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           ***** NCAA Football Preview - Louisiana Tech Bulldogs *****
 By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Sonny Dyke's third season with the Bulldogs didn't go
 exactly to plan. Louisiana Tech had high hopes of capturing its second
 consecutive WAC championship with Colby Cameron (4,147 yards, 31 TDs) under
 The Bulldogs got off to a strong start with their only loss through their
 first 10 games coming courtesy of a 59-57 loss in a thriller against Texas
 A&M. They controlled their own destiny with their two toughest WAC games
 remaining. Louisiana Tech came up short in overtime versus Utah State and lost
 again in the regular season finale, 52-43, at San Jose State. The Bulldogs'
 9-3 finish made them bowl eligible, but they were left out of the postseason
 after declining an invitation to the Independence Bowl and being passed on by
 the Liberty Bowl like they had expected.
 Louisiana Tech set a new single-season program record for total offensive
 yards with 6,935. The previous record was 6,504 total offensive yards recorded
 in 1998.
 Dykes left the school to take on the same position at California in the
 offseason. Louisiana Tech hired former East Carolina and South Florida head
 coach Skip Holtz to guide the ship into the Conference USA. Holtz went 38-27
 and took the Pirates to four bowl games during his tenure in Greenville from
 2005-09. He led the Bulls to the Meineke Car Care Bowl and an 8-5 finish in
 2010, but was fired after going 8-16 over the past two seasons.
 OFFENSE: Louisiana Tech led the FBS in both total offense (577.9 yards per
 game) and scoring offense (51.5 points per game) in 2012 with Cameron under
 center. Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young has the potential to be an excellent
 replacement as he was one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation prior
 to college. He hasn't taken a snap in a collegiate game so far in his career,
 but his coach was pleased with his showing in the spring game.
 "I thought Scotty did a nice job," Holtz said. "He did a good job of
 protecting the ball today. He did a nice job with the two-minute drive right
 before halftime with taking the team down the field and putting them in the
 end zone. I thought he did some really good things today. I thought Scotty
 really did a nice job of running the offense. He's playing with more
 confidence, especially for someone who has played as little as he has."
 The Bulldogs have to find new leaders at wide receiver also after graduating
 Quinton Patton (1,392 yards, 13 TDs) and Myles White (718 yards, six TDs).
 Senior D.J. Banks (5-9, 185) made 33 catches for 434 yards last season, but
 other wideouts like Hunter Lee, Andrew Guillot and Paul Turner will need to
 emerge as playmakers.
 Louisiana Tech has a standout at tailback in sophomore Kenneth Dixon. He was
 the 35th leading rusher in the FBS as a rookie with 1,194 yards and led the
 nation with 27 touchdowns, which also established a new WAC record. Dixon
 gained 6.0 yards per carry despite registering just under 200 attempts. He
 will have trouble duplicating those numbers without a strong passing game to
 open up rushing lanes. Another obstacle will be the Bulldogs' offensive line,
 which returned only Matthew Shepperd (6-3, 305) from last season's starting
 front five.
 DEFENSE: The defensive unit for Louisiana Tech was also left with plenty of
 holes to fill. Only three starters from 2012 are back, but change in personnel
 may be a good thing considering the team finished 120th in total defense
 (526.1 ypg) and 116th in scoring defense (38.5 ppg).
 "You are talking about a lot of youth in that secondary and a lot of
 inexperience in that secondary," said Holtz. "That is one place you don't want
 to be young and you don't want to be inexperienced. But the third thing you
 are looking for more than that is you don't want to be not athletic. When you
 look at Kentrell Brice, [Bryson] Abraham and some of the other guys that are
 back there, we have a lot of athleticism in that secondary. They are just
 young and inexperienced."
 Junior cornerback Le'Vander Liggins is the only returning starter to the five-
 man secondary. Junior Mike Schrang (46 total tackles in 2012) is a solid
 option to start at middle linebacker, while junior Mitch Villemez and
 sophomore Beau Fitte will both be a part of the rotation.
 The front line is the most secure point of the defense thanks to Shakell Lucas
 (6-2, 285), Justin Ellis (6-2, 330) and IK Ememkpali (6-2, 250), who led the
 team with 7.5 tackles for loss and six sacks a season ago.
 SPECIAL TEAMS: The battle to be the team's new starting place kicker between
 sophomore Kyle Fischer and freshman Jonathan Barnes will come down to who
 performs best in fall camp. The same goes for the punter position as
 sophomores Logan McPherson and Gerald Shouse both hope to replace the two-time
 Ray Guy Award winning Ryan Allen.
 Banks is an elite returner because of his speed and vision. Holtz will most
 likely continue to use him on special teams regardless of how big his role in
 the offense grows.
 OUTLOOK: Louisiana Tech's move to the C-USA should go smoothly under Holtz,
 who has previously done very well in the league. The Bulldogs will need to
 improve drastically defensively to compete for the league championship right
 away, but they will be a tough opponent every Saturday.
 They begin their season at NC State, but play their next two at home versus
 FCS opponent Lamar and C-USA rival Tulane. Louisiana Tech will then play its
 final two non-conference games at Kansas and versus Army on a neutral field as
 part of the Heart of Dallas Classic. Its remaining schedule consists of league
 tilts against Texas-El Paso, North Texas, FIU, Southern Miss, Rice, Tulsa and
 Texas-San Antonio.
 "I am tremendously excited for the opportunity to build on what Coach Dykes
 started and to lead this great team forward," said Holtz. "This is a football
 program with outstanding student athletes, a history of winning and optimism
 in the future. In my conversations with the administration and search
 committee, it became clear that we share the same goal: to achieve a
 consistent record of excellence and a national reputation for winning with
 There is way too much turnover to expect Holtz to keep the program from taking
 a couple steps backwards. Dixon is talented enough to win C-USA Player of the
 Year, but his supporting cast could end up holding him back.
 08/19 09:30:45 ET

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