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2008 Louisiana Tech Preview - Defense
Louisiana Tech FS Antonio Baker
Louisiana Tech FS Antonio Baker
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 30, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Louisiana Tech Bulldog Defense

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Preview 2008 - Defense

- 2008 CFN Louisiana Tech Preview | 2008 Louisiana Tech Offense
- 2008 Louisiana Tech Defense | 2008 Louisiana Tech Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Louisiana Tech Preview | 2006 CFN Louisiana Tech Preview 

What you need to know:
The D went from being the worst in America in 2006 allowing 483 yards and close to 42 points per game, to allowing 424 yards and 31 points per outing. No, Tech wasn't a brick wall, but it was far better. Now there should be a huge leap up in production helped by a great-looking back seven led by first-team all-stars FS Antonio Baker and LB Quin Harris. Getting big MLB Brannon Jackson back from a knee injury will be a huge help. The line will be fine in time, but it needs JUCO transfer Kwame Jordan to live up to his reputation as a pass rusher and the tackles have to hold up better against the good rushing teams.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Quin Harris, 102
Sacks: Quin Harris, 3.5
Interceptions: Weldon Brown, 4

Star of the defense: Senior LB Quin Harris
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore DE Randy Grigsby
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Josh Victorian
Best pro prospect: Harris
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Harris, 2) LB Brannon Jackson, 3) FS Antonio Baker
Strength of the defense: Linebackers, veteran secondary
Weakness of the defense:
Tackles, proven pass rush

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
:
One of the team's top recruits, and an instant upgrade for the pass rush,
is JUCO transfer Kwame Jordan, a 6-3, 245-pound terror in the backfield who made 17.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss, along with 68 tackles, for Fort Scott CC. last season. He'll take over for Chris Pugh on the right side and should provide more of a push into the backfield.

Working with Jordan on the right side is 6-2, 292-pound junior tackle D'Anthony Smith, a tough inside presence who made 42 tackles, three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He's more of a huge end playing at tackle, and he has the talent and quickness to be a regular in the backfield.

Getting the start on the left side will be 6-3, 242-pound sophomore Randy Grigsby after making 10 tackles as a reserve. Expected to be one of the team's new stars coming out of spring ball last year, he didn't do anything to get into the backfield, but he has all the skills to become a major pass rusher.

Ready to take over a spot on the inside is 6-2, 260-pound sophomore Rolando Melancon coming over from Tennessee. A major prospect, he's not a huge inside presence, but he's extremely talented and could be the answer for a struggling run defense.

Projected Top Reserves: Coming out of spring ball, 6-2, 255-pound sophomore Mason Hitt held down the left tackle spot after making four tackles as a reserve. More of a defensive end than a tackle, he could end up moving to the outside if Melancon turns out to be the real deal.

Looking to make an instant impact is Eric Harper, one of the team's best recruits and a possible starter as a true freshman. The 6-4, 220-pound end will push Grigsby for starting time on the left side and should be a very fast, very productive pass rusher with a little bit of work.

Playing behind Smith at right tackle will be good backup Ramone Randle, a big 6-2, 297-pound run stopper who made 16 tackles with a tackle for loss. He mostly saw mop-up time, but he has the potential to grow into a good producer with more work and more seasoning. 

Senior Breon Jackson has yet to do much in his career, making just six career tackles in 15 games with a start last season, but at 6-1 and 307 pounds he's a big body who needs to be a factor on the inside behind Hitt and Melancon.


