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NCAA Football Preview - Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

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*** NCAA Football Preview - Louisiana Tech Bulldogs ***

From The Sports Network By Gregg Xenakes, College Football Staff Writer 2003 SEASON IN REVIEW: The Bulldogs are still one of the fresh faces in the Western Athletic Conference, and after winning the league title just a few years ago it seemed that head coach Jack Bicknell could do no wrong. However, every season has its own set of twists and turns, and in 2003 Louisiana Tech took a turn for the worse at the wrong time. It certainly didn't help matters that LaTech put Miami on the schedule for the opener. While the Bulldogs were optimistic that they could shake up the college football world, the Hurricanes knew better and blew past Tech by a score of 48-9 in Shreveport. Aside from a 16-6 setback to Fresno State a month later, it was the fewest points scored by the Bulldogs all year. Only once did LaTech win back-to-back games, coming against Louisiana-Lafayette (34-3) and Michigan State (20-19), both of which were on the road to many a surprise. The team then had hard-fought losses to both Boise State (43-37) and Hawaii (44-41) at home, before closing out the 2003 campaign with three defeats in the last four games. Of course the 49-10 loss to LSU was understandable, but a 48-18 decision against Tulsa and a 49-14 debacle versus Rice at home to close out the year was downright embarrassing. The team finished 5-7 overall, just 3-5 and in seventh place in the 10-team Western Athletic Conference. 2004 ANALYSIS: OFFENSE: The biggest issue for the Bulldogs this season will be replacing quarterback Luke McCown who took nearly every snap for the squad in passing for 3,246 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. The only other signal-caller to stand under center for LaTech in 2003 was Maxie Causey, who connected on 21- of-48 for 273 yards, one touchdown and one interception and even he's no longer in Ruston. The most coveted spot on the football team is completely up for grabs between juniors Matt Kubik, Donald Allen and Brent Rawls, along with redshirt freshman Zac Champion. No matter which one takes the field for the Bulldogs the first week, Bicknell knows that he can switch things up at the drop of a hat in order to find the right combination. After setting numerous Tech records last year, Ryan Moats is firmly entrenched at the running back spot for the Bulldogs, having gained 1,300 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns in 2003. Gone are the top three receivers from a year ago, the group of D.J. Curry, Chris Norwood and Shawn Piper, who combined for 137 of the unit's 267 receptions. Because the team has often run with sets that include as many as five wideouts, there are already plenty of players with game experience ready to take the field. Probably at the top of the list is Tramissian Davis who reeled in 22 balls for 410 yards and three scores in 2003. Protecting the skills players will be all five returning starters on the front line for the Bulldogs (Lester Brown, Aaron Lips, Marcus Stewart, Jordan Lang and Adrian Gonzalez). The group averages close to 300 lbs each, which means trying to exploit any one of them will be a tough job. DEFENSE: New defensive coordinator Tim Rose, who served in the same capacity while with Eastern Michigan, will have his hands full trying to turn around one of the more disappointing aspects of the Bulldogs. Last season the unit surrendered 6,126 yards of total offense to competitors, averaging out to more than 500 yards per game. No matter how good your offense might be, trying to overcome numbers like that is asking an awful lot. Rose has decided to change the unit to a 3-4 front, which means former right end Wendell Crowe, left tackle Chris Van Hoy and left end Jemelle Cage may have to adapt their approaches in order to fit the system, a change that could hurt as much as it helps LaTech. Cage missed a couple of starts in 2003 with an injury, yet still finished as the team leader in sacks with four, and had a total of 12 TFLs. In addition to the two end positions, the Bulldog coaching staff has created what they call the "tackle" slot, a spot that is going to be controlled by either Travon Brown or Quarvay Winbush. The four linebacker spots will be locked up by a handful of qualified and anxious athletes led by Byron Santiago. The senior surprised everyone last year as he led the team in tackles with 107 and was consequently named second team All-WAC for his efforts. T.J. Jackson will get in his hits at the MIKE linebacker position, one of five players to have recorded a pair of interceptions last season. In the secondary, seniors Michael Johnson and Lee Johnson have hold of the free safety and strong safety spots, respectively, and Corey Brazil tries to improve upon his team-high 16 pass break-ups from a year ago at cornerback. SPECIAL TEAMS: Here is yet another area of concern for the Bulldogs in the upcoming campaign, trying to replace the experience of four-year starters Josh Scobee and Dustin Upton at both the placekicker and punter spots. Redshirt freshman Zach Myatt is the odds on favorite to be the Bulldogs next kicker, although freshman Danny Horwedel will push for a starting role as well. Either one could also be involved in the punting duties, or perhaps walk-on David Black could get the nod. As if playing cornerback for Tech was not enough, Brazil will also be the main return man on punts after averaging just over 13 yards per return last year. OUTLOOK: The opener this season, originally scheduled to be against Louisiana-Lafayette but is now versus Nevada at home, should be a win, but then the Bulldogs go right back to make foolish schedule decisions with Miami- Florida on the road no less on September 18. Add to that non-conference meetings with powerhouses Tennessee and Auburn, as well as an early date with Fresno State at home in October, and the Bulldogs could easily be 1-4 by the time they even begin to focus on the bulk of their league affairs. With three of its last four games of the regular season on the road, LaTech is probably looking at another record at or below .500 in 2004.
Tagged: Louisiana Tech

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