Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are back in the saddle as the favorite in CUSA West play in 2017, despite tihs being the first time in four years that the Bulldogs do not have a senior starting QB in play. Still, the Bulldogs should have enough talent to move forward and into the CUSA title game under head coach Skip Holtz, as there should still be plenty of talent around to carry the day.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Because of uncertainty at QB, which I will get into, RB Jarred Craft may have just become one of the most important pieces to the offense this fall. He rushed for 1074 yards and nine scores last fall while averaging 5.62 yards per carry. He will likely see an increase from his 13.64 carries per game last fall, as running the ball effectively is the best way to break in an inexperienced QB. Backup Boston Scott returns after averaging 7.36 yards per carry last fall.
PK Jonathon Barnes is back at PK after hitting 22/27 FG attempts last season, and may be even more important this fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The QB situation is in jumbles right now as we head into fall camp. J'Mar Smith is the one likely candidate to win the job as a RS sophomore, but that is no sure thing. Price Wilson, a RS junior, and a pair of freshmen in Jack Abraham and Jon Randall Belton will all be around in fall camp to push Smith for the job. This is not a common problem for the Bulldogs to have, so it will be interesting to see the staff approach the situation as we head into the early season.
The Bulldogs got hammered at WR as well, as they lose two major stars in Carlos Henderson and Trent Taylor, and they combined for 218 receptions last season alone. Kam McKnight, Alfred Smith, and DeJuawn Robinson, by comparison, combined for 45 receptions for 738 yards. Henderson and Taylor combined for 3338 yards and 31 scores.
The line loses two all CUSA players in Darrell Brown and Joseph Brunson.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Bulldogs may have one of the deepest line rotations in the CUSA this fall. Jaylen Ferguson and Deldrick Canty should be starting at DE after combining for 21.5 TFLs last fall, 15.5 of which belonged to Ferguson, who is a pre-season all CUSA pick. Jordan Bradford and Cedric Johnson are both back at DT. Eric Kendzior and Matthew Ydarraga will both backup at DE, while Keonatye Garner can shift inside or out depending on need.
What To be Concerned About: Defense
This unit allowed 33.6 points per game last fall, and it would seem that the back seven could be a major problem preventing them from improving on that number this fall. Russell Farris and Brandon Durman are both back at LB, with Farris being the better of the two after racking up 75 tackles last season. Durman finished with 44 tackles. Leading tackler Jordan Harris and Dalton Santos are both gone, and there was very little depth last season at LB to begin with production wise. Finding contributors at LB will be a huge concern in fall camp.
Production was an issue in the secondary as well last season, and the returning talent, again, is not deep by the numbers. Secdrick Cooper is back after finishing second on the team with seven PBUs, but none of the other major returnees had more than four (Ephraim Kitchen). Ronald and Darryl Lewis must both prove that they belong. Tech gave up 274.7 yards passing per game last fall, which was a major hindrance.
The Punting game will be something that has to be targeted in fall camp as well, as Gerlad Shouse is gone after a rock solid season. Davan Deyer or Will Parker will likely win the job in fall camp, unless one of the many PKs makes a switch over.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Northwestern State, 9/9 Mississippi State, 9/16 at Western Kentucky, 9/32 at South Carolina, 9/30 South Alabama, 10/7 UAB, 10/21 Southern Miss, 10/28 at Rice, 11/4 North Texas, 11/11 Florida Atlantic, 11/18 at UTEP, 11/25 UTSA
Final Overview
Tech has always been able to maintain talent, and it is not that there is not talent in areas where there are holes, but there sure are a ton of holes at some very important positions. The Bulldogs lost a ton of talent off of their team last fall, but there has to be a next man up system in place. The season, overall, will be won or lost early in the schedule with a very tough early slate. If they can hold on until early October, the Bulldogs will be in the race. If they fall apart early, we could see a different story. The good news is that the CUSA West is fairly weak overall, so that is in their favor.

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