During his inaugural head-coaching season in 2007, Dooley and company will welcome back 10 returning starters on defense. Though experienced, the '07 Tech defense will need to improve from last year, where they allowed 482.3 yards and 41.7 points per game and finished last in the conference in nearly every defensive category, if the Bulldogs are to pose a threat in their Western Athletic Conference.
As a unit, Tech's offense also struggled last season, allowing 32 sacks while tallying 37 turnovers.
Returning this year to lead the Tech offense for the second season looks to be senior quarterback Zac Champion, who threw for 2,466 yards with 14 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 13 starts as a junior.
Behind Champion at signal caller will once again be sophomore Michael Mosley, who completed 24 of 49 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns last year.
JUCO transfer Joe Danna, a junior who red shirted for the Bulldogs in 2006, and red shirt freshman Ross Jenkins will also compete for playing time behind center, both of whom showed promise in the Bulldog spring game.
On the other side of the passing game, Tech will need to fill in the hole left by wide receiver Jonathan Holland, a seventh round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders. Looking to pick up the slack will be junior Josh Wheeler, a second-year starter who accumulated 25 catches for 503 yards and led all Bulldog wide outs with four touchdowns as a sophomore.
Joining Wheeler in the receiving corps will be host of players including seniors Earl Griffin and Roderick Handy, juniors Shane Womack and Thomas Augusta, sophomore Brian Jackson and transfer Phillip Beck.
In the spring, Jackson and Womack were the top two producers aside for Wheeler, and are the likely early leaders for the two remaining starting spots this fall.
At tight end, sophomore Dennis Morris will fill in for the departed Anthony James. Morris had 16 catches for 284 yards and three touchdowns and as a backup last season.
Returning as the leader of the Bulldog ground attack will be junior Patrick Jackson, who ran for 854 yards and seven touchdowns on 170 carries in 2006.
Sophomore Daniel Porter will serve as the veteran backup at running back after rushing 82 times for 464 yards and two touchdowns during his freshman campaign.
The most experienced part of the
Bulldog offensive unit will be the front line, which will see the return of
three starters this year. Anchoring the line will be Tyler Miller, a 6-7, 305
lb. senior left tackle and three-year letterman from
Returning as the starter opposite Miller at right tackle is graduate student Ryan Considine, another three-year regular on the offensive front. Junior David Accardo is the third returning starter in the front five, making the return to the left guard position. Probable candidates to fill in the remaining center and right guard positions include 6-7, 327 lb. senior Kevin Bagot, who saw time in all 13 games last year, and junior Bill Jones, who started three times during his sophomore season.
Also vying for time will be
incoming freshmen Will Taylor and Lon Roberts, both of whom were standouts at
the high school level last season, and Grant Greathouse, a red shirt freshman
Defensively, 2007 will see the return of the entire front-four, which aims to improve on last year's run defense which allowed 225.4 rushing yards per game.
The line looks to be led by senior tackle Josh Muse, who recorded 48 tackles in 11 games a year ago. He will be joined by sophomore D'Anthony Smith, an eight-game starter as a freshman, at the other tackle, and Ben McGilton and Chris Pugh at the ends.
Pugh led the Bulldogs with 3.5 sacks last season, while Smith recorded half a sack and one interception in eight starts.
The heart of the Tech defense will once again be composed of linebackers Quin Harris and Marquis McBeath, who led the team last year with 95 tackles and 80 tackles, respectively. Harris also had team high's in tackles-for-loss with six, forced fumbles with three and fumble recoveries with four. Senior Brannon Jackson will return as the third starting linebacker. He recorded 67 tackles as a junior.
The bulldog defensive backfield returns three starters from last year's unit that allowed 257.8 yards per game through the air for 31 touchdowns. Senior Tony Moss and junior Weldon Brown return at the corners, combining for just three pass break ups and no interceptions last season. Senior Mark Dillard also returns to the Tech DB unit at strong safety after a junior year where he compiled 58 tackles and two interceptions. Shalamar Walker, who led the team with three interceptions last year, is a candidate for the open free safety position, but will be competing with a host of transfers, incoming freshmen, and red shirts; all of whom may play a role for the Bulldogs this season.
