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2009 Louisiana Tech Preview - Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 29, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Louisiana Tech Bulldog Defense

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Preview 2009 - Defense

- 2009 CFN Louisiana Tech Preview | 2009 Louisiana Tech Offense
- 2009 Louisiana Tech Defense | 2009 Louisiana Tech Depth Chart
- 2008 Tech Preview | 2007 Tech Preview | 2006 Tech Preview 

What you need to know:
The D was far better last year, even though there were plenty of holes in the pass defense, after being among the worst in America in 2006 and 2007. Things will be even better this year led by a tough, veteran defensive line with D’Anthony Smith anchoring things at tackle and Kwame Jordan due to emerge on the outside. The secondary has to replace both starting corners, but Antonio Baker and Deon Young will be among the WAC’s best safety tandems. Now the whole group has to start stopping the pass after allowing 273 yards per game. The linebacking corps loses Quin Harris and Brannon Jackson, and while there isn’t much in the way of star power, there are several decent, quick options for the ultra-aggressive defense to use.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Antonio Baker, 115
Sacks: D'Anthony Smith, 5
Interceptions: Deon Young, 3

Star of the defense: Senior 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

Defensive Line

Projected Starters
:
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 backfield. 

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 well.
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.
Rating: 6.5

Linebackers


Projected Starters
:
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 starting job.

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.
Rating: 5.5

Defensive Backs


Projected Starters
:
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 long.
 
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 run defense.
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.
Rating: 5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
:
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 yards.

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.
Rating: 6.5