What you need to know ...
It'll be a year of transition for one of the WAC's better
defenses with only two starters returning, a new defensive
coordinator in Randy Bates, and major question
marks in several areas. There has to be more of a pass rush from
the front three while the relatively green corners have to be
ball-hawking. The linebacking corps loses its heart and soul in
Byron Santiago and Barry Robertson, but it shouldn't be too bad
with several good, young prospects working around Brannon
Jackson in the middle.
Brannon Jackson, 54
Josh Muse, 2
Interceptions: Quin Harris, 2
Star of the defense: Junior LB Brannon Jackson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Quin Harris
Best pro prospect: Junior NG Josh Muse
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jackson, 2) FS Dez
Abrams, 3) Muse
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Experience, pass rush
It's a smaller front three than Louisiana
Tech normally has, but it's not time by any stretch thanks to 310-pound
Josh Muse on the inside. The smaller line is quick and has to get in the
backfield far more than last year's group was able to. The run defense
shouldn't take too big a step back if Sammie Collins and Wes Day can
hold firm against the bigger lines. Finding steady starters will be hard
enough without having any quality depth to count on.
The key to the unit: Generate more of a pass rush and keep a good
rotation going at end.
Defensive Line Rating: 5
- DE Sammie Collins, Sr. - 2 tackles
The former JUCO transfer was a reserve all of last year playing in only
six games and not doing too much. He's a tough 249 pounds who has to
prove right away that he can consistently get into the backfield.
- NT Josh Muse, Jr. - 22 tackles, 2 sacks, 4.5 TFL
The team's most experienced returning lineman, the 310-pound junior was
a spot starter last year and one of the team's top run cloggers. Even at
his size, he has decent moves and can get into the backfield.
- DT Wes Day, Soph. - 1 tackle
Undersized at 249 pounds, Day is more of an end than a true tackle. He's
an Academic All-WAC performer who needs to use his great quickness to be
a playmaker on the inside.
- DE Mark Cassimere, RFr.
The 246-pound redshirt freshman is a very strong, very athletic prospect
at end behind Sammie Collins. He'll battle with former tight end Thad
Williams for playing time.
- DT Ben McGilton, Jr.
The 236-pound JUCO transfer is an undersized tackle who should see
immediate playing time. He's tremendously strong for his size and has
- NG Breon Jackson, Soph.
The 310-pound sophomore saw a little bit of playing time last year but
didn't make any plays. He's a huge body to occupy space on the nose
behind Josh Muse, but he's going to need more time to grow into the
Things aren't as dire as they might appear
after losing most of the WAC's best linebacking corps. 224 tackles from
Barry Robertson and Byron Santiago have to be replaced, but Brannon
Jackson returns as a big body in the middle and there are plenty of
athletic defenders on the outside who can really, really run. Quin
Harris is a bright young star on the strongside, while Marquis Spurgon
is a small, but intriguing speedster on the weakside. There's solid
depth considering there are so many question marks among the starters.
The key to the unit: Find adequate replacements for
the lost production of three top starters, and also replace their big
Linebacker Rating: 5.5
- Quin Harris, Soph. - 30 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2
interceptions, 2 recovered fumbles
The 221-pound sophomore was a top reserve all of last year and now will
take over the starting job on the strongside taking over for all-star
Byron Santiago. He's solid in pass coverage and is an active, smart
player who's always around the ball.
- Brannon Jackson, Jr. - 54 tackles, 1 interception, 2 TFL
Jackson is the team's leading returning tackler and the lone holdover
from last year's fantastic linebacking corps. The 263-pound junior is a
rock in the middle with enough talent to become an All-WAC player. He's
a big hitter and a great leader.
- Anthony Crosby, Jr.- 6 tackles
The Academic All-WAC performer was mostly a special teamer last season
and made most of his defensive plays early on. He'll play the Buck
position replacing the 103 tacklers of leading tackler Barry Robertson.
- Marquis Spurgon, Sr. - 2 tackles
The former JUCO transfer spent last year as a reserve safety. He's only
6-0 and 187 pounds on the weakside, but he's really, really fast. He'll
have to provide a pass rush and has to be a key defender against short
to midrange passes.
