Star of the
FS Antonio Baker
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior LB Dominique Faust
Unsung star on the rise: Junior S Tarence Calais
Best pro prospect: Senior DT D’Anthony Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Baker, 2) Smith, 3) SS Deon Young
Strength of the defense: Safeties, defensive line experience
Weakness of the defense: Pass defense, linebacker
The solid defensive front gets everyone back, led by first
team All-WAC star tackle D’Anthony Smith.
The 6-2, 302-pound senior was third on the team with 65 tackles to go along with
a team-leading five sacks and eight tackles for loss. Extremely active, he’s
more like a huge end playing on the inside with the toughness to hold up well
against the run. He’ll get a long, hard look from the NFL types throughout the
season. He’s in a salary drive.
The other potential star up front is end
Kwame Jordan, a 6-4, 245-pound former JUCO transfer who made 16 tackles, 3.5
sacks and six tackles for loss despite having injury problems all season long.
If he’s right for a full year, he’ll be one of the WAC’s best pass rushers and a
constant threat in the backfield.
On the other side of Jordan will be 6-4, 225-pound sophomore
Matt Broha. While he’s a bit
undersized, he held up well for the entire season starting every game on the
left side and making 27 tackles. Even though he’s extremely athletic he didn’t
do enough to get to the quarterback with just 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for
loss. Even so, he was still disruptive highlighted by a 40-yard interception
return for a touchdown against Utah State.
Starting again on the inside will be 6-2, 255-pound junior
Mason Hitt. More of a defensive end than a tackle, he was part of a
steady rotation finishing with 34 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.
He could move outside to the end if needed, but he has proven to be tough enough
to handle himself well next to D’Anthony Smith.
Projected Top Reserves: Returning as a big part of the defensive
end rotation is 6-3, 240-pound sophomore
Jared Barron after he made 33 tackles, 2.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss.
He worked in and out of the line up when Kwame Jordan was banged up and
produced. While he’s not a speedster, he’s a consistent threat into the
6-1, 235-pound sophomore Christian Lacey
saw time in half the season at end and made the most of his time with four
sacks and five tackles for loss in his limited action. He also came up with 12
tackles. A pure pass rushing specialist, he’ll rotate at both outside spots.
Adding some size on the inside will be 6-0, 290-pound
Philip Longino, a sophomore who made
three tackles in his little bit of time. He’ll work at both tackle spots and
will come in for Mason Hitt when more beef is needed.
Watch Out For ... Jordan. He didn’t come up with the big season
expected thanks to a slew of injuries, but he has the potential to be a
double-digit sacker if he can stay healthy.
Strength: Experience. All four starters are back and there’s good,
quality depth, especially on the ends. The line will be fine if injuries strike,
with the exception of losing Smith, and it should be good at doing everything
Weakness: Tackles for loss. Considering the talent on the ends and
the push from the inside, the Bulldogs should do a better job of coming up with
big plays behind the line. Generating sacks is one thing, but doing more against
the run is another.
Outlook: The run defense was among the best in the nation last
year, partly because everyone spent so much time torching the mediocre
secondary. The front was good at getting to the quarterback and now it should be
even better with four excellent pass rushing ends and a superstar in tackle
D’Anthony Smith to work around. This will be one of the WAC’s premier lines.
The good and the bad of losing star Quin Harris for long
stretches to injury was the quality time it allowed others to get. 5-11,
219-pound junior Dominique Faust
started five games and made 42 tackles with three sacks showing good range and
quickness. While he’s not all that big, he’s ideal for the weakside with his
athleticism and his ability to stay with any back in pass patterns. However,
he’ll start out on the strongside.
Brannon Jackson was a leader and a star in the middle of the corps. Ready to
take over will be sophomore Adrien Cole,
a 5-11, 245-pound big hitter who made 30 tackles in his freshman season. A
tough, hard-nosed player, he also has more range than Jackson had and he should
be even more active into the backfield.
6-4, 215-pound sophomore Jay Dudley
stepped up late in the year to start the final two games and finish with six
tackles. A star high school wide receiver, as well as a linebacker, Dudley can
move well for his size with the toughness to play the middle if needed. He’ll
start on the weakside, but he’ll likely see time at all three spots.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior
Brian White was on his way to a good season starting five times and
making 19 tackles before getting knocked out for the year with a wrist injury. A
great special teamer early in his career, the 6-1, 220-pounder took advantage of
the starting spot on the outside and handled the job well before getting hurt.
He’ll be one of the key reserves on the outside if he doesn’t take over a
Mostly a special teamer so far, 6-2, 225-pound junior
Kiamni Washington stepped up and became more of a defender last
season with 31 tackles and two broken up passes from the weakside. One of the
best athletes on the defense, he has the potential to do far more if he’s turned
loose into the backfield.
6-3, 213-pound sophomore Dusty Rust
made nine tackles in his eight games of playing time, but now he’ll be used more
on the strongside in a rotation with Dominique Faust. He’s a sound, active
tackler who’s motor is running all the time to make up for his lack of size.
Watch Out For ... a steady rotation. With interchangeable parts
and options for each spot, there’s no reason the linebacking corps shouldn’t be
fresh at all times.
