2007 Louisiana Tech Preview - Defense

Posted May 16, 2007

Preview 2007 Louisiana Tech Bulldog Defense Preview

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Preview 2007 - Defense

- 2007 Louisiana Tech Preview | 2007 Tech Offense Preview  
2007 Tech Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Louisiana Tech Preview 

What you need to know:
2006 was expected to be a year of transition, but yeesh. The D was the worst in America allowing 483 yards and close to 42 points per game, and it was simply awful from start to finish. Step one for the new coaching staff is to find a way to get into the backfield after the Bulldogs finished dead last in sacks and tackles for loss, and it'll alternated between a 3-4 and a 4-3 to try to get some production. The linebacking corps should be decent, the secondary can fly, and the defensive line is full of decent-sized veterans. Now there has to be come semblance of production.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Quin Harris, 95
Sacks: Chris Pugh, 3.5
Interceptions: Shalamar Walker, 3

Star of the defense: Senior LB Brannon Jackson
Player that has to step up and become a star: The entire defensive line
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DE Randy Grigsby
Best pro prospect: Sophomore DE/DT D'Anthony Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jackson, 2) LB Quin Harris, 3) FS Antonio Baker
Strength of the defense: Experience
Weakness of the defense:
Proven production, pass rush

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
One of the new stars of the line will be 6-4, 250-pound redshirt freshman Randy Grigsby, one of the team's few linemen to generate a pass rush in practice. It'll be his job to get to the quarterback on a regular basis; that's it. Anything coming against the run will be a bonus.

On the other side will be 246-pound senior Ben McGilton, who saw starting time at tackle in an attempt to generate a little bit of a pass rush finishing with 5.5 tackles for loss and 25 stops. He's a decent end for the 4-3, and a strong one for the 3-4.

Somewhere on the line will be sophomore D'Anthony Smith, a 288-pound tackle/end who made 38 tackles. With his size, and lack of pure pass rushing ability, he's far more suited for the inside, but will be a perfect fit in the 4-3.

Providing the beef on the inside, or at the nose, will be senior Josh Muse, who has to stay healthy for the run defense to be better. After making 70 tackles over the last two years, he's the one lineman not asked to get to the quarterback; it'll be his job to clog up the middle.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Chris Pugh is a returning starter, but he's only 220 pounds and is build more like an outside linebacker.. He didn't do enough to generate pressure with 3.5 sacks and six tackles for loss to go along with 44 tackles, and now he'll likely run with the second team with the emergence of Grigsby.

Also in the hunt for time will be 238-pound sophomore Wes Day, who made 25 tackles as a reserve. He didn't get into the backfield, but that should eventually change considering his speed and athleticism. He can also be used as an undersized tackle. Inside, 270-pound JUCO transfer Jared Parten should be a factor after missing all of last year with a knee injury. He's tremendously strong and should be a good inside presence, but don't expect much of an interior pass rush.

Watch Out For ... the coaching staff to juggle around with the lineup several times and several ways to find someone who can get into he backfield. Don't get comfortable with the depth chart.
Strength: Veterans. For good or bad, just about everyone returns from last year with good depth and plenty of options for the coaching staff to work with. There should be an excellent rotation.
Weakness: Production. The line was miserable against the run and even worse at getting into the backfield. There might have to be drastic changes along the way to get some production.
Outlook: Eight sacks and 43 tackles for loss. That's it. Louisiana Tech was the worst team in the nation when it came to getting into the backfield and getting pressure on the quarterback, and it showed as the good passers in the WAC picked the secondary apart. The run defense wasn't any better finishing next-to-last in America allowing 225 yards per game. Basically, this group has to find something it does right, and the coaching staff wants that to be getting to the quarterback.
Rating: 4.5


Projected Starters
If an when the defense goes to the 3-4 there will be more spot to play around with, but one position is filled with the return senior Brannon Jackson in the middle. At 253 pounds, he's a big run-stopper in the middle and an All-WAC caliber player who got lost in last year's awful D, he made 67 tackles and now should be far more productive in the new system.

226-pound senior, Anthony Crosby, went from being a little-used reserve to an ultra-productive defender making 70 tackles. At the Buck linebacker position, he's a natural on the inside with the smarts and toughness to almost always be in the right position.

Back on the weakside is senior Marquis McBeath, a former JUCO transfer who came in and finished second on the team with 80 tackles with four broken up passes. He's 219 pounds and fast, but he didn't do enough to get into the backfield and didn't make enough plays in the open field.

On the strongside will be be junior Quin Harris after leading the team with 95 tackles with six tackles for loss. He's a 228-pound big hitter with tremendous speed, and now he has to do even more to get into the backfield.

Projected Top Reserves: With a fourth linebacking position, there will be a place for sophomore Brian White, who came up with a big spring and is a promising playmaker inside or out. While he's not all that big at 218 pounds, he's fast.

230-pound senior Chris Lowery cam in from Pearl River CC and provided 41 tackles as a reserve on the weakside behind McBeath. While he can hit, he's not great against the pass and needs to be more disruptive to see more time.

