CFN Preview 2013 - Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon
Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon
Posted Jul 28, 2013 2013 Preview - Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Preview 2013

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By Rich Cirminiello  

Head coach: Skip Holtz
First year: 0-0
14th year overall: 88-71
Returning Lettermen
Off. 15, Def. 15, ST 0
Lettermen Lost: 29
Ten Best Bulldog Players
1. RB Kenneth Dixon, Soph.
2. DE IK Enemkpali, Sr.
3. DT Justin Ellis, Sr.
4. RB Tevin King, Soph.
5. WR D.J. Banks, Sr.
6. WR Hunter Lee, Jr.
7. CB Le'Vander Liggins, Jr.
8. QB Scotty Young, Jr.
9. DT Shakeil Lucas, Sr.
10. OL Matt Shepperd, Jr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 at NC State
9/7 Lamar
9/14 Tulane
9/21 at Kansas
9/28 Army (in Dallas)
10/5 at UTEP
10/19 North Texas
10/26 at FIU
11/9 Southern Miss
11/16 at Rice
11/23 Tulsa
11/30 at UTSA

Louisiana Tech was built for 2012. In 2013, well, it just rebuilds.

The Bulldogs enjoyed a once-every-generation season last fall, winning nine games, beating Illinois and Virginia on the road in successive weeks and nearly shocking Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M on Oct. 13. The offense hung up video game-like numbers, and the head coach was making national headlines. Sure, the run ended poorly, with back-to-back losses and a bowl snub, yet these were still heady times in Ruston. But it was also fleeting.

On Dec. 5 of last year, that popular head coach, Sonny Dykes, was hired by Cal. Not only was it an obvious and well-earned promotion, but it was also timely; Louisiana Tech was a senior-loaded team that was only going to be welcoming back seven starters in 2013. Someone would have to pick up the pieces, and that someone is veteran Skip Holtz.

Holtz was a curious hire by the Bulldogs. Is he the coach who helped Connecticut become an FBS-caliber program, and turned East Carolina into a perennial Conference USA contender? Or is he the one who was canned by South Florida at the end of last year for doing an utterly awful job in Tampa? Time will naturally, though patience ought to be preached at least for the first year.

Tech begins 2013 with few sure-things it can truly count on. Not only is the staff new, but so are the quarterback, four-fifths of the O-line and the back seven of a defense that performed in 2012 as if it belonged in the FCS. In the early going, the Bulldogs will be forced to lean on RB Kenneth Dixon, who'll look to build on an auspicious rookie year, and an IK Enemkpali-led defensive line that's going to sneak up and surprise a lot of people.

Louisiana Tech peaked early last November, and has been adapting to reality ever since. Since getting to 9-1, the program has dropped two straight, been denied a postseason berth and lost many of its linchpins, such as Dykes, QB Colby Cameron and WR Quinton Patton. Holtz and his assistants have been tasked with repairing the foundation, while providing stewardship as the Bulldogs prepare for their maiden season as a member of Conference USA.

What to watch for on offense: The health of RB Tevin King. Louisiana Tech has a feature back in Kenneth Dixon, but it also has a dearth of playmakers, which is why King's return is so crucial. He certainly raised expectations before injuring his ACL, rushing for 369 yards and five touchdowns on the first 46 carries of his college career. Bulldogs' fans, their appetite sufficiently whet, are eager to see King on a more expanded platform. First, though, he needs to prove that he's all the way back, and able to cut with the same suddenness he had prior to getting hurt.

What to watch for on defense: Newcomers to dominate the back seven. The Bulldogs have addressed their shortcomings at linebacker and in the secondary with an influx of talent from other schools. There are a slew of junior-college transfers, like linebackers Mitch Villemez and Nick Thomason and safeties C.J. Cleveland and Terrell Pinson, who are already competing for jobs. And there are newcomers Daniel Cobb of Texas Tech and Andre Wiggins of Wake Forest, who are looking to have an impact at linebacker.

This team will be far better if … the defense doesn't operate as if it's still in the WAC. The Bulldogs were awful on D in 2012, and no one is expecting them to do an about-face. However, even slight progress will do wonders for a squad that still expects to put up points on offense. After doing little right a year ago, Tech must at least become opportunistic by attacking the backfield and creating more turnovers. It's going to be a feast-or-famine situation, but the Bulldogs have to spend more time at the buffet than it did last fall.

The Schedule: The Bulldogs are finally in a league that makes more geographic sense, but there are still enough winnable games to come up with a big year. Going to NC State to start the season isn't an automatic loss, while getting Lamar and Tulane at home could get the Skip Holtz era off to a nice start before going to Kansas. The problem will be finding time to get settled at home with just one game in Joe Aillet from September 14th to November 9th. The Army game is in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas – the run defense has to be night-and-day better by then – coming In between trips to Kansas and UTEP. Getting FIU and Southern Miss from the East would've been a huge break last season, but the teams should be better this time around. Beating Tulsa in the home finale could be vital to having any shot of winning the West.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Kenneth Dixon. Dixon just needed a chance in his first year in Ruston. And when he got it last September, he quickly emerged as one of the nation's top young running backs. Dixon replaced an injured Tevin King and went on to rush for 1,194 yards on 200 carries, while scoring an NCAA freshman-record 28 total touchdowns. At 6-0 and 215 pounds, he has the size and strength to work between the tackles, yet is also quick enough to bounce outside for additional yards.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE IK Enemkpali. While the Louisiana Tech defense didn't produce a lot of positive talking points in 2012, Enemkpali was a consistent exception. He's coming off his best season with the program, collecting 32 stops, 7.5 tackles for loss and six sacks to earn All-WAC First Team. The 6-2, 250-pounder gets off the snap in a hurry, uses his hands well and will not quit until the play is dead. Enemkpali will be a handful for Conference USA blockers who've yet to face him.

Key players to a successful season: The offensive linemen. Hey, one look at the film of the Tech D, and it's clear that this program is going to live or die based on the play of the offense. The Bulldogs won't score at nearly the same clip as last season, but they still could be potent. QB Scotty Young has a terrific arm, and RB Kenneth Dixon has all-star chops. Everything, though, hinges on the play of an O-line breaking in four new full-timers. It's incumbent upon the front wall to mesh in a hurry, giving the playmakers their best chance to move the chains.

The season will be a success if ... Louisiana Tech bounces back from last season's disappointing finish to capture a bowl bid. The Bulldogs will be down in 2013, but in many ways, the schedule will be as well. Where are the insurmountable matchups this year? Sandwiched between the opener with NC State and the Nov. 23 visit from Tulsa are meetings with the likes of Lamar, Tulane, Kansas, Army, UTEP, North Texas and Southern Miss. In other words, Tech can win fewer games than in 2012, yet still qualify for the postseason since Conference USA has more automatic bowl tie-ins than the WAC did a year ago.

Key game: Nov. 16 at Rice. The Bulldogs aren't at the same level as Tulsa in the newly-formed West Division of Conference USA, but the Owls could be within reach. This 300-mile trip to Houston will serve as an important barometer for Louisiana Tech, as it attempts to gain a foothold in a new league. It won last year's non-conference meeting, 56-37, as Colby Cameron and Kenneth Dixon outgunned Taylor McHargue and Charles Ross.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Points per game: Louisiana Tech 51.5 – Opponents 38.5
- Sacks: Louisiana Tech 20 – Opponents 10
- Red zone touchdown %: Louisiana Tech 75% - Opponents 73%
- 2013 Louisiana Tech Preview | 2013 Louisiana Tech Offense
- 2013 Louisiana Tech Defense | 2013 Louisiana Tech Depth Chart