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2009 Louisiana Tech Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 29, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Louisiana Tech Bulldog Offense

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 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 offense was full of veterans last year and it now returns with nine starters and plenty of talent. WR Phillip Livas is one of the nation’s best all-around playmakers, Daniel Porter is a 1,000-yard back, and the line returns all five starters. The quarterback situation is more settled than it was last year, but Ross Jenkins needs to be more of a playmaker than just a caretaker. The running game should still be strong with a slew of ultra-quick backs, led by Porter, and with Livas getting some work, but the passing game needs to do more. With all the experience needs to come more production, a more efficient passing game, and more points against defenses with a pulse.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Ross Jenkins
92-174, 1,155 yds, 7 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Daniel Porter
222 carries, 1,164 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Phillip Livas
43 catches, 607 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Junior WR Phillip Livas
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Ross Jenkins
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Kris Cavitt
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Dennis Morris
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Livas, 2) RB Daniel Porter, 3) OT Rob McGill
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, experience
Weakness of the offense: Consistent passing game, veteran reserves

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
:
Junior Ross Jenkins didn’t have the starting job at the beginning of last year, but he took it over midway through and ended up leading the Bulldogs on a nice run. The 6-3, 212 pounder threw for 1,155 yards and seven touchdowns with just three interceptions, with two coming in the win over Utah State, and he even showed a little bit of mobility netting 56 yards with a score. More of a game-manager than a bomber, it’s his job to not screw up, keep the chains moving, and not lose the game.   

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Steven Ensminger started out his career at Auburn, sat out a year after transferring, and spent last year on the scout team. At 6-2 and 231 pounds he’s a strong, tough player with a live arm and a big-time high school résumé, winning the 2005 Louisiana 5A state high school title. He has the talent and the time in the program. Now he has to get on the field.

Also pushing for a job will be Randy Hardin, a transfer from Southern Miss who sat out last season. While he’s only 6-0 and 195 pounds, he’s a strong, ultra-accurate passer who threw for 7,463 yards and 76 touchdowns with only 18 interceptions at Rutherford High in Jacksonville. While he’s not a runner, he can move.

Watch Out For ... the transfers. While it’s Ross Jenkins’ job, Ensminger and Hardin are looking to push hard for the starting job. It’s not like Jenkins will throw for 4,000 yards, so if there’s an opening, the transfers could step in.
Strength: Veterans. Even though Ensminger and Hardin haven’t played, they’ve been around the college world long enough to know what they’re doing in practices and off the field; they’re not true freshmen. Jenkins should be a steady leader throughout the season.
Weakness: Experience. Fine, so the backups are transfers and aren’t totally green, but they haven’t seen real, live playing time. Jenkins has only been the main man for half a season.
Outlook: It was supposed to be one of the WAC’s most interesting quarterback battles last year, but it turned out to be Taylor Bennett and Ross Jenkins. Bennett is gone meaning Jenkins will have to come up with the same production he showed late last year. However, the overall accuracy in the passing game has to be better. It was mostly Bennett’s fault, but the Bulldogs completed just 46% of their passes. Steven Ensminger and Randy Hardin are good prospects waiting in the wings if Jenkins stumbles.
Rating: 5.5

Running Backs


Projected Starter
:
With Patrick Jackson gone, it’ll be up to senior Daniel Porter to carry the bulk of the workload by himself. He was able to get the job done last year with a team-leading 1,164 yards and nine touchdowns, scoring six times in the final six games, and he was good for around a catch per game. He had a nice string of five 100-yard games in six highlighted by a 189-yard, two-touchdown day in the win over Fresno State. While he’s not all that big at 5-9 and 190 pounds, but the All-WAC selection is tough, very fast, and is great at darting in and out of holes.

Stepping in for Anthony Harrison at the U position, a hybrid of tight end and fullback, will be 5-10, 235-pound junior Tristan Broussard. A scout teamer the last two years, he’ll be used mostly as a blocker while the tight ends will fill the receiver role.

Projected Top Reserves: Needing to take over the No. 2 job will be Myke Compton, a tremendous special teamer over the last two years who came up with 74 yards and a touchdown in a limited role. The 5-8, 193-pound speedster is one of the team’s fastest players.

