#78 Louisiana Tech Football 2016 Preview

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Overall Rank: #78
#4 Conference USA
This will be an interesting year for Louisiana Tech and Coach Skip Holtz. The bar has been set high with back-to-back nine win seasons, but last year was a bit of a disappointment too. The Bulldogs were supposed to take their strong defense and talented skill players and win a Conference USA title. It was still a good year, but it was not the special one that many expected. This group can still win seven or eight games, yet that will only happen if Coach Holtz can fill some huge holes.
2015 Record: 9-4, 6-2
2015 Bowl: New Orleans Bowl vs. Arkansas State (W 47-28)
Coach: Skip Holtz (22-17 at Louisiana Tech, 110-88 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Todd Fitch
Defensive Coordinator: Blake Baker
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Boston Scott, RB, 277 yards
Passing: Ryan Higgins, QB, 138 yards
Receiving: Trent Taylor, WR, 1,282 yards
Tackles: Xavier Woods, S, 56
Sacks: Jaylon Ferguson, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Xavier Woods, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Carlos Henderson, WR Marcus Gaines, OL Darrell Brown, K Jonathan Barnes
Key Losses: RB Kenneth Dixon, QB Jeff Driskel, OL Jens Danielsen, WR Paul Turner, LB Beau Fitte, DT Vernon Butler, LB Nick Thomason, S Kentrell Brice, LB C.J. Cleveland, DE Vontarrius Dora, DB Bryson Abraham
The offense is not going to be nearly as potent without running back Kenneth Dixon and quarterback Jeff Driskel. Boston Scott performed well in the New Orleans Bowl and is a tough back who can break tackles. With bruising back Jarred Craft and playmaker Jaqwis Dancy, there are options. Unfortunately, none of them are Dixon. At quarterback, the job of replacing Driskel should be easier. Back in 2013, Ryan Higgins was a starter for Louisiana Tech. He then backed up a couple of transfers before reclaiming the starting job for his senior season. As a freshman, Higgins threw for 1,715 yards, six touchdowns and 13 interceptions in nine games. Those are not great numbers by any means, but it needs to be remembered that he was just a freshman. After a good spring and a couple seasons backing up some good quarterbacks, Higgins is ready to take over and be more productive and efficient. With a very strong offensive line and a great receiving corps, Higgins will get plenty of help. Trent Taylor caught 99 passes for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns and will be Higgins’ favorite target. Carlos Henderson and Marcus Gaines are experienced receivers as well and will give the Bulldogs plenty of talented targets.
The defense lost eight starters from a unit that was very good against the run and not so good against the pass. The front four has some talent, most notably Aaron Brown and Jaylon Ferguson. However, the loss of tackle Vernon Butler, who was a first-round draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, is a huge blow. The linebacker corps is an even bigger concern. All three starters are gone and there are many questions about who is ready to step up and be productive. Junior Russell Farris and sophomore Brandon Durman are the likely candidates to step into a starting role, but the last spot may have to be filled by a freshman and there may not be much depth either. The secondary will have a lot of new faces too, but most of the new faces have some experience. Ronald Lewis, from Arizona State, Jerrell Jackson, from Hawaii, and DaMarion King, from the junior college ranks, should all see significant playing time in the new look secondary. Free Safety Xavier Woods, who intercepted three passes with the Bulldogs last year, will be the leader of the unit.
The Bottom Line:
We should learn quite a bit about Louisiana Tech early in the season. In the first four weeks of the season, the Bulldogs head to Arkansas, Texas Tech and conference foe Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders are a team that should be competing for a bowl berth and that is a huge game for both squads. Two weeks later, Louisiana Tech hosts Western Kentucky. After that, the schedule eases up a little bit before a home game against Rice and a season finale trip to Southern Miss. If Louisiana Tech can do enough to stay in the mix for a Conference USA West crown, that game against Southern Miss could be the game that decides the title.
Projected Bowl: New Orleans Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 159.6 (80th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 323.2 (13, 3)
Total Offense: 482.8 (21, 3)
Scoring Offense: 37.5 (19, 3)
Rushing Defense: 119.3 (13, 1)
Pass Defense: 256.5 (99, 8)
Total Defense: 375.8 (48, 2)
Scoring Defense: 26.8 (62, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.08 (61, 4)
Sacks: 1.85 (80, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.54 (40, 4)


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