Louisiana Tech fans will see a new quarterback under center in 2011. There will also be a few new names on the schedule in the next few years.
With a year under his belt, Louisiana Tech Head Coach Sonny Dykes has a lot of the kinks worked out of his offense. The players are more familiar with the system, so this spring is more about improving and not quite as much about learning.
There will still be plenty of learning to do, especially with so many transfers joinging the team this spring. The majority of the team went through the initial learning process a year ago and now they can work a little faster.
All eyes are on the quarterback spot and Coach Dykes praised Zach Griffith and Colby Cameron for the work on Thursday. Cameron played a little early in the 2010 season and showed he has the skills necessary to get the job done. Coach Dykes felt like Cameron's knowledge of the offense helped him have the best day of the Bulldog quarterbacks.
The offensive line has familiar names across the spring depth chart. Jordan Mills, Kevin Saia, Stephen Warner, and Kris Cavitt have all started multiple games in their careers. Vine Cano is also listed as a started. The Kilgore, TX native is an extremely athletic and physical player. Newcomers Jeremy Graffree, Oscar Johnson, and Larry Banks will all push for starting spots on the line. Johnson has a huge frame at 6'7" 350 and Graffree was an All-American last year in the junior college ranks.
The offense will rely early and often on senior tailback Lennon Creer. Creer rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and could have a monster year in 2011. Creer's presence will draw the attention of the defense and allow the Tech quarterbacks and receivers time to gel.
With several new receivers, it will take time to see who stands out for the 2011 Bulldogs. Myles White brings great speed to the table. Quinton Patton should also be a really good addition. Richie Casey and Taulib Ikharo had the best seasons last year. Ahmad Paige and Tim Molton had a lot of attention last season and both had breakout games before going down with injuries. Lyle Fitte could be an X-factor for this team. He should have more of a role now that Phillip Livas has graduated.
On defense, The Bulldogs return their top 5 tacklers and 7 of their top 8. Matt Broha and IK Enemkpali combined for 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss last season. Jon'al White will join them on the defensive line. White and junior college linebackers Antonio Mitchum and Chip Hester give Tech tons of depth in the front seven.
The secondary will be the focus of the defense for Tech this spring. With Olajuwan Paige and Josh Victorian moving on, both cornerback spots will ahve to be filled. Dave Clark and Ryan Williams are the early favorites to start at corner. Chad Boyd, Javantay Crowe, and Jamel Johnson all return at safety.
The 2011 schedule was recently finalized. Central Arkansas and Houston come to Ruston while The Bulldogs tour the Magnolia State. Tech will play at Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Southern Miss in 2011.
Louisiana Tech announced future home and home series with UNLV and Rice starting in 2012. The Bulldogs will also play at Virginia and at Illinois in 2012.
For those taking notes, the next three year's schedules are really great. Go back over the last decade and you will see why.
In 2002, Tech played at Clemson, at Penn State, and at Texas A&M. The Bulldogs also hosted Oklahoma State. In 2003, Tech hosted Miami in Shreveport and also traveled to Michigan State and LSU.
As recently as 2006, Louisiana Tech played killer road schedules. That year, it was at Nebraska, at Texas A&M, and at Clemson. The 2002 season had only four games in Ruston with the Oklahoma State game being Tech's fifth home game.
It was not until 2008 that Tech had 6 home games. They did it again in 2010 and will again in 2012. Six home games every year is the desire of every Tech fan, but it look like it will be an every other year occurence. The administration feels it is necessary to play two road games against BCS teams. This is very reasonable considering how many times Tech played four of those teams in previous years.
The best part about these new schedules are the caliber of the BCS programs. No longer will you see Florida, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Clemson, Penn State, or Nebraska. Tech's non conference road games in the last decade read like an all time greatest program list.
From 2001-2010 Virginia's average record was 6.3-6.1, Illinois was 4.7-7.3, Ole Miss was 6.0-6.1, and Mississippi State was 4.3-7.6. No disrespect to those programs, but they are not as dominant as a Florida or an Auburn.
From 2001 to 2009, Tech fans also didn't see any home and home matchups with Conference USA teams. Athletic Director Bruce Van De Velde has to be given a lot of credit for putting together very favorable deals with this type of school.
Van De Velde knew he could go to Army to get the ball rolling when he first arrived in Ruston. He then secrued very nice 4 game deals with Southern Miss and Houston. The recent addition of UNLV and Rice are also very good for Tech fans. Tech will be competitive with all of these teams. UNLV's average record from 2001 to 2010 is 3.5-8.3.
In 2008, Tech traveled to Army and lost 14-7. Army will return the game in 2013. Southern Miss beat Tech in Ruston 13-12. Tech is 1-2 overall against USM in the last twenty years.
In that same time frame, Tech is 2-2 against Houston and 2-2 against Rice. Tech beat Houston in 1994 and 1995, the last two times they faced the Cougars. Tech last played Rice in 2004 down in Reliant Stadium and won 31-14.
These are all quality opponents. They are all teams that can beat you any given Saturday. The point is however, Tech isn't going into a season where most critics have them penciled in for four losses before the season even starts. There are no pre-season top 10 teams waiting with their 80,000+ crowds. Boise State is no longer in the conference either. If Sonny Dykes and Co. can get the ball rolling, they have a chance to do some really special things over the next three seasons. The ball, for really the first time since moving to Division One in 1988, is in their court.