Also looking to become more of a factor in the running game is Allen Gilbert, a 5-9, 195-pound sophomore who got a little bit of work in the first two games of the year, running for 17 yards, before getting knocked out for the season hurt. Extremely fast, he’s a sprinter who has the potential to become a home run hitter.

Adding even more speed and quickness is true freshman Tyrone Duplessis. Only 5-8 and 185 pounds, he’s not going to power over anyone, but he’s a do-it-all type who could be used in a variety of ways as a receiver, a kick returner, and a runner.
 
Watch Out For ... a battle for the No. 2 spot. Patrick Jackson was a nice backup, and an occasional No. 1 option, Compton and Gilbert will have to combine forces to get to the 653 yards Jackson cranked out last year.
Strength: Quickness. Everyone can move and everyone can flash out of the backfield for five yards a crack. There’s no shortage of speed.
Weakness: Size of any sort and backup experience. There’s no one of note over 195 pounds who can run with any semblance of power. Compton and Gilbert don’t have enough appreciable experience to be counted on.
Outlook: The Bulldogs were able to finish second in the WAC with a good offensive line, a great season from Daniel Porter, and a little help from WR Phillip Livas. The key will be the production from Allen Gilbert and Myke Compton to take over for Patrick Jackson, but the ground game will live and die on the legs of Porter. The big question will be whether or not the group can produce against a strong run defense. There aren’t many in the WAC.
Rating: 6

Receivers


Projected Starters
:
While the receiving corps is hit hard by graduation, the star of the show returns. Junior Phillip Livas was a star recruit for the program and he didn't disappoint as a true freshman catching 28 passes for 504 yards and three touchdowns averaging 18 yards per grab. Last year he took things to another level catching a team-leading 43 passes for 607 yards and two touchdowns while finishing third on the team with 337 rushing yards and two scores. He’s also an elite kick returner averaging 25.8 yards per kickoff and 15.3 yards, with two touchdowns, as a punt returner. While he’s not big at only 5-8 and 175 pounds, he’s one of the nation’s best all-around players. 

Sophomore R.P. Stuart will be a big, physical target to add to the mix. The 6-3, 205-pounder made seven catches for 58 yards and was used occasionally as a rusher finishing fourth on the team with 79 yards on nine carries. An extremely good athlete for his size, Stuart is quick and can jump out of the stadium.

Senior tight end Dennis Morris has NFL ability but isn’t close to being as productive as he should be. Part of the reason has been the offense, part of the reason has been the lack of a consistent passing game, and part of the reason has been because Morris hasn’t done enough with just seven catches for 156 yards and a touchdown last season. A good blocker with excellent 6-2, 266-pound size, the former high school sprinter can also move. He has home run hitting ability, but now he has to be more involved in the attack.
 
Projected Top Reserves: Morris is the team’s most talented tight end, but it’s 6-4, 252-pound senior Dustin Mitchell who has spent the most time as the starter. He got the call over the first half of last year, and finished with seven starts, making seven catches for 112 yards with a touchdown. While he’s hardly a field-stretcher, he’s a good receiver who can do more for the offense and be used as a fullback from time to time.  

6-4, 205-pound sophomore Cruz Williams will combine with R.P. Stuart for one of the open spots. He’s a big, tough, physical blocker and a good all-around prospect. A great recruit for the program a few years ago, he saw a little time last year before getting hurt and knocked out for the year. When he’s healthy, he has the athleticism and the size to potentially be a No. 1 target.

Sophomore Houston Tuminello turned into a nice backup in his true freshman season making 12 catches for 117 yards. While his two catches for 30 yards in the Independence Bowl win over Northern Illinois might not have seemed like much, he led the team. At 6-1 and 180 pounds, he has decent size and should be a good contributor over the next three years on the inside.

There will be a spot somewhere for Richie Casey, a 6-0, 180-pound redshirt freshman who spent last year on the scout team. Extremely fast and very athletic, he’s the type of target who can take a short pass the distance from anywhere on the field. He’ll also be used as a runner as well as a receiver.