- Terence Alexander, Sr. - 36 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL
One of the team's top backup linebackers and special teamers, Alexander
will push hard for the starting Buck job once he returns healthy after
missing all of spring ball. He's a rock-solid tackler.
- Chris Lowery, Jr.
The 226-pound JUCO transfer will be a smaller option in the middle
behind Brannon Jackson. He's a good pass defender with good range.
- Tim Reddick, Jr. - 1 tackle
Reddick didn't see a whole bunch of action, but now he has to become a
key reserve on the strongside behind Quin Harris. He can run well.
The Tech secondary will be a strength ...
next year. It could be a major problem early on this season needing to
replace three starters with the biggest concern at corner. Former JUCO
transfers Sandy Ray Collins, Anthony Moss and Torrance Hampton have to
avoid getting torched in the pass-happy WAC, and the strong safety
situation has to be solidified with last year's top running back Mark
Dillard looking to push promising Deon Young for the job. Dez Abrams has
all-star potential at free safety.
The key to the unit: Get consistent play out of the
corners and get all the young players enough time so they can take their
lumps now to be ready for 2007.
Secondary Rating: 5
- CB Sandy Ray Collins, Sr. - 26 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL
A part-time starter so far, the former JUCO transfer turned in a decent
year and should eventually grow into the role of the number one corner.
He's a solid tackler who needs to start making more big plays.
- FS Dez Abrams, Sr. - 52 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2 broken up passes
Abrams is the only returning starter in the secondary, but he's a good
one. He's a good hitter with the smarts to be the quarterback in the
defensive backfield. Now he has to make more big plays when the ball is
in the air.
- SS Deon Young, RFr.
Young can play either corner or safety. He'll start out at the Dog, or
strong safety, with his good hitting ability expected to make him a top
tackler. He could end up being a key reserve early on if Weldon Brown
moves to safety.
- CB Anthony Moss, Sr. - 19
tackles, 1 interception, 2 broken up passes
The former JUCO transfer is one of the defense's fastest players. He was
a decent reserve and special teamer last year seeing enough time to hit
the ground running this year as a starter on the field side.
- SS/CB Weldon Brown, Soph. - 5 tackles
Brown spent last year as a reserve running back and wide receiver
rushing for one yard and catching a pass for nine yards. He moved over
to the secondary where he'll be one of the most versatile defenders able
to play strong safety or corner.
- SS Mark Dillard, Jr.
Last year's leading rusher will now move to the defensive side pushing
for the starting strong safety job. He missed spring ball dealing with
forcible rape charges filed by a Tech student, but a grand jury refused
to indict him and now he's back on the team. He ran for 672 yards and
- CB Torrance Hampton, Sr. - 3 tackles
The JUCO transfer was mostly a special teamer last year, but he
has the speed and talent to be a major factor at corner behind Anthony
The kicking game will be among the best in the WAC with PK Danny
Horwedel and P Chris Keagle sure to be in the All-WAC mix. The punt
return game has to be far better with Freddie Franklin needing to
average more than 4.5 yards try. Patrick Jackson and Weldon Brown were
fantastic on kickoffs leading the nation's 19th best return game
averaging 23.21 yards per return. Tee coverage units could stand to be a
The key to the unit:
More big plays from the punt returners, a bit more consistency from
Danny Horwedel and more big punts from Chris Keagle.
Special Teams Rating: 8.5
- PK Danny Horwedel, Jr. - 18-26 FGs, 34-38 extra points
Horwedel was a weapon showing off a decent leg. Consistency was a bit of
a problem late missing four kicks over a two game span, but he's solid
enough to be in the hunt for the Lou Groza Award this season. He can
punt if needed.
- P Chris Keagle, Soph. - 52 punts, 1,946 yds, 37.4 ypc, 17
inside the 20
More of a directional punter than a blaster, at least so far, Keagle
should be a solid producer again this season. He did a great job of
forcing fair catches and pinning teams deep.