Strength: The options. There can be plenty of tinkering by the
coaching staff to get the right fit. There are several good players to choose
from and work with.
Weakness: A superstar. The whole is better than the sum of the
parts. While that might not be a bad thing, there isn’t a sure-thing all-star
like Quin Harris or Brannon Jackson to rely on. The corps needs to find an
anchor early on.
Outlook: The overall production should be fine even though there’s
little in the way of star power. There’s plenty of quickness, lots of good
athleticism, and enough experience to hope for the corps to eventually turn into
a major strength. The key will be finding the right rotation to get all the
options in the mix enough to contribute.
Leading the way is senior
Antonio Baker, a tackling machine who led the team two years ago
with 118 stops and last year with 115 tackles, to go along with three
interceptions, three forced fumbles, and 4.5 tackles for loss from his free
safety position. A consistent tackler who doesn’t miss a stop, the 5-11,
208-pound two-time first-team All-WAC selection gets all over the field like a
fourth linebacker against the run. However, he has to do more when the ball is
in the air. While he can’t do it all alone, he has to make even more big plays
and has to provide more help to the new corners.
Also back is senior strong safety Deon
Young after making 59 tackles with three interceptions. At 5-11 and 202
pounds he’s built more like a running back than a safety, but he can hit. He has
the speed to move out to corner or play free safety, but he has found a home at
strong safety and should be a fringe all-star.
The secondary got torched throughout last year so losing any one player isn’t
going to be a big deal, but the team will miss pick-off artist Weldon Brown.
Ready to take his place at one corner is
Terry Carter, a 5-10, 183-pound speedster who got four starts and finished
with 28 tackles and two interceptions, taking one for a score. He’s a good
tackler with next-level 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.
Taking over at the other corner spot will likely be junior
Josh Victorian, a safety early in his career who showed off enough
speed to see time at corner. The 5-10, 183-pounder made 11 tackles and broke up
three passes with most of his production coming in the bowl win. The job is
hardly set in stone; he’ll have to earn the spot with steady play all season
Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 200-pound junior Tarence Calais
was the team's top recruit two years ago and started to show why last season
with 59 tackles and three sacks. Part strong safety, part nckleback, “Tank” can
play just about anywhere in the secondary and will once again be a
jack-of-all-trades. However, he has to do more than tackle; he needs to pick off
a pass. He didn’t record any interceptions or any broken up passes.
Pushing hard for time in the corner rotation will be 5-11, 180-pound sophomore
Darrius Terry, a decent prospect who
made three tackles and forced a fumble in a limited role. A great athlete who
can tackle, he might see a little time in nickel and dime packages.
Watch Out For ... more from the corners. Even with the loss of
starters Weldon Brown and Stevon Howze there should be more production. Offenses
had few problems moving the ball on the outside last year, and although there
are new starters to the mix, the potential is there to be better. However,
losing Brown’s five interceptions hurts.
Strength: Baker. He’s one of the WAC’s premier defensive players
with a nose for the football and tremendous open-field tackling ability. Young
is a good one, too, but Baker is the star of the secondary and the key to the
Weakness: Stopping the pass. The Bulldogs haven’t done it for a
few years allowing 287 yards per game and 27 touchdown passes two years ago and
273 yards per game and 25 scores last year. While there weren’t many big plays
allowed, quarterbacks were able to dink and dunk to death.
Outlook: Tech has had one of the worst pass defenses in the nation
over the last few years and it hasn’t just been because it plays in the WAC.
There will be interceptions thanks to the aggressive nature of the secondary,
but there has to be more done to stop the short to midrange throws. Quarterbacks
can’t be completing 60% of their passes.
Thanks to WR
Phillip Livas, Tech has one of the nation’s best return games averaging 23.9
yards per kickoff return and 13 yards per punt return. Livas is a threat every
time he touches the ball and will be avoided on every punt after averaging 15.3
yards per punt return with two scores and 25.8 yards per kickoff return.
Gone is star punter Chris Keagle and kicker Brad Oestriecher.
Cade Glasgow is a redshirt freshman
who had a stellar high school punting career, but it’ll be asking a lot to
average 40.5 yards per kick, put 27 inside the 20, and force 15 fair catches
like Keagle did last year.
Senior Joel Hall,
a transfer from Arkansas, will get the first shot at replacing Oestriecher, who
hit 14-of-28 field goal attempts with five of the misses coming from beyond 50
Watch Out For ...
Glasgow to turn out to be a weapon. While he might not be Keagle right away,
Glasgow has the potential to be a steady force for the special teams for the
next four years.
Strength: The return game. Phillip Livas is among the nation’s
best all-around players. Tech will get great field position from teams doing
everything possible to stay away from him.
Weakness: Sure-thing kickers. Hall isn’t going to be the most
accurate kicker around and Glasgow is just a redshirt freshman. They’re not
going to be a glaring weakness, but they’re unproven in the clutch.
Outlook: The special teams, arguably the best in the WAC last
year, will be great in the return game and on the coverage teams, but it’ll need
time before the kicking game comes around. Everything will be fine, but the
special teams won’t be as good as they were last year.