2012 Louisiana Tech Preview – Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 23, 2012


CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Louisiana Tech Bulldog Defense


Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Preview 2012 - Defense


- 2012 Louisiana Tech Preview | 2012 Louisiana Tech Offense
- 2012 Louisiana Tech Defense | 2012 Louisiana Tech Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler’s 4-2-5 alignment worked. The Bulldogs went from a disastrous 2010, finishing 116th in the nation in total defense and no production from the secondary, to leading the WAC and doing a great job against the run. However, the stars are gone with the linebacking tandem of Adrien Cole and Jay Dudley done along with top ends Matt Broha and Christian Lacey. This year the secondary should be the star with Jamel Johnson and Chad Boyd two terrific safeties leading the way, but the corners have to hold up better against the more effective passing attacks. The line will be strong in the interior with Justin Ellis leading a good rotation of tackles, but the ends have to prove they can get into the backfield on a regular basis.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jamel Johnson, 88
Sacks: I.K. Enemkpali, Jon’al White, 3.5
Interceptions: Quinn Giles, 4

Star of the defense: Senior S Chad Boyd
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DE Kendrick James
Unsung star on the rise: Senior LB Solomon Randle
Best pro prospect: Junior DT Justin Ellis
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Boyd, 2) FS Jamel Johnson, 3) Ellis
Strength of the defense: Tackles, Safeties
Weakness of the defense: Linebacker, Corner

Defensive Line

The defensive line was terrific last year, but now it has work to do on the outside with the loss of both starting ends. 6-1, 240-pound junior Kendrick James will get the nod on the left side after serving as a key backup throughout last year making 19 tackles behind Matt Broha. He’s built like a big linebacker but he’s quick enough and experienced enough to become a high-motor pass rusher. He’ll be backed up by redshirt freshman Vontarrius Dora, a 6-4, 250-pound athlete who could’ve played in the SEC and now will likely be a pass rushing specialist.

Stepping in to a full-time role at the other end is junior I.K. Enemkpali, who was suspended for a time for an off-campus incident but ended up playing in 12 games making 33 tackles with 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 245 pounds he has decent size and is a tremendous athlete with big-time pass rushing potential with more work.

Anchoring the middle of the great run defense is the massive 6-2, 340-pound junior Justin Ellis, a second-team All-WAC performer who made 29 tackles with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. After starting out his career as an offensive guard, he has fully made the transition and will be the anchor the D works around. While he’s great against the run, 6-1, 300-pound senior Jon’al White is going to be a wee bit more of an interior pass rusher. The former JUCO transfer is a smallish, stocky run stopper who made 3.5 sacks and 29 tackles.

6-2, 280-pound junior Shakeil Lucas turned into a steady producer on the inside making 30 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. Able to work at tackle or outside on the end, he’d be an ideal 3-4 end but will get time again as a key part of the run defense. He’ll add a bit more bulk while 6-5, 250-pound sophomore Andre Taylor will play a bigger role after making five tackles in limited time. The former high school sprinter can be on the end but will see work on the inside.

Watch Out For … Enemkpali. He has always been flirting with being a terrific pass rusher, but it hasn’t quite come together. He has the size, the quickness and the experience, and now it all has to translate into major production.
Strength: Tackles. The run defense was terrific last year partly because the WAC didn’t run well and partly because the defensive interior was outstanding. There’s a good rotation on the inside with Ellis, Lucas and White all able to plug things up.
Weakness: Sure-thing ends. Enemkpali will be great, and James is more than fine, but the line loses Matt Broha and his 7.5 sacks and has to replace Christian Lacey and his 8.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Outlook: The line will be more than solid. The tackles are impressive and productive, but the ends need to prove they can get into the backfield on a regular basis and could use a surprise from somewhere. The pass rush will be there and the run defense will be fantastic.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Linebackers

The linebacking corps has a ton of work to do losing Adrien Cole and Jay Dudley. The Bulldogs use two linebackers and need 5-11, 230-pound senior Solomon Randle to shine in the middle. He was like an extra starter at times two years ago making 68 tackles, but he was a clear backup in last year’s rotation finishing with 19 stops in a more limited role. He’s experienced, tough, and has good range. Now he’ll be a statistical star.

Working the strongside spot will be 6-1, 210-pound junior Rufus Porter, a safety-sized 6-1, 210-pound veteran who went from being a key special teamer to a decent part of the rotation making 23 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. While he’s not big or bulky, he’s fast and has the potential to be a dangerous pass rusher on the outside.

6-1, 245-pound senior Antonio Mitchum is a big, athletic defender who can play either spot but will back up Porter on the strongside. He didn’t see too much time making 14 tackles, but he can step in if the defense goes to a 4-3 scheme.

Sophomore Ches Morrison is a 5-11, 240-pound hitter who worked on special teams last year and now will work in the middle behind Randle. He has the size and the strength to handle the position, but he needs time to show he can handle the work.

Watch Out For … Porter. He might not be built like a true linebacker and might be more like a big safety, but he’s going to be turned loose into the backfield and he should be all over the field making plays.
Strength: The 4-2-5. The Bulldogs don’t need many linebackers to make the defense work. With the alignment they have the flexibility to get big from time to time with Randle, Mitchum and Morrison, or they can get faster and more athletic with several other options.
Weakness: Adrien Cole and Jay Dudley. The stars of last year’s defense combined for 230 tackles with two sacks and 21 tackles for loss. Dudley did everything doing a great job in pass coverage, while Cole was a rock against the run with his solo tackles good enough to have finished fourth on the team without the assisted tackles counted in. Those two will be missed.
Outlook: After being the strength of the run defense and one of the key pieces to the WAC title-winning puzzle, the linebacking corps needs to deal with an overhaul. Randle will be great in the middle and Porter will have to shine and hold up. The stats will be there because of the nature of the position, but the D needs gamechangers here.
Unit Rating: 5

Secondary

The secondary in the 4-2-5 alignment needs to shine again, and it all starts with the leading returning tackler, 6-1, 200-pound senior Jamel Johnson at free safety. A great hitter, he came up with 88 tackles with two picks, and while he’s used more like another linebacker than a true defensive back, the former JUCO transfer from Fort Scott CC can do a little bit of everything. The all-star potential is there and he should be well past the 80 tackle mark again.

Back at corner is Dave Clark, a good-sized 6-2, 190-pound former JUCO transfer from Independence CC who stepped in and made 33 tackles with three picks and six broken up passes. Originally a Tennessee Volunteer and Kansas Jayhawk, he signed letters of intent at both schools before ending up with the Bulldogs. He’s more of a safety than a true corner in terms of tools, but he handles himself well.

There will be a battle for the other corner spot with 5-11, 175-pound redshirt freshman Bryson Abraham and 5-11, 185-pound sophomore Levander Liggins combining for the job on the right side. A good recruit for the program, Abraham is a phenomenal athlete who can jump out of the stadium and won the Louisiana state championship in the 4x100 relay. He can fly, and he needs to use his speed to grow into a No. 1 corner, while Liggins saw a little time making ten tackles as a reserve. With 4.4 wheels he can move with the ability to shine as a kickoff returner as well as in the defensive backfield.

5-10, 200-pound senior Chad Boyd earned second-team All-WAC honors making 76 tackles with three picks after making 80 stops as a sophomore. Fantastic in run support, he’s a true strong safety who doesn’t miss a stop and isn’t bad when the ball is in the air. Fast and with great range, he’s always around the ball, while 5-10, 195-pound senior Quinn Giles is a good hitter who made 34 tackles last season and led the team with four picks. He’s a strong tackler who can play any of the three safety spots.

In the nickel role is senior Javontay Crowe, a 5-11, 185-pound veteran who came up with 58 tackles two years ago and made 36 stops last season with a pick and four broken up passes. A bit thin, he’s still a good hitter with great range to be all over the field to make things happen. He’ll be backed up by 5-8, 175-pound senior Craig Johnson, who made 27 tackles with a pick. Very, very quick, he can be used as a punt returner and could work in any of the three safety spots.

Watch Out For … Boyd’s shoulder. A great hitter and the team’s best all-around defender, he has to be 100% after being knocked out with a torn labrum. If he can’t go then Giles has to become a superstar at strong safety.
Strength: Experience. With four veteran starters and Crowe ready to do even more, this is a matured group of upperclassmen with the ability to lock down against WAC passing games. This is where the experience is and this should be the strength of the defense by far.
Weakness: Backup corner. Clark is fine, but is he a No. 1? He’ll have to be with a few question marks about Abraham and Liggins occupying one spot and Wallace looking to make a push for time.
Outlook: The secondary didn’t fact too many strong passing teams, but Hawaii, San Jose State and Fresno State had no problems moving the ball, and Houston and Central Arkansas bombed away. The corners have to be stronger and the safeties have to do more when the ball is in the air, but the picks should come and the overall production will be solid.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Senior Matt Nelson was fine from short range finishing nailing 15-of-21 field goals after connecting on 12-of-16 kicks in 2010. He has a decent leg with range just outside of 45 yards, but five of the misses came from beyond 40 yards. He’ll be a weapon.

The punting game was special finishing eighth in the nation with Ryan Allen averaging a whopping 46.1 yards per kick with a ridiculous 39 put inside the 20 and with 28 fair catches on the way to winning the Ray Guy Award. The former Oregon State Beaver is tremendous with his accuracy and he has a booming leg cranking out 29 kicks of more than 50 yards.

The returners were solid with receiver Andrew Guillot averaging 12 yards per punt return while running back Lyle Fitte was phenomenal on kickoff returns averaging 26.1 yards per try. He’s getting over a knee injury, so corner Levander Liggins should get more work early on after averaging 22.7 yards per try.

Watch Out For … The kickoff return game. Fitte was special and he still could come back 100% and be ready to roll. However, Liggins is good enough to pick up the slack if he has to.
Strength: Punting. Allen was supposed to be good, but no one saw the monster season coming. Big kicker with an NFL leg, he’s a weapon who bailed the team out of several big jams.
Weakness: Punt coverage. When teams actually got a chance to return a punt they came up big, Allen, as good as he was, often outkicked the coverage leading to a 12.3-yard average and two scores.
Outlook: The special teams could be among the best in the country if Nelson gets a little more pop from deep and if the punt coverage team could be better. Allen is great, the return game should be terrific, and Tech will have a major advantage hover most teams.
Unit Rating: 8

- 2012 Louisiana Tech Preview | 2012 Louisiana Tech Offense
- 2012 Louisiana Tech Defense | 2012 Louisiana Tech Depth Chart