#87 Louisiana Tech Football 2013 Preview

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Overall Rank: #87
#5 Conference USA

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Coach Skip Holtz heads to Louisiana Tech and immediately has some rebuilding to do. The Bulldogs have holes to fill all over the field and it will likely take a little time to get the program seriously competing for a Conference USA title. However, this is a team that went 9-3 last season. They did not accept an invitation to a bowl game. The goal this time around should be to become bowl eligible again…and actually taking whatever bowl they can get. The schedule is easy enough for six wins to be quite feasible despite the inexperience.

2012 Record: (9-3, 4-2)
2012 Bowl: None
Coach: Skip Holtz (First season at Louisiana Tech, 88-71 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tony Petersen
Defensive Coordinator: Kim Dameron

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kenneth Dixon, RB, 1,194 yards
Passing: Zach Griffith, QB, 31 yards
Receiving: D.J. Banks, WR, 434 yards
Tackles: Le’Vander Liggins, CB, 50
Sacks: IK Enemkpali, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Le’Vander Liggins, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: DE Kendrick James, RB Tevin King, WR Hunter Lee, DT Shakeil Lucas, G Matt Shepperd

Key Losses: S Chad Boyd, QB Colby Cameron, CB Dave Clark, WR David Gru, S Jamel Johnson, LB Craig Johnson, OT Oscar Johnson, OT Jordan Mills, S Antonio Mitchum, WR Quinton Patton, G Kevin Saia, C Stephen Warner, DT Jon’al White, WR Myles White

The Bulldogs were first in the FBS in total offense last season while playing in the WAC. The WAC lacked good defense, but there are not too many intimidating defenses in Conference USA these days either. For now, Louisiana Tech needs to worry about coming together as a unit. The offense lost quarterback Colby Cameron, four starting linemen and three great receivers, most notably Quinton Patton. What they did not lose is running back Kenneth Dixon. Dixon rushed for 1,194 yards and 27 touchdowns as a freshman and he will have to be the workhorse for the Bulldogs. Coach Holtz likes to run more than the previous regime, so working through Dixon will be the game plan. Yet Dixon was not even the starter early in 2012. That job belonged to Tevin King, who rushed for 123 yards per game during the first three contests before suffering a season ending injury. Scotty Young, a transfer from Texas Tech, sits atop the depth chart at quarterback coming out of the spring. Young has a nice arm and should be a pretty good fit in the new offense. Redshirt freshman Ryan Higgins is also in the mix at quarterback, but his inexperience should keep him on the sidelines for now. This will not be an offense nearly as potent as the group in 2012, but that is not what Coach Holtz wants to do anyway. Louisiana Tech can open up the passing game by keeping the ball on the ground instead of the other way around.

The losses on defense are just as plentiful and painful as those on offense. The front four does have plenty of experience and that is exactly where the Bulldogs need it. In fact, three of the four returning starters on defense are on the line. IK Enemkpali and Kendrick James are solid pass rushers and Shakeil Lucas will anchor the middle of the line. Junior cornerback Le’Vander Liggins is the other returning starter and will lead a very young secondary that is full of underclassmen. Sophomores Bryson Abraham and Adairius Barnes will have to be ready as most opposing will look away from Liggins as much as possible. Junior college transfers Mitch Villemez and Nick Thomason will be asked to start right away at linebacker. Mike Schrang will be in the mix as well after totaling 46 tackles in 2012 and Beau Fitte showed promise as a freshman.

The Bottom Line:
Coach Holtz did a good job bringing in some bodies to help fill gaps on both sides of the ball. There is some talent in Ruston too. It will be the lack of experience that will keep the Bulldogs down all year long. There will be highs, but do not expect consistent play any time soon. Even with all the rebuilding, Louisiana Tech has the talent and the schedule to reach a bowl game. That would be a great finish for a program that has to replace so much talent and a great building block for a program starting fresh in Conference USA.

Projected Bowl:  New Orleans Bowl

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 227.17 (17th in nation, 1st in WAC)
Passing Offense: 350.75 (3, 1)
Total Offense: 577.92 (1, 1)
Scoring Offense: 51.50 (1, 1)
Rushing Defense: 185.67 (83, 3)
Pass Defense: 340.42 (120, 5)
Total Defense: 526.08 (120, 5)
Scoring Defense: 38.50 (116, 3)
Turnover Margin: 1.08 (10, 1)
Sacks: 1.58 (87, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 0.83 (7, 1)


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