Head Coach Sonny Dykes and Offensive Coordinator Tony Franklin will have several new offensive players to go with a few key returnees led by Phillip Livas.
The defense will try to find replacements for D'Anthony Smith, Antonio Baker, Deon Young, and Kwame Jordan.
Baker missed time at safety last year, giving CJ Broades a chance to get expereince. Broades and senior Tank Calais are the favorites to earn starting jobs at safety this season. Chad Boyd could reamin in his nickle role in 2010, but the sophomore from Archbishop Shaw could challenge for a starting spot at safety. Either way, all three players will see significant time. They could be on the field together in WAC play. It's not uncommon to see five defensive backs on the field with so many passing offenses in the conference.
Javantay Crowe is the favorite to back up Calais. Crowe, from Ruston, could follow in the footsteps of fellow big hitters Baker and Calais at strong safety. Cassetti Brown will get a chance to audition at free safety. Walk-on and former minor league baseball player Jared Edwards brings size and speed to the position. Freshmen Mike Schrang and Connor Nichols will get their chance this fall. Fellow freshman Antonio Burton could be a perfect fit in the nickel role when he arrives in August.
Three experienced cornerbacks return in Terry Carter, Olajuwan Paige, and Josh Victorian. Justin Goodman, a junior college transfer, is here for spring practice and will compete for a spot on the depth chart. Quin Giles, a sophomore from Evangel, played a little on offense last year. Giles will also compete for a spot at cornerback. If Cassetti Brown stays at cornerback, he could compete for a backup spot.
Leading tackler Adrien Cole returns at middle linebacker. A fierce competition for the backup spot will come from Solomon Randle and Kendrick James. Depth at middle linebacker will not be a problem.
At outside linebacker, veterans Jay Dudley, Kiamni Washington, and Dusty Rust will be joined be redshirt freshman Rufus Porter. IK Enemkpali could see time at outside linebacker, but he figures to be a pass rush specialist at defensive end as well. With Dominique Faust leaving the team, outside linebacker isn't as deep as normal. A really strong trio of walkons joined the team last summer. Scotty Dickson, Zach Voss, and Tracy Oakley will provide much needed depth for the linebacking corp.
Enemkpali could push Christian Lacey for one defensive end spot. Both players will be counted on to put pressure on the quarterback. Veteran Matt Broha will anchor the other side. Randy Grigsby is likely to be the backup. Junior College transfer Josh Tillman is needed inside, but he could see time on the end if the team needs more size up front.
Tillman will most likely be needed behind Mason Hitt at defensive tackle. Shakeil Lucas and Philip Longino will provide depth. At Nose Guard, Justin Ellis has the size and athleticism to make a difference for the rush defense. John White and Ramone Randle will also factor in to that position.
Offensive line could be the strength of the team. Veterans Jared Miles, Cudahy Harmon, Rob McGill, and Lon Roberts all return. Several young players got a chance to start last year as well. Jordan Mills, Stephen Warner, and Kevin Saia all started games last season and played well. Matt Shepperd is another young player who should figure in to the equation. Junior Kris Cavitt started games in 2008 and will be counted on again in 2010.
With at least 9 players battling for 5 starting spots, the competetion should be good for the team. McGill and Mills are the favorites at tackle. If Warner isn't able to unseat Roberts at center, he could still start at guard. Miles, Saia, Cavitt, and Shepperd could all see time at guard. One of the more interesting and versatile prospects is Shepperd. The 6'5" redshirt freshman could be a backup tackle or center if he doesn't earn a starting spot at guard.
Transfers Ahmad Paige and Tim Molton join freshmen DJ St. Julien, Sharman Brown, and Jaccari Jackson as new receivers in 2010. All five players sat out last season. The newcomers will push returning Cruz Williams, Phillip Livas, and Lyle Fitte for playing time. RP Stuart will sit out this fall and try to get healthy for the fall. Richie Casey missed the last two seasons with injuries. The former Homer star gives Coach Dykes ten scholarship receivers to work with when camp opens in August. Carey Fortson from Longview, TX will arrive this fall to make it eleven receivers. That's alot of options considering the team had four healthy receivers at the end of 2009. Defensive Quin Giles and walkon Cornelius Nickelson were forced into action last fall because of depth issues at wideout.
Tight end will be a position that is certainly up for grabs. Chandler Spence saw action last year and former defensive end Eric Harper showed an ability to make plays. Andre Taylor, who signed in 2009, will compete this spring as well. This fall, it is possible that RP Stuart could line up at tight end in certain situations in this new offense.
Tennessee transfer Lennon Creer will battle sophomores Tyrone Duplessis and DJ Morrow for the starting tailback spot. Senior Myke Compton was able to find the endzone for the Bulldogs last season and will also factor in to the equation.
Creer gained valuable experience at Tennessee. He could be considered a favorite to win the job, but Duplessis and Morrow showed signs as freshmen that they can play. Duplessis is elusive while Morrow can turn it upfield quickly.
Roosevelt Falls and Tristan Broussard are senior fullbacks. It will be interesting to see how they are used this spring. Falls is one of the strongest players on the team.
Quarterback will be the most watched competition all spring. Ross Jenkins put up solid numbers last season, but he was indecisive at times and took a good number of sacks. Jenkins will have to prove that he can be a leader on and off the field if he wants to keep his job. Colby Cameron showed he has the athleticism to play the position, but his inexperience showed with his decision making when he did get in the game. Freshman Doak Raulston has the oppurtunity to win the job as well. Raulston put up good numbers both running and passing in high school.
Jenkins threw 17 touchdowns against only 5 interceptions in 2009. In an offense that valued protecting the ball over anything else, it showed in the numbers. Jenkins didn't throw a lot of picks, but Tech gave up sacks 27 times. Jenkins passed for 175 yards per game last season. Whoever wins the starting job this season is sure to throw for over 250 yards per game in Franklin's offense.
The quarterback that is able to get the ball out quickly, avoid pressure, and above all else find the open receiver, will certainly win this job. All three quarterbacks have the ability to win the starting spot.
Matt Neslon will return at kicker. As a freshman, Nelson showed he has what it takes to be another great kicker at Tech. Cade Glascow will return at punter, but you can expect him to have competition for the starting job. John Hinton kicked off for Tech some last season and might be able to share some of those duties with Nelson. Josh Cuthbert is the favorite to be the deep snapper.
The return game is wide open to say the least. Philip Livas is dangerous as a kick returner and punt returner. After Livas, anyone could be back deep fielding kicks for the Bulldogs. There are several young running backs and receivers that could help in the return game. Tyronne Duplessis and DJ Morrow will be able to help on special teams and receivers like Ahmad Paige, Richie Casey, and Lyle Fitte have the ability to help there too.
With 7 games in North Louisiana this year, Louisiana Tech has a chance to have a great season in Coach Dykes first year. It will take this spring to sort things out, but we should have a clear picture of how things look as we head into fall camp.