No. 19 Florida State Seminoles football (7-3, 5-3 ACC) is getting set to take on the Lousiana Ragin’ Cajuns (5-5, 3-4 Sun Belt) this Saturday inside Doak Campell Stadium, the penultimate game of the 2022 season.
Louisiana, in its first year under Michael Desormeaux after the departure of Billy Napier last season, has fought to work its way back to consistency. They went 2-2 in both September and October, right now 1-1 in the month of November after beating Georgia Southern last weekend.
On this week’s episode of the Line of Scrimmage (where each week we give you insight into Florida State’s opponents from those in the know) we spoke with Josh Jagneaux of Ragin’ Review hopped on the Line of Scrimmage podcast. What has led to Louisiana’s inconsistent 2022? What does Desormeaux bring to the table as coach? Who are the names to know on the Ragin’ Cajuns roster?
You can read some of his answers below, or you can listen or find the episode on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your shows.
Let me just apologize up front, the Cajuns go hard on the name pronunciation game.
This may be coach Michael Desormeaux’s first year as the head coach, but this is far from his first year in the program. A native Cajun himself, Desormeaux played at Louisiana and has been on the staff since 2016. How has the team changed under his leadership and how much does it mean to the players and fans to have a Louisianan at the helm?
The fact that Mike was able to rise up in the coaching ranks, stick around through three different administrations — I think that it says a lot about Mike’s character that he was able to impress that amount of people. He has been able to develop relationships. He’s been able to develop pipelines with regard to recruiting and talent. He’s done everything for our program.
I think the locals love the fact that a Cajun is the head coach of the Ragin Cajuns. I think it’s a big deal to have a former player, a guy that laid it on the line and really changed the culture around here.
So far, there hasn’t really been the results we’ve expected — a whole lot has changed in the last 10, 11 months.
On offense, it’s been a back-and-forth quarterback rotation with Chandler Fields and Ben Wooldridge. However, Fields has been injured and it’s been all Wooldridge as of late. What are the strengths of the Fresno State transfer and where could FSU have success against him?
Ben is your quintessential leader — guys play for him, even when there was a rotation going on, there was a discernible difference a little extra juice to the offense when he was in.
Chandler is a great guy. He’s a hard worker, he’s the type of guy you want leading your program. But there’s just a little bit extra with Ben.
The rumor is around here, and this is probably the first time you’ll hear this in the media, we expect Chandler to get some snaps this weekend. So that’ll be a little bit of a different wrinkle. He’s very accurate when he’s healthy and on a roll.
Receiving-wise, if you look at the game logs and stats, one name sticks out over the rest and that is senior Michael Jefferson with over 600 receiving yards. Is this Jefferson and everyone else or does Louisiana have any rising receivers or tight ends that you could see having a big game?
I really like Jacob Bernard — he does the dirty work, will lay his body on the line for any catch, let alone win a down, series or game. He’s one of those guys you can rely on in a big moment, the lights don’t scare him.
Dontae Fleming has been a pretty big contributor down the stretch when the offense has been playing well — you’re seeing the guys that Ben trusts. MJ, Bernard and Fleming.
Chris Smith and Terrence Williams are a nice 1-2 punch out of the backfield for the Cajuns. How does Louisiana utilize these two? And is this a thunder and lightning-type backfield situation?
The first six games of the year were more overcast and heat lightning. It’s been a struggle with the running game up until a month ago.
Chris Smith has been struggling with injuries his entire career, he’s more your home run hitter...when you need a big play, look for him to get the rock. Terrence Williams, he’s great with his north/south running style and agility for a big guy. Look for him to play a big role Saturday, and also look for Dre’lyn Washington to get some carries. He’s kind of a combo of the other two, more physical but shift and can cut the edge and go.
Finally, on offense what’s this offensive line look like? Healthy, experienced? Is there an area they excel at? Struggles?
The offensive line has experienced this cluster injury plague, and it began in spring. And when trying to build through the portal, a couple guys didn’t work out. They lost O’Cyrus Torrence, who could be a first-round draft pick, to Florida, Max Mitchell to the NFL Draft. The amount of talent that left, that was injured — it is difficult to replace that amount of snaps, seniority and talent.
I’ll give some credit — they have found a way to put together and piecemeal an offensive line that over the past three week s have started to do their job and look good doing it. Right guard Jax Harrington, who we believe is going to be an NFL lineman, he’s been banged up and hasn’t played the last few weeks. The right side is bolsted by a bunch of young guys, finally getting some reps under their belt. They’re starting to gel, but I do think it’s a little too late, seeing as you’re 5-5.
Defensively, they’re allowing only 123 yards on the ground per game. Zi’yon Hill-Green and Andre Jones have over 12 combined sacks. Jourdan Quibodeaux leads the team with over 70 tackles. Kris Moncrief and KC Ossai are also two really good players. What’s been the key for these two units’ success and allowed for the cohesiveness of this defensive front?
We had Andre Jones on our show and the first thing I asked him was what he saw as the reason for the improvement, and he just said coaching. I was very critical of the linebacker early on, especially in pass coverage, because the linebackers just were lost. If you look at the film over the last couple of weeks, they've been so solid against some really good passing teams.
The secondary appears to be led by the safety tandem of Bralen Trahan and Kam Pedescleaux. But on paper, this is the “weaker” part of the defense. Is this the part of the defense that FSU could find success against?
This is one of those very rare moments where the numbers aren’t reflective of what this team is capable of doing. This defense is the real deal, the secondary is the real deal. They’re going to push everybody up, make them beat them.
Johnny Wilson, he’s the kind of guy I’m worried about — third and 11, do we have the athletes to compete? I think Caleb Anderson is that guy —about 6’3,” physical, he’s gonna go up against your 50-50 ball receiver.
And finally, I caught some of your guys’ last live stream. I know you have some confidence here. It’s been an up-and-down season for Louisiana. Do you think they pull off the upset?
I think there’s a big part of the psychological aspect that people forget. And what I brought up on the stream is that there’s still a core on this Florida State team that did lose to Jacksonville State at home, and you didn’t lose that game because you weren’t as talented as they were — to me, that just speaks to lack of focus, and lack of taking the game seriously.
Does that repeat itself? Are you looking ahead to Florida? This is the definition of a trap game. If I’m being honest, I think Louisiana has the athletes to compete. Have they executed like they have the last few years? No, and on paper, I’m dead wrong, I understand that. But I think you’re gonna be surprised by the physicality. If you look at the last three games, the Cajuns have played good football — the best they’ve played to date. If you keep that going into Florida State, if you’re competitive in the first half and get turnovers and get a little bit of a lack of focus from FSU, it could be one of those last season “uh oh” games.