Defensive Line: From Uncertainty to Strength

Louisiana Tech had to replace D'Anthony Smith in 2010 and several young players gained valuable experience. Now Mason Hitt, Randy Grigsby, and Ramone Randle all graduate, but the Bullldogs have reloaded across the defensive line.

Junior College Signee Jon'al White is an early favorite to join a starting defensive line that returns I.K .Enemkpali and All WAC Matt Broha at defensive end. With freshmen Tyler Porter, Malcolm Pichon, and Dirk Tanner all adding depth to the defensive tackle position; a position that struggled to find healthy bodies in 2010 has options in 2011.

Shakeil Lucas had a big year at defensive tackle last season. He is a favorite to start inside again in 2011, but he is versatile enough to play some at end. Assume a starting lineup of Enemkpali, White, Broha, and Justin Ellis. The Bulldogs could bring in a second unit of Christian Lacey, Tyler Porter, Malcolm Pichon, and Shakeil Lucas in a third and short situation. If its third and long, maybe they bring in Kendrick James, Brandon Patterson, Adam Hymel, and Daniel Hayden in order to pressure the quarterback.

Hayden, a junior college signee, will be a huge help in the pass rush for Louisiana Tech Head Coach Sonny Dykes. He had 16 tackles for loss, including 7 sacks, as a sophomore. White had 3.5 sacks of his own in 2010 from his defensive tackle position at Jones Junior College.

The Bulldogs already showed a big improvement in the pass rush last season after Assistant Coach Stan Eggen took over the position. Matt Broha led the team with 14 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. I.K. Enemkpali had 6 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in his first season. Adam Hymel was active inside with 18 tackles and two forced fumbles in 9 games.

Christian Lacey and Justin Ellis both returned from an injury and had a good second half of the season. Lacey is another player at defensive end that can make a big impact. Ellis has the ability to really clog the middle and make it tough for opponents to run inside.

Brandon Patterson, Phillip Longino, and Carter Street will all be on hand to provide quality depth. Patterson made it to Ruston late in the year and registered a sack late in the season. He and Street, who redshirted, will have a year in the system under their belt.

Vontarrius Dora and Dirk Tanner could have long, successful tenures at Tech. Both signees have great potential and will fight for spots in the two-deep in 2012, if not sooner. Tanner might remind Tech fans of Mason Hitt, who just completed a very successful college career for the Bulldogs.

Malcolm Pichon and Tyler Porter are also members of the signing class that will be important keys to the future success of the program. They also could play significant roles in 2011 if need be. They certainly have the strength to match up against college offensive lines.

One thing is for sure; a position that had to be patched together at times in 2010 will have a different problem in 2011. You can't have too many good defensive linemen and competition will bring the best out of this talented group of players.

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