Two Quarterbacks Good or Bad for Bulldogs?

(Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune)

In the Air Raid offense, a quarterback's arm could get tired.

Maybe that's why first-year Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes is still planning on using as many as three quarterbacks in Saturday's opener against Grambling State University in a neutral-field game being played in Shreveport, La.

More likely, however, is the reality that Steven Ensminger, who was named the team's starter after the first week of August training camp, has been less than impressive since, and Ross Jenkins, the Bulldogs' starter for 20 straight games, has capitalized.

When the team's initial depth chart came out Monday for Saturday's season opener, both quarterbacks were listed as starters. Throw in the promise from Dykes that sophomore Colby Cameron will still get his reps, and it's clear the position battle is still very much underway in Ruston, La.

"We'll just see how it plays out this week," Dykes told the Monroe News-Star. "We feel good about three quarterbacks. That's the good thing." Of course, some would point to the old football cliche -- if you have two (or in this case three) quarterbacks, you don't have one -- to stomp out Dykes' positive spin.

And it should be noted that when Ensminger was named starter on Aug. 15, Dykes made it clear that having one guy take the reins would be ideal.

"We need time to invest a number of reps in our starting quarterback and want to do that as quickly as possible," Dykes said. "By naming Steven our starter now, he will have some extra time to make sure he is on the same page with the rest of our offense."

Louisiana Tech coaches are hoping the season opener will provide what fall camp obviously did not -- a clear-cut answer under center.

NOTES, QUOTES --First-year head coach Sonny Dykes hasn't been afraid of shaking things up this fall. Previous starters who don't fit his new style were never guaranteed a spot and a glance at the opening-week depth chart shows a lot of names used to being listed as first-teamers are now either looking over their shoulder or will be watching the start of Saturday's opener from the sideline after losing their positions.

--Lon Roberts had started 37 consecutive games at center, but is now listed as a backup guard. Phillip Livas, a return specialist who was also a starting receiver in years past, could do no better than getting an "OR" placed between his name and that of freshman Jacarri Jackson for the starting X-receiver position.

--At quarterback, 20-game starter Ross Jenkins lost the job early in fall camp, but worked his way back into the "OR" category with Steven Ensminger.

--With just more than a week before the Bulldogs' opener against Grambling State, head coach Sonny Dykes announced the indefinite suspensions of four players -- WR Tim Moulton, WR R.P. Stuart, WR Cruz Williams and LB Kiamni Washington. Dykes would only say the punishment was for breaking an unspecified team rule and would not comment on when the players would be eligible to return to the team.

--LT Rob McGill, CB Josh Victorian, LB Adrien Cole and S Tank Calais have been named the Bulldogs' team captains. The four were chosen by a team vote. Head coach Sonny Dykes will also use at least four game-to-game captains in RB Myke Compton, QB Ross Jenkins, RB Roosevelt Falls, WR Phillip Livas and LB Jay Dudley.

SERIES HISTORY: First meeting.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: You can bet on the ball being in the air quite a bit when Louisiana Tech is on offense, but who will be putting it there is another question. Steven Ensminger and Ross Jenkins are still battling it out for starting duties, and this is a scheme predicated on repetition and timing so don't count on a two-headed quarterback much of the season if head coach Sonny Dykes wants his offense to run smoothly. The offensive line should be solid, even with some shuffling and the players having to shift from a run-based approach a season ago to a pass-happy protections scheme this fall.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: While it might be night and day comparing this year's offense to last year's, the defense should be familiar, as the unit is headed up by holdover defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler and has several returning starters. Then again, that might not be the best news in the world, considering the 2009 run defense allowed 936 yards to Auburn, Nevada and Navy (312 yards per game) and just 1,019 yards over the other nine games (113.2 yards per game). Linebackers Adrien Cole and Tank Calais are key in stopping Grambling State this week and pretty much the rest of the opponents on the schedule.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The good thing is I haven't heard much talk about Grambling. We're just talking about us and how we need to improve." -- Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Grambling State vs. Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, La., Sept. 4 -- In the first meeting of the teams in what is being dubbed the Port City Classic it will be interesting to see which squad's unsettled quarterback situation unravels first. Both team's coaches entered their final week of preparation without settling on one quarterback, and while the Bulldogs should be the heavy favorite, breaking in a new scheme and a new coach could equate to perfect timing for Grambling State's upset hopes.

KEYS TO THE GAME: There will be some transition for Tech as it tries to settle into its new offense, so a quick start for Grambling State is its best shot at an upset. Get to the Bulldogs quarterback -- Steven Ensminger or Ross Jenkins -- early and often and take him out of his rhythm and you've got a shot of grounding the air attack.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Ross Jenkins or Steven Ensminger -- Even though Sonny Dykes' version of the Air Raid offense is far more capable of utilizing the run game or even the tight end, it's still predicated on a quarterback who has confidence, timing and knowledge of the game plan. Whichever quarterback looks more comfortable early on could move his way into the starter's role permanently, as this is not a quarterback battle the staff wants to drag out.

S Tank Calais -- While the offense could go through some growing pains, Calais could be the steadying force on a defense that allows Tech to stay in games while the offense finds its way. Calais is coming off a 77-tackle season and has a chance to be one of the league's best. He'll be looking to set the tone early this season, and a weaker foe like Grambling is his chance.

C Steven Warner -- The sophomore got the starting nod in a coaching decision that runs the risk of upsetting the veterans on the team if there are early struggles. He replaces 37-game starter Lon Roberts, and if he plays well, there is no issue. If he struggles, however, veteran players and many fans could begin questioning Dykes' decision-making ability early in his tenure.

ROSTER REPORT: --QB Steven Ensminger was named the starter after just a week of preseason training camp, but has been less than stellar since. Ross Jenkins, Tech's starting quarterback for the past 20 games, and sophomore Colby Cameron are also expected to get some reps, with Jenkins still very much in the mix to regain his job.

--LG Lon Roberts, a senior who had started 37 consecutive games at center, lost out at that position to sophomore Steven Warner. Roberts is now listed as a backup at LG behind sophomore Kevin Saia.

--Much like at quarterback, Louisiana Tech has three guys its believes can get the job done at punter in projected starter Ryan Allen and backups Stuart Scurria and Cade Glasgow (last year's punter).

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