Rant Sports 100 in 100 College Football Previews: No. 52 Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs return from an eight win season in 2011 with a loss to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Getting to a double digit win total will depend greatly on how LaTech navigates a difficult non-conference schedule. A repeat for the WAC title is almost a certainty.
Everything is set for head coach Sonny Dykes at the quarterback position as he enters his third year in Ruston. Colby Cameron has earned the keys to the car after proving himself as the starter last year. The Bulldogs finished the 2012 schedule undefeated after starting 1-4. Cameron was efficient down the stretch, replacing Nick Isham in offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s spread offense, with a 137.2 quarterback rating. Now a senior, Cameron, should pick up where he left off especially with the talent around him on offense.
The running back position will likely be a joint effort by sophomore Hunter Lee and senior Ray Holley. Both must compensate for the departed Lennon Creer‘s production. Lee averaged 5.2 yards a carry in 2011 and should be the favorite entering fall camp to carry the workload.
Offensively the Bulldogs will depend heavily on their receivers to assist Cameron. Two returning senior starters will provide stability in the passing game, Myles White and Quinton Patton. In 2011 Patton was All-WAC, and both should garner the same consideration in 2012.
The best news for Bulldog fans is the offensive line. Protecting Cameron will be an experienced unit with four returning senior starters.
On the defensive side of the ball, the news isn’t as pretty. There are many holes that new starters must replace. The most notable departures are linebackers Adrien Cole, who was the WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, and Jay Dudley. Cole and Dudley totaled 230 tackles combined last year. The Bulldogs run an unconventional 4-2-5 defensive alignment so both linebacking positions must be redressed.
The defensive line will retain the services of its interior lineman Justin Ellis and Shakeil Lucas. The juniors will have a lot of pressure to disrupt the opposition considering the amount of new starters around and behind them. LaTech’s five man secondary will return three starters including senior Chad Boyd who was second on the team in passes defended last year at 9. Boyd also had three interceptions last season but must rebound from a shoulder injury. Fellow safety and senior Jamel Johnson also returns. Senior Dave Clark is back in the corner position.
It is worth mentioning punter Ryan Allen the 2011 Ray Guy Award winner will be back for his senior year.
Coach Dykes’ squad could go undefeated in conference play. Before the Bulldogs begin their WAC schedule, however, the non-conference slate is brutal. The seasons starts August 30 in Ruston against Texas A & M, now a member of the SEC. September includes road games at Houston, Illinois, and Virginia. The only other September home game is opposite Rice on the 15th.
Because the WAC has shrunk to only seven schools, the conference schedule does not begin until October 20 versus Idaho at home. The Bulldogs travel to Las Cruces to tangle with New Mexico State October 27, Texas State November 10, and San Jose State to end the regular season November 24.
Texas San Antonio (UTSA) is a home matchup November 3. The final game in Joe Aillet Stadium for 2012 features the Aggies of Utah State on November 17. Both UTSA, and Texas State enter their first year in FBS play and should be easy victories for the Bulldogs. The key for LaTech is to not get discouraged in what will likely be an ugly beginning of the season.
In what could very well be the final year of WAC football, before a mass evacuation of all but two programs, LaTech is poised to repeat as champions.