Louisiana Tech finished off spring football on Saturday with the first team players going against the rest of the team. Head Coach Sonny Dykes came away with a better feel for how far his team has come since last season. He also found a starting quarterback.
Colby Cameron threw for 275 yards on 19-29 passing. Cameron threw 5 touchdown passes to 5 different receivers. It took a couple of possessions to get rolling, but the first team offense was pretty effecient. They scored two touchdowns in each of the first two quarters, then scored once more early in the third period.
Boosted by a strong performance from running backs Lennon Creer and Ray Holley, the first team offense played showed they can score points consistently. The opposing defense included a few players who may start once fall camp arrives. Dave Clark, Solomon Randle, Jon'al White, and Shakeil Lucas all lined up against the first teamers and played well.
Randle, along with his counterpart Adrien Cole, controlled the interior of the defense from his middle linebacker position. Cole and Randle lead a group of linebackers that go eight deep, meaning Tech fans could see more of the traditional 4-3 lineup in 2011.
Dave Clark might eventually play his way into the first team. Clark had one interception, but he made several nice plays on the afternoon. He and Ryan Williams give the Bulldogs size and speed at cornerback.
Newcomers Myles White and Quinten Patton helped display Tech's new versatility at receiver. Both players have had strong spring workouts and Patton had a touchdown in the spring game. White repeatedly gets behid the defense, but the quarterbgacks were only able to hook up with him once on the day.
Often overlooked next to their more high profile counterparts, David Gru and Andrew Guillot had very spring practices. Gru had 4 catches for 43 yards including an acrobatic over the shoulder dive for a touchdown on Saturday. Guillot also added a score in the game.
Richie Casey led all wide receivers with 5 catches for 50 yards. He and Taulib Ikharo (who sat out the spring) are Tech's leading returning receivers.
Lennon Creer was the leading overall receiver with 111 yards. Creer got free on a screen pass, aided by a monster block from Stephen Warner, and tookit 70 yards for a score. Jaccari Jackson, playing for the White team, had a 65 yard touchdown reception of his own. Jackson caught the pass in stride from Zach Griffith. Griffith struggled early, but looks to be a solid option for Coach Dykes in case Cameron has to come out of a game.
Bulldogs Head Coach Sonny Dykes said earlier in the spring that he was looking for a group of receivers that he could count on for 75-80% of the offense's snaps. Casey, Ikharo, Guillot, Gru, Jackson, D.J. St. Julien, Lyle Fitte, all will figure into the mix as will Tim Molton and Ahmad Paige. Both Paige and Molton joined Ikharo on the sidelines with minor injuries. All three players should be ready by fall camp.
Dykes mentioned Kevin Saia as a steady performer on the offensive line next to Warner. The two players give Tech some stability inside. Vince Cano was listed as a starter at right guard but he shared that spot with Oscar Johnson. Johnson would create a human wall lining up next to Jordan Mills. If the 6'7" 350-pound Johnson got the start, Cano would likely be the primary backup at center and at both guard spots. Dykes also mentioned Mills had a strong spring. The 6'6" junior showed a competitiver streak in spring practice and will line up opposite veteran left tackle Kris Cavitt.
Back to the defense, Randle and Cole have gone back and forth a few times as starter at middle linebacker over the last year. Veterans Jay Dudley and Dusty Rust were listed as starters on the outside on Saturday. Joining the four proven linebackers are Rufus Porter, Antonio Mitchum, Chip Hester, and Kevin Kisseberth. Mitchum has played really well all spring and will be a very solid option behind Rust or Dudley.
The secondary is the big question mark on the team. Terry Carter and Blasher Saintvil will also compete for starting spots at cornerback. At safety, Jamel Johnson and Mike Schrang got the starts on Saturday. Javantay Crowe did not participate, but he will likely return as a starter at one of the safety spots. Justn Goodman and Quin Giles will also be in the mix. Redshirt freshmen Conner Nichols and Kendall Hayes showed promise in the spring and could help at safety and cornerback respectively.
The defensive line will be much improved in 2011. IK Enempkali and Matt Broha were forces at defensive end last year, but they will have help this time around. Andre Taylor has emerged as a pass rusher and a healthy Christian Lacey will be a welcome addition to the unit. Kendrick James and junior college signee Daniel Hayden, who comes in the fall, will provide even more pass rush threats.
Inside is where Tech will finally benefit from having numbers. Jon'al White will step in and try to fill the shoes that Mason Hitt left behind. Shakeil Lucas returns at the other spot inside, but former walk on Adam Hymel is pushing for his spot. Hymel was listed as the starter on Saturday. White is working to start at Nose Guard, a position currently held by Justin Ellis. Ellis came on strong at the end of last season and gives Tech a second big body to anchor the inside. Freshmen Tyler Porter, Dirk Tanner, and Malcolm Pichon will provide instant help inside when they arrive in the fall.
Taylor Burch displayed a strong arm and steadily improved all spring. He did not have a great scrimmage on Saturday, but he showed enough in March to prove he is a solid option for coach Dykes moving forward. Dykes said the job is Cameron's for now, but would not rule out Griffith, Burch, or incoming freshman Nick Isham competing for the job in fall camp. Lennon Creer will be the workhorse in 2011 and Ray Holley is a hardworking and capable backup. If Cameron can keep the chains moving by converting close to 50% on 3rd down, Tech should be in business. The Bulldogs feature a nice mix of veterans, young players, and junior college transfers. Everything will need to mesh quickly, but the potential is there for Tech to go bowling in Coach Dykes' second season.