Since Skip Holtz took over in 2013, things have been pretty good for Louisiana Tech. After going 4-8 in year one, the Bulldogs have had a winning record every year since, including a stretch of back-to-back-to-back nine-win seasons in 2014-16 where they won the division twice.
There are some holes on the defense where just five starters remain but with a good schedule and QB J’Mar Smith returning, another winning season feels like a good bet.
Smith is back for his senior season after an up an down year (6.9 YPA, 57% completion, 15 touchdowns, ten picks) and should improve with a full year of starting experience under his belt. He returns with him the top two backs in Jaqwis Dancy (5.4 YPA) and Israel Tucker who combined for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground last year.
Three of the top four receivers are gone, and only one with 175 or more yards returns, it’s a big one though, exciting deep threat Adrian Hardy, who racked up 1,145 yards on 15.3 YPC last year. TCU transfer Isaiah Graham will be added to the mix as well as speedy freshman Devon “Smoke” Harris.
The line returns four starters, and former LSU four-star turned JUCO transfer Willie Allen should fill in the final gap.
There is a ton to like about this offense and it should improve on last year’s numbers.
The La Tech defense was better than the offense last year, but a few key pieces depart from the group
The most notable departure is edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson, whose numbers were borderline video game like (17.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, nine QB hurries). There is really no explaining how important a guy who can get into the backfield at any moment is to a defense in terms of throwing an offense off.
On the bright side, Louisiana Tech returns maybe the best pair of corners on the G5 level between Amik Robinson (6.5 TFL, 12 PBUs, four interceptions) and L’Jarius Sneed (eight PBUs, three interceptions).
End Willie Baker (seven sacks, 4.5 TFL) and LB Collin Scott (four sacks, 5.5 TFL, two interceptions, leading returning tackler) are two other names to watch out for, and Missouri transfer LB Trey Baldwin could see some serious playing time after sitting out last year.
There really is a ton of talent returning on this defense, the depth was so good that most of the starters that are gone shouldn’t be missed too much, but Jaylon Ferguson is a huge loss, and with a new coordinator as well, it would be hard not to forsee the defense regressing a little bit.
CSD Prime projects the Bulldogs at 87th, and I think that’s a pretty fair spot. There are some real question marks, especially with depth on defense should they deal with injuries, but the Bulldogs have recruited so well that I’m able to look past that.
La Tech does draw Marshall and FIU as their East division crossover opponents, but they got two of the top three in the West at home and face only one P5 opponent in the non-con, so the schedule is doable.
The Conference USA West is quite crowded, the Bulldogs are one of three teams projected within 0.7 wins of the conference leader, North Texas, and La Tech gets the Mean Green at home. This feels like a high-upside team that has a real shot of finally winning the conference, something Skip Holtz has never done at LT.
|Date||Opponent||OPP. RANK||Proj. Margin|
|14-Sep||at Bowling Green||118||6.8|
Average Projected Record: 7.5 wins, 4.5 losses (4.8 wins, 3.2 losses)