By: chalifour.eric | 5/11/12, 12:36 PM EDT
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You can read the entire Louisiana Tech Bulldogs preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 National magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
#63 Louisiana Tech
HEAD COACH: Sonny Dykes, 13-12 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Tony Franklin | DEF. COORDINATOR: Tommy Spangler
Ever since Sonny Dykes showed up at Louisiana Tech and brought offensive guru Tony Franklin with him, there’s been little doubt that the Bulldogs would be able to churn out yards and points. Now, with a veteran offensive line back intact, an abundance of playmakers at receiver and a battle-tested quarterback with a talented backup nipping at his heels, Tech is poised to take an even bigger and more explosive step.
The Bulldogs generated 394.6 yards and 30.1 points per game last season on the way to a breakthrough 8–5 campaign. Quarterback Colby Cameron stepped in midway through last season and passed for 1,667 yards and 13 touchdowns with only three interceptions in 215 attempts. He’s back as the starter, but fellow Californian Zach Griffith was impressive in the Spring Game with 419 yards and three scoring strikes.
Whoever gets the keys to the offense has a host of veteran receivers to choose from, led by Quinton Patton, who led the team with 79 catches for 1,202 yards and 11 TDs in 2011, and Myles White, who caught seven passes for 110 yards in Tech’s Poinsettia Bowl loss to TCU.
Tech doesn’t rely much on its running game — the Bulldogs ranked 70th in the nation in rushing in 2011 — but former walk-on Hunter Lee is back after carving out 650 yards on the ground last fall. He will be joined by incoming freshman Kenneth Dixon.
There’s also a ton of experience on the line, which could start four seniors and one junior.
Under coordinator Tommy Spangler, this unit has shown steady improvement in Dykes’ tenure and was a key to Tech’s resurgence last season.
During a seven-game winning streak to close out the regular season, the Bulldogs allowed more than 21 points only once and gave up a total of 27 points total in their final three games. There was a bend-but-don’t-break approach last season, with 31 forced turnovers at the core of Tech’s success. Rush defense was a strength as well.
Nickel back Javontay Crowe, safety Chad Boyd and cornerback Dave Clark are the anchors in the secondary. End IK Enemkpali has gradually built himself into a major player in the front seven and is back after recording 7.5 tackles for a loss. The two starting linebackers in the Bulldogs’ 4-2-5 scheme will be junior Rufus Poter and senior Solomon Randle.
The kicking game was a major cog in Tech’s success a year ago, and many of the major players on those units are back. Punter Ryan Allen was spectacular in 2011, averaging 46.1 yards per attempt with 29 punts of 50-plus yards and 39 killed inside the 20. Placekicker Matt Nelson connected on 15-of-21 field goals and was also steady on kickoffs. Lyle Fitte, Andrew Guillot and Levander Liggins have explosive ability in the return game, though the Bulldogs ranked in the middle of the pack in the WAC in both punt and kickoff returns.
After years of coming close, the Bulldogs broke through and won the WAC championship — their first since 2001 — with a 6–1 mark in league play. Anything less than a repeat, in a watered-down league that no longer includes Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada, would be a major disappointment. There are also some opportunities early in the season for the Bulldogs to make a splash nationally with a schedule that includes a game vs. Texas A&M in Shreveport and road trips to Houston, Illinois and Virginia.