Louisiana Tech Preview – Closing Strong
Louisiana Tech WR Quinton Patton
Louisiana Tech WR Quinton Patton
Posted May 23, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Preview 2012

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Sonny Dykes
3rd year: 13-12
Ten Best Louisiana Tech Players
1. WR Quinton Patton, Sr.
2. P Ryan Allen, Sr.
3. C Stephen Warner, Sr.
4. SS Chad Boyd, Sr.
5. FS Jamel Johnson, Sr.
6. DT Justin Ellis, Jr.
7. OT Oscar Johnson, Sr.
8. QB Colby Cameron, Jr.
9. OG Kevin Saia, Sr.
10. WR Myles White, Sr.
2012 Schedule

Aug. 30 Texas A&M (in Shreveport)
Sept. 8 at Houston
Sept. 15 Rice
Sept. 22 at Illinois
Sept. 29 at Virginia
Oct. 6 UNLV
Oct. 20 Idaho
Oct. 27 at New Mexico State
Nov. 3 UTSA
Nov. 10 at Texas State
Nov. 17 Utah State
Nov. 24 at San Jose State

Shhhhh. Considering the noise coming from the WAC in recent years, Louisiana Tech's championship season of 2011 was very, very quiet. However, it was loud enough to finally - finally - be part of the puzzle to get the geographic misfit of a program out of the dying WAC and into Conference USA starting in 2013.

The title didn't come with a ton of fanfare like Nevada's phenomenal 12-1 2010 season did. It didn't have any of the national buzz of any of Boise State's dominant runs, and it wasn't on anyone's radar like the Hawaii championship run of 2007. Even Utah State's season, with the near miss at Auburn and the exciting games early on, seemed to get more play than the Tech's campaign.

Part of the reason was because the Bulldogs started out the season 1-4 and needed overtime to get by Central Arkansas, but outside of the stunning blowout at home against Hawaii, the team came really, really close to doing something truly special. At least, more special than becoming the champion of a dying league.

Southern Miss and Houston were clearly the stars of the 2011 Conference USA season, and Tech almost came up with a win over the Eagles in a 19-17 opening day loss and pushed Houston hard in a heartbreaking 35-34 defeat, with the Cougars mounting a great comeback with 28 unanswered points and the winning score coming with 32 seconds to play.

The Bulldogs took Mississippi State to overtime and lost to a good TCU team by seven in the Poinsettia Bowl. So while it's completely and totally wrong to look at close calls and assume things could've easily gone the other way, yeah, things could've gone the other way in four of Tech's five defeats. That's how close the team was to being 2010 Nevada, but still, winning the WAC was a good enough step forward.

And now it's time to set a tone for entrance into Conference USA life with another title. The WAC might be a shadow of its former self, but there's still a championship to be one and the Bulldogs have the team to do it again.

There are some huge losses from the defensive side at linebacker and defensive end, but the secondary should be excellent and the run defense will be a rock up the middle with a great tackle rotation to rely on.

The offense might have some concerns at running back, but the passing game is going to start lighting things up a bit more with Quinton Patton leading a terrific receiving corps and Colby Cameron an experienced enough quarterback to get everyone the ball. Helped by a veteran offensive line that gets four starters back, the offense should be able to knock around everyone in the depleted and sad WAC.

So consider this one long preseason before the program takes the next step up. Sonny Dykes is getting the team in a position to do some really big things down the road, but for now, being a back-to-back WAC champion wouldn't be a bad way to move forward.

What to watch for on offense: The running backs. The passing game will be terrific with all the weapons at receiver and with a good quarterback situation, but the Bulldog offense hasn't been one dimensional under Dykes and it needs a running game. Lennon Creer is gone, and promising back Tyrone Duplessis was tragically lost to a heart attack this offseason. Hunter Lee is a former walk-on who took over for an injured Creer late in the season and was great, but he's not necessarily the type of back who can handle the ball 250 times; he needs running mates. Lyle Fitte is trying to come back from a knee injury, and Ray Holley has to get healthy after having injury issues of his own. On the plus side, the line is outstanding and will pave the way for anyone carrying the mail.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. The defense made night-and-day improvements last season partly because everyone was more aggressive and there were plenty of disruptive plays in the backfield. The tackles will do their job, but the ends will be a work in progress after Matt Broha and Christian Lacy's 16 combined sacks left. I.K. Enemkpali has to go from being a nice prospect to a great pass rusher on one side, and someone has to emerge – possibly Kendrick James – on the other side to get to the quarterback.

