COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25
C-USA West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Skip Holtz, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Tony Petersen | DEF. COORDINATOR: Kim Dameron
The good news? Louisiana Tech led the nation in total offense (577.9 ypg) and scoring (51.5 ppg) last season. The bad news? Ten offensive starters are gone, including quarterback Colby Cameron, and head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin also departed.
New coach Skip Holtz is starting over in a lot of ways, but he will keep the spread attack that the Bulldogs used so effectively in 2012. Holtz does not want to push the tempo as much, but he will use most of the same four-wide sets. Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young has the inside track to replace Cameron at quarterback. Young was recruited to play in Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack, but Leach was fired before Young got to campus, and Young never won the job with Tommy Tuberville as coach. Young has a strong arm and showed some mobility in the spring.
His receiving corps has some experience, led by D.J. Banks, who will have to take on the leadership role as a senior after being a productive reserve last season with 33 catches for 434 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Kenneth Dixon set the FBS record for rushing touchdowns by a freshman (27), and he will be ably supported by Tevin King, but the offensive line is a big question mark. Four starters are gone, and there are few all-league candidates among the projected starters — at least coming out of spring. While Dixon is a true star, his production will likely dip with a new line in front of him.
As good as Louisiana Tech’s offense was in 2012, its defense was almost that bad. The Bulldogs ranked No. 116 in scoring defense and No. 120 in total defense, so losing seven starters off that unit isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Up front, Holtz has been impressed with the depth he inherited, which includes three starters from last year’s unit that actually ranked No. 3 in the WAC against the run. IK Enemkpali has the potential to earn All-C-USA honors at defensive end, and run-stuffer Justin Ellis has slimmed down to 330 pounds and should be a handful as a senior for opposing offensive linemen.
The Bulldogs are using a 4-2-5 alignment, with both starting linebackers potentially being newcomers. Mitch Villemez and Nick Thomason are junior college transfers who impressed in the spring. Athletic Beau Fitte is also pushing for a starting spot.
In the secondary, Le’Vander Liggins is a holdover from last year’s unit, and he showed major improvement in spring drills. It appears that Jabari Prewitt, Lloyd Grogan and Kentrell Brice will be the three safeties, with Brice, a Ruston native, impressing the staff the most during spring practice.
Louisiana Tech is bidding farewell to two-time Ray Guy winner Ryan Allen and replacing him with true freshman Logan McPherson. The Bulldogs led the nation in net punting largely on the strength of Allen’s leg, but the coverage unit also excelled. Another true freshman, Jonathan Barnes, takes over at kicker, while Banks will continue to handle return duties.
Louisiana Tech should expect another season of bowl-eligibility, but winning Conference USA in its first year in the league under a new coach may be too much. The offense has potential with the explosive Dixon at running back, but the offensive line and quarterback positions are still question marks. The schedule is not overly challenging, with the toughest league games coming late in the year. So if the newcomers can get acclimated, Louisiana Tech may find itself playing in some very meaningful league games in November.