Watch Out For ... the tight ends to be used far more. One of the biggest flaws in the offense over the last few years has been an inability to utilize Morris and Mitchell more in all phases. Each will see time as a blocker and each should get more involved in the passing game.
Strength: Tight ends and Livas. Morris and Mitchell could end up making NFL teams next year. Livas isn’t all that big and looks like he could snap in two at any time, but he’s one of the best all-around weapons in the WAC.
Weakness: A proven No. 2 receiver. Losing Philip Beck, who finished second on the team with 25 catches, will be a problem, while losing the blocking of Shane Womack will also hurt. There’s good speed and excellent potential ready to come through, but there’s no real experience to rely on behind Livas.
Outlook: Blame the ineffective quarterback play, and the emergence of a strong running game, for why the receivers weren’t all that great last year. Even so, Phillip Livas showed just how good he could be with the ball in his hands as both a runner and a receiver, while the tight ends, Dennis Morris and Dustin Mitchell, have the potential to be special. Now the key will be the emergence of a second wide receiver. Sophomores Cruz Williams and R.P. Stuart will be counted on right away.
Rating: 65.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
All five starters return to the O line led by Rob McGill, a 6-7, 305-pound second-team All-WAC performer at left tackle. Able to play inside or out, he stepped up into the role at tackle starting every game and turning into a steady pass protector and a strong run blocker. He’s the star the rest of the line will work around.

Next to McGill will be Ben Harris, the only senior up front. At 6-4 and 282 pounds, he’s an agile run blocker who’s good on his feet. While he looks a bit more like a pumped up tight end than a bruising guard, he’s been physical.

Starting in the middle will once again be 6-3, 280-pound Lon Roberts, a junior who started every game and has been the quarterback up front for the last 25 games. While he hasn’t earned all-star honors, he’s been an excellent all-around blocker who should get more attention after two excellent years.

6-8, 335-pound junior Cudahy Harmon started 11 games bringing the beef at right tackle. Surprisingly athletic for his size, he hasn’t been all that bad against speed rushers with his biggest strength his ability to pound away when he gets to use his long arms to push defenders away. The big key will be his size; he has to get to around 320 to be at his most effective.

Kris Cavitt stepped in at right guard as a redshirt freshman starting over the final six games of the year. While he’s not a big bruiser at 6-3 and 288 pounds, he’s a good blocker who’s only going to get better. He didn’t play long in high school, getting on the football field for just one season after spending most of his athletic life playing basketball. He’s just scratching the surface.
 
Projected Top Reserves: Able to step in and start at either guard spot is Jared Miles, a good backup who started the first seven games at right guard. At 6-3 and 333 pounds, he’s a massive blocker, too massive at times, who’s great for the ground game but is limited in pass protection. He stepped aside with the emergence of the more athletic Kris Cavitt, but he’s a reliable junior who’ll start again soon.

JUCO transfer Jacob Miller is a 6-3, 285-pound center who can play just about anywhere on the line. He started in the middle for Hutchinson CC in Kansas and is expected to show up and be a major factor in the rotation from day one. He’s a good, ready-made blocker who can run and pass block equally well.

One of the team’s best recruits this year was Jordan Mills, a massive, athletic 6-6, 325-pound tackle who got some long looks from some bigger schools. While he could end up on the defensive line if needed, he’s a star recruit for the O line where he’ll be given a hard look for one of the backup tackle spots.

Watch Out For ... 2010. This was one of the WAC’s better lines last year, returns intact, and gets back four starters next season. If Louisiana Tech is truly going to emerge as a WAC superpower over the next two seasons it’ll be because the front five has grown into something special.
Strength: Experience. This was a veteran line going into last year and then it stayed together most of the season. And now everyone is back. This was a great line for the ground game and it wasn’t too bad in pass protection. However …
Weakness: Pass protection. The line was better, but it still wasn’t great. After giving up 63 sacks in two seasons, the Bulldogs allowed 25 sacks on only 343 pass attempts. The protection should be better, but it’s still not likely to be a rock.
Outlook: This is a good-sized, veteran group that should be among the best in the WAC with the potential to only get better. There isn’t enough developed depth and there are some concerns with the pass protection, but overall this should be a good front five led by Rob McGill at left tackle. As good as it’ll be this season, it’ll be better next year.
Rating: 7