August 10, 2011

Coaches encouraged by defensive line progress

Ruston, La. - Despite a defensive unit that ranked near the bottom of FBS programs last season, the Louisiana Tech coaching staff is encouraged with the progress that the defensive line has made during offseason workouts.

Although the Bulldogs allowed over 460 yards per game last season, the end positions appeared to be the strength of the team towards the end of the year as Matt Broha and IK Enemkpali emerged as two standouts on the defensive line.

After recording nine sacks last season, Broha has emerged as one of the WAC's premiere pass rushers as he is climbing up the Tech record books for career sacks entering his final season in the red and blue. With Broha's proven leadership anchoring the line, defensive line coach Stan Eggen feels confident that the Bulldogs will improve upon last year's numbers.

"We challenged him to get a little stronger and a little more explosive so he wouldn't wear down late in the season," said Eggen. "Broha has come back