Watch Out For ... the outside linebackers to be sent into the backfield way too often. There simply isn't going to be much of a pass rush from the front three or four, so the coaching staff will have to manufacture pressure from the outside.
Strength: Experience. If the defenses sticks with a 4-3, the Bulldogs will have a heck of a rotation with six veterans who can all get to the ball.
Weakness: Stopping the run. While everyone in this group can put up numbers, they have to do far more up at the line. This isn't the best open-field tackling group, and it has to be more physical.
Outlook: After this production fell off the map, things should pick back up with Brannon Jackson leading the way for a veteran group that should know what it's doing. There has to be some sort of an identity after struggling mightily to come up with any big plays last season, but if nothing else, it'll be aggressive and active.
Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
Any improvement for the Bulldogs has to come from the secondary, and that starts with the senior corner Tony Moss and junior Weldon Brown. Moss, originally a Wisconsin Badger, started every game making 58 tackles, but he didn't do nearly enough against the pass with two interceptions and three broken up passes. He's one of the fastest players on the defense and too dangerous to not start producing more. Brown started in seven games making 15 tackles with his biggest impact coming as a speedy kick returner. He'll have a battle on his hands for the starting job after not doing nearly enough when the ball was in the air.

Likely getting the starting free safety job again will be sophomore Antonio Baker, who struggled as a true freshman with his consistency, but finished fourth on the team with 68 tackles along with three broken up passes. He has excellent range and should be strong in the open field.

222-pound junior, Mark Dillard, will handle the strong safety duties after a turbulent 2006 when he had off-the-field issues and had to adjust after being one of the team's top running backs. He's the team's fastest player and can pop a little bit making 58 tackles in his first season in the new role.

Projected Top Reserves: At corner, senior Shalamar Walker is an experienced former JUCO transfer with excellent speed. While he wasn't the tackler Moss was, with 31 stops and ten in one game, he led the way with three interceptions.

Sophomore Justin Johnson was a key special teamer and made a few plays on defense with ten tackles. He has the potential to be a strong kick returner as well as a top backup safety.

The top backup corner will likely be redshirt freshman Deon Young, who made 13 tackles in limited time. With good speed, he could see time in nickel and dime packages.

Adding more speed to the secondary will be senior Melvin Ellis, a top sprinter who not has to become more of a football player after seeing time in just two games last year.

On the way is Tarence Calais, the team's top recruit, who was a tackling machine in high school making 163 stops, 17 tackles for loss and nine forced fumbles as a senior.

Corner Matt Mason originally signed with Urban Meyer at Utah and now is ready to bring his tremendous speed to the secondary after a year playing JUCO ball. He's not all that big at 5-9 and 180 pounds, but he'll be one of the team's fastest corners.

Watch Out For ... a big improvement. There was no pass rush to help out the inexperienced secondary, and now that should change. The experience should help.
Strength: Speed. This will be one of the WAC's faster secondaries with speedsters like Dillard, Moss and Walker.
Weakness: Proven production. This group did absolutely nothing last year. There weren't enough big plays, there weren't enough stops on third downs, and it was beaten deep consistently. Obviously that all needs to change.
Outlook: The overall experience has to translate into more production. One of the worst pass defenses in America last year, it only gave up fewer than 200 yards against four  D-I teams, and that was because the run defense was getting steamrolled over. There's no developed depth to rely on, so there aren't enough options to play around with early on. That means the starters have to be night-and-day better right away.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Returning for his senior year is solid placekicker Danny Horwedel, who hit 26 of 38 field goals over the last two seasons. He has no range beyond 40 yards, and he wasn't given many opportunities with just one attempt over the final three games, but he'll be considered a plus going into the season.

Also back is junior punter Chris Kaegle, who struggled mightily airing it out last season averaging just 38.4 yards per kick, but he did a great job at times with 16 fair catches and 16 punts put inside the 20. Patrick Jackson is an elite kickoff returner averaging 24.2 yards per return last year, but a punt returner has to be found.

Watch Out For ... Horwedel to be used even more. The offense should start to move the ball a little bit better and should give the senior more chances.
Strength: Short-range kicking. Horwedel and Kaegle are great when they don't have to show off any leg. Kaegle is purely a directional kicker and Horwedel can't kick from deep.
Weakness: Coverage units. The Bulldogs allowed 21.3 yards per kickoff return, which will be an even bigger issue now that kickoffs are coming from the 30, and the punt coverage team gave up 9.5 yards per try.
Outlook: Other kickers could get involved to help provide more overall pop, and finding a top punt returner could take a little while. The coaching staff might be hesitant to use Patrick Jackson too much on kickoff returns since he's so valuable as a running back, but he's too good to not get the ball in his hands.
Rating: 5.5


Related Stories
2007 Louisiana Tech Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 16, 2007
2007 Louisiana Tech Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 16, 2007
2007 Louisiana Tech Preview
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