Watch Out For ... the new guys. JUCO transfers Melancon and Jordan will provide instant help, while Harper is a true freshman worth watching for the next few years.
Strength
:
Pass rush. While it wasn't a killer last year, it was better than most in the WAC. With teams like Hawaii, New Mexico State and others liking to wing the ball around, being able to get to the quarterback is a must. With Jordan coming in to help out the cause, there should be production from all four spots. However ...
Weakness: A proven second pass rusher. Actually, a proven first pass rusher could be an issue, too, if Jordan isn't the real deal. The hope will be for Grigsby to be a playmaker, otherwise the defense will have to rely on a true freshman, Harper, to be a disruptive force.
Outlook: Considering the Bulldogs registered eight sacks and 43 tackles for loss in 2006, worst in the nation, last year's production was dominant. The trend should continue upward even though there aren't many proven commodities. There's more talent on the line than there has been in the past few years, but it could be a long year if the new recruits don't come through.
Rating:
5.5

Linebackers

Projected Starters
:
The linebacking corps, and the defense, revolves around all-around playmaker Quin Harris, a 6-2, 221-pound junior who earned second-team All-WAC honors after making 102 tackles with 3.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss and an interception with 11 broken up passes. He didn't get enough credit for his work in pass coverage and is a big hitter with tremendous speed for the run defense. He has WAC Defensive Player of the Year potential.

Back in the middle is 6-1, 256-pound senior Brannon Jackson after missing all of last year with a knee injury. At his size, he's a huge run stopper on the inside and an All-WAC caliber player who made 67 tackles in 2006. He's a strong veteran who'll be an instant upgrade for the defense.

Working on the strongside will be 6-1, 217-pound junior Brian White, who was expected to become a factor last year but only made two tackles as a special teamer. He was one of the stars of 2007 spring ball showing off good speed and range, and while he'll have to battle for a starting job this year, he has the inside track.

Projected Top Reserves: Pushing hard for one of the outside spots will be junior Zach Schreiber, a star on the scout team last year after transferring over from Alabama. The 6-0, 215-pounder made six tackles with a sack in 2006 for the Tide, and saw time in the season opener against Western Carolina, and then made the move. He'll start out on the weakside behind Harris but could end up starting on the strongside.

The rising star of the defense is 6-4, 215-pound redshirt freshman Jay Dudley, who'll see time in the middle after a terrific spring. A high school wide receiver as well as a linebacker, he's a fantastic athlete who should make up for his lack of size with great range. He could end up moving to one of the outside spots, likely the weakside.


Trying to get into the defensive mix will be special teams superstar Domnique Faust, a 5-11, 190-pound sophomore who made six tackles, but blocked three field goals and a punt. A terrific athlete, he'll see time on the weakside where he needs to be solid in pass coverage.

A special teamer last year as a true freshman, sophomore Kiamni Washington will work behind White on the strongside. At 6-2 and 215 pounds he's built like a big safety, but he's one of the best athletes in the linebacking corps.

Watch Out For ... the strongside spot. White might have the job going into spring, but Schreiber and Dudley will need a spot on the field somewhere. At the very least there will be a rotation to find the right player to go along with Harris and Jackson.
Strength: Quickness. Undersized but fast, outside of Jackson the corps is made up of bulked up safeties who can all move. There should be more production against the pass, but there's a problem with ...
Weakness: Stopping the run against the top teams. This hasn't been the best open-field tackling team for a few years and there hasn't been enough production against the better running attacks. The overall stats are nice, but it's not like the WAC is full of great ground games. Nevada, Cal and LSU were able to run at will.
Outlook: The return of Jackson in the middle provides an anchor for everyone else to work around. Harris is a sure-thing all-star who should go ballistic now that he has Jackson to help out. There's enough promise and potential among the reserves and last year's backups to hope for the best corps the team has had in a few years.
Rating: 6

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
:
The secondary needs senior Weldon Brown to come up with a more even year, and it needs him to continue to be a ball-hawk. The 5-10, 184-pound veteran came up with several big plays, leading the team with four interceptions to go along with seven broken up passes, and he's a great tackler finishing fifth with 62 stops, but he got beaten a bit too much. He has tremendous wheels and won't see too many receivers get by him.

Looking to take over for Tony Moss on the left side will 5-10, 170-pond redshirt freshman Terry Carter, a good-tackling prospect with phenomenal, next-level type speed. He finished second in the 200 in the 2005 Louisiana state high school track championships, and was part of the 2006 title winning 4x200 relay team.

