Louisiana Tech Preview 2006 - Defense
La Tech Bulldogs
Posted Aug 9, 2006

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Preview 2006 - Bulldog Defense

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. 

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Brannon Jackson, 54
Sacks: 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 Sammie Collins
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

Defensive Line
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

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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 linebacker quickness.
- 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 reserve job.

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 play ability.
Linebacker Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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.

Defensive Backs
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

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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 eight touchdowns.
- 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 Moss.

Special Teams
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 bit stronger.

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

Projected Starters
- 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.

Related Stories
Louisiana Tech Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 9, 2006
Louisiana Tech Preview 2006 Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 9, 2006
Louisiana Tech Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 9, 2006

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