In Louisiana Tech, Texas Tech will face off against a C-USA program. But do not think for an instant that the Bulldogs lack talent because they’re not in a Power 5 conference.
La Tech threw a major scare into Kansas State in Manhattan last season before ultimately losing 39-33. The Bulldogs went on to finish 9-4. And that team featured quarterback Jeff Driskel who was selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft, running back Kenneth Dixon who went in the fourth, and defensive tackle Vernon Butler who heard his name called in the first round.
Who’s to say what future NFL draftees may be on the 2016 squad?
Despite the fact that Texas Tech routinely plays Louisiana schools in its non-conference schedule, the clash between the Red Raiders and Bulldogs in 2016 will be only the second meeting between the schools on the gridiron. Texas Tech won the only other meeting in 1933 by a score of 40-10.
This year’s iteration of Louisiana Tech, coached by Skip Holtz, does have sizable holes to fill. In addition to the aforementioned trio of NFL draftees, La Tech said goodbye to eight defensive starters. One key returnee is defensive end Jaylon Ferguson, who recorded six sacks last season and earned FWAA freshman All-America status.
The offense didn’t suffer such severe attrition, but the loss of quarterback Driskel and running back Dixon will certainly hurt, particularly early in the season as Holtz and his staff learn what they’ve got at those two important positions. Stability should be provided, however, by an offensive line featuring a couple of excellent players in center David Mahaffey and guard O’Shae Dugas who earned freshman All America honors in 2015. The interior of Texas Tech’s defensive line will be sternly tested.
There may be some mystery about who will be slinging the pigskin for Louisiana Tech this season, but there will be no doubt whatsoever over who will be the prime target of the passer. Trent Taylor is one of the most accomplished wideouts in La Tech history.
In 2015 he caught 99 passes, fifth best in school history, and tallied 1,282 receiving yards, sixth best ever at Louisiana Tech. His 191 career receptions are No. 7 in Bulldog annals, and he’s one of just seven La Tech players to rack up at least 20 career touchdowns. Unless something strange happens in 2016, Taylor will make a push for being statistically the best receiver in school history. Unsurprisingly, he is on the preseason Biletnikoff Award watch list.
The premier defensive returnee for Louisiana Tech is first team All C-USA safety Xavier Woods. Last season he was sixth in total tackles on a good defense with 56. Among those tackles, 7.5 went for loss, which suggests he was used frequently as a run blitzer. Woods also recorded three interceptions and a couple of forced fumbles. If Louisiana Tech’s rebuilt defense has any hope of slowing down Texas Tech’s passing machine, Woods will have to play a whale of a game.