2007 Louisiana Tech Preview - Defense
Louisiana Tech Bulldog Defense Preview
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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
Chris Pugh, 3.5
Interceptions: Shalamar Walker, 3
Star of the defense: Senior LB Brannon Jackson
Proven production, pass rush
Player that has to step up and become a star: The entire
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman DE Randy
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:
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.