Leading the secondary is last year's top tackler, junior Antonio Baker, who made 118 stops with three interceptions and seven tackles for loss on his way to first-team All-WAC honors. He struggled as a true freshman and found his stride at free safety early as a sophomore showing off excellent range to get in on every play. He was more than just the last line of defense against the run; he managed to help keep big pass plays to a minimum with stops in the open field. A consistent tackling machine, he had eight games with 10 or more stops.

Also returning is junior Deon Young to his spot at strong safety after finishing fourth on the team with 72 tackles with three interceptions and four broken up passes. The 5-11, 195-pound veteran has the speed to play corner if needed, after making 13 tackles on the outside in 2006, but he is now a fixture at safety. He's great at getting in on tackles, but he has to do more to make the big stops and become an intimidating force.


Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 185-pound sophomore Terence Calais was the team's top recruit last season and burned his redshirt to work on special teams. While he'll see time on special teams again, his main role will be to find a spot in the secondary either at safety or corner. He could take the corner spot on the other side of Brown, but he'll likely start out playing at strong safety behind Young.

Looking to see time at the right corner spot behind Brown is 5-10, 185-pound sophomore Josh Victorian after coming up with a nice spring. He got a start at strong safety against Hawaii but only played in three games making nine tackles with a broken up passes as a true freshman. A ball-hawker, he'll end up seeing time on the field somewhere in nickel and dime packages.

After not doing much for the offense, 6-0, 184-pound junior Shawn Simmons will move to safety after catching just one pass last year as a wide receiver. He has yet to make an impact on the offense, but he has the size, speed and ability to become a decent reserve behind Baker at free safety.

Watch Out For ... Calais and Young. Three of the starting spots are set, and if the second corner job can be settled early on, and become productive, the secondary should grow into a strength.
Strength: Veterans. Baker is a sure-thing all-star, Young is a solid veteran and Brown is a serviceable corner who'll make big plays. These are three good, experienced players to work around.
Weakness: Stopping the pass. The Bulldogs gave up 287 yards per game through the air and 27 touchdown passes, and while it did a good job here and there of coming up with some big stops, it got ripped apart, especially over the second half of the year, by any quarterback with a pulse.
Outlook: The overall experience has to translate into more production. One of the worst pass defenses in America two years ago, it has only given up fewer than 200 yards against six D-I teams over the last two years. The talent is there to be among the best secondaries in the WAC with Baker, Young and Brown all excellent veterans. The interceptions will be there, and now there must be more third down stops.
Rating: 6

Special Teams

Projected Starters
:
Senior Brad Oestriecher will step in for Danny Horwedel who was great from mid-to-short range, but struggled from 40 yards and beyond. Oestriecher has been a kickoff specialist and has a big leg, and this spring he showed a bit of consistency.

Senior punter Chris Keagle is one of the best in the WAC averaging a career-best 41.3 yards per kick with 26 put inside the 20. A four-year starter, he showed far better consistency, far bigger pop, and far better accuracy. He's a weapon who'll bail the team out of several jams.

The return game, overall, is among the best in America with Philip Beck back after averaging 17.4 yards per punt return. Phillip Livas isn't a bad punt returner, averaging seven yards per try, and he's a phenomenal kickoff returner averaging 26.4 yards per try. However, RB Patrick Jackson will be the main man again after averaging 22.5 yards per try.

Watch Out For ... Oestriecher to be more than fine. Horwdel was decent, and while Oestriecher might not be an all-star, he'll hit a few deep bombs and will be solid overall.
Strength: The return game. Everything worked last year and now everyone is back from the nations eighth best punt return game and 26th best kickoff return unit
Weakness: Coverage units. This has been an issue for a few years. The Bulldogs might have averaged 23.1 yards per kickoff return, but they gave up 23.7 yards per try. The punt coverage team improved allowing 7.5 yards per try.
Outlook: Overall, the special teams should be a major strength and it could be the best in the WAC if Oestriecher is good. The punting game and returners are top shelf and will force teams to spend time gameplanning hard for them.
Rating: 8