The team will be far better if … QB Colby Cameron is great. Nick Isham – the former starting quarterback who transferred this offseason – wasn't bad, but he didn't seem to be able to come up with the close win and threw too many interceptions. That was to be expected from the second youngest player to ever start at quarterback for an FBS team, but Cameron stepped in and calmed everything down throwing just three interceptions over the final eight games after Isham pitched seven in the first five weeks. It helped that Cameron got to start after the schedule lightened up, but as long as he's solid and careful, the offense and the team will be fine.

The schedule: Welcome to the new world of the WAC. If the Bulldogs are even half as good as expected, they should be able to roll through the conference slate. Even the potentially tough game against Utah State is at home. None of the hard non-conference games are at home, but the trip to Houston is winnable, while Tech should battle hard at Illinois and Virginia. After getting just one game in Ruston in September there aren't any back-to-back road games the rest of the way.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Quinton Patton. There were rumors that the coaching staff really, really liked its JUCO transfer last offseason. And then Patton went ballistic finishing with 79 catches for 1,202 yards and 11 scores with four 100-yard days and a 211-yard performance in the win over Central Arkansas. He has good size, nice hands and great speed, and if used right, he could boost his production enough to be a 100-catch performer. He's that good.

Best defensive player: Senior SS Chad Boyd. Can he come back healthy after suffering an injured shoulder? A big hitter, he's a great against the run and has a great burst to the ball when it's in the air. With Boyd combined with free safety Jamel Johnson, the Bulldogs have a strong foundation for the secondary and should clean up everything the front six doesn't get to. Boyd is a leader with ability to be the tone-setter, but first he has to get back on the field at 100%.

Key player to a successful season: Senior LB Solomon Randle. Adrien Cole was a special linebacker who led the team with 128 tackles with two sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Jay Dudley was a special linebacker who finished second on the team with 102 tackles with four interceptions and eight tackles for loss. Considering the Bulldogs only use two starting linebackers in the 4-2-5 scheme, losing the two stars is a problem. The 5-11, 230-pound Randle is a big veteran who did a decent job when he got his chances over the years, but if he doesn't put up 100 tackles there will be a problem.

The season will be a success if … the Bulldogs win the WAC – easily. There's no Nevada and no Boise State. Fresno State and Hawaii are gone and TCU is on its second league since leaving the conference. The WAC stinks now making it a one game year against Utah State and maybe, possibly, a slightly tough season finale against San Jose State. A WAC title has to be considered a given, so all the focus has to be on a tough first half of the slate. If Tech can get out of September 2-3, a ten-win season, needing a win in a bowl game, will be possible.

Key game: Aug. 30 vs. Texas A&M. The mid-November date against Utah State will be the WAC title game, but the team is shooting higher than winning the WAC. To have any chance of making any national noise, the Bulldogs have to win their home opener when Texas A&M comes to town. The Aggies are going to be good, but they're rebuilding under a new coaching staff and could need a little time and seasoning. With dates at Houston, Illinois and Virginia still to deal with before October, Tech might need this win to avoid a disastrous start.

2011 Fun Stats:
- Louisiana Tech 3rd quarter scoring: 149. Louisiana Tech 4th quarter scoring: 61
- Time of possession: Opponents 31:38 - Louisiana Tech 28:22
- Punt return average: Opponents 12.3 yards - Louisiana Tech 9.6 yards
- 2012 Louisiana Tech Preview | 2012 Louisiana Tech Offense
- 2012 Louisiana Tech Defense | 2012 Louisiana Tech Depth Chart