where Chandler hasn’t taken a lot of reps, I don’t think it would be wise for us to make any changes, especially the way which Ben plays in. Those are things that you have to deal with as a head coach, you have to do what’s best for your team.
Desormeaux said Fields, who won the starting quarterback job during the preseason and started the first four games this year, has been “great” about the situation.
“He understands. He and Ben have tremendous respect for each other. This week, that’s how we’re going to do it,” Desormeaux said. “The challenge is to get (Fields) mentally fit. But I wouldn’t want him where he’s not ready to play.
With Smith, Desormeaux thought Smith was going to be back for Arkansas State early in the week but was unable to play.
“He’s been day to day. But we expect him to play,” Desormeaux said of Smith.
The Louisiana running backs completed their all-season performance last Saturday against the Red Wolves with 206 yards on 50 carries.
The addition of Smith along with Jacob Kibodi, Terrence Williams and Dre’lyn Washington should be a pregame boost with Southern Miss (4-3, 2-1), who ranks 21st in the nation in stopping the run, dropping 111 rushing yards per game.
Cory Diaz covers the LSU Tigers and Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns for The Daily Advertiser as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow his coverage of the Tigers and Cajuns on Twitter: @ByCoryDiaz. Do you have questions about LSU/UL athletics? Send them to Cory Diaz at email@example.com.