Everyone on the special teams will be back for another round in 2007 for Tech, headlined by senior place kicker Danny Horwedel, who went 8-12 on field goals and 30-31 on extra points as a junior with a career long kick of 46-yards, a distance he has made two times.
Also returning in the kicking game is third-year punter Chris Keagle. In 2006, Keagle punted 66 times with an average of 38.4 yards per punt and 16 landing inside the 20-yardline.
Patrick Jackson will once again be the Bulldogs top kick returner after averaging 24.2 yards per return last year with a long of 100 yards for a touchdown.
- Matt Dearman
All-Time Series: 16-1
First/Last Meeting: 2003, LSU 49,
Location: Ruston, La.
Stadium: Joe Aillet Stadium (30,600)
Conference: Western Athletic
Head Coach: Derek Dooley, First
2006 IN REVIEW
2006 Record: 3-10, 1-7 WAC (8th)
Final '05 Ranking: n/a
Returning Starters: 16; 6 offense, 10 defense
Last Bowl Appearance: 2001 Humanitarian Bowl
Last Conference Championship: 2001
2006 STAT BREAKDOWN (WAC/NCAA)
Total Offense: 344.5 ypg (6/60)
Rushing Offense: 130.1 ypg (5/62)
Passing Offense: 214.4 ypg (6/60)
Scoring Offense: 18.6 ppg (7/95)
Total Defense: 483.2 ypg (9/119)
Rushing Defense: 225.4 ypg (9/119)
Pass Defense: 257.9 ypg (9/116)
Scoring Defense: 41.7 ppg (9/119)
Rushing: Patrick Jackson – 170-854, 7 TD, 5.0 ypc, 65.7 ypg
Passing: Zac Champion – 364-190, 2,466, 14 TD, 18 Int., 189.7 ypg
Receiving: Josh Wheeler – 25-503, 4 TD, 20.1 ypg
Tackles: Quin Harris – 99
Interceptions: Shalamar Walker – 3
Sacks: Chris Pugh – 3.5
Tackles for loss: Quin Harris – 6
Date Opponent '06 Result
O-6 at Ole Miss ---
N-10 at LSU ---
Offense at a glance:
In past years, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs have been known for having explosive offenses.
That was hardly the case in 2006.
The Bulldogs ranked 60th in the nation in total offense and managed just 18.6 points per game, which ranked 95th in the nation.
Quarterback Zac Champion returns after throwing for 2,466 yards a year on 190-of-364 passing. He did throw 14 touchdowns last season, but offset that mark with a harrowing 18 interceptions.
Champion is the most experienced quarterback on the Tech roster, but Michael Mosley did play in eight contest a year ago and with a new coach, anything could happen.
Several of Champion's top targets are gone from a year ago, but Josh Wheeler is back after snaring 25 catches for 503 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. Brian Jackson is also one to watch as a deep threat this year.
Tailback Patrick Jackson was a
bright spot for La Tech a year ago. Carrying the ball 170 times,
Offensive tackle Tyler Miller will lead Tech's offensive line, a unit which has plenty of holes to fill.
Defense at a glance:
Let's face it, the WAC doesn't necessarily have a reputation for playing a great deal of defense.
Last season, La Tech lived up to that reputation as the Bulldogs ranked last in Division I in three of the four major defensive categories.
Giving up 483.2 yards per game, the Bulldogs were 119th in total defense. Against the run, Tech allowed 225.4 yards each contest, which ranked last overall, and the Bulldogs gave up an eye-popping 41.7 points per game, which also ranked last in the nation.
Nose tackle Jose Muse leads a La Tech defense that does return 10 starters. However, the Bulldogs lack depth at every position and there are plenty of questions to answer.
Linebacker Quin Harris is the team's leading returning tackler after logging 99 stops a year ago. He also led the team in tackles for loss last season with six.
Shalamar Walker is the team's returning interception leader after grabbing three picks a year ago. Chris Pugh is back after registering three and a half sacks in 2006.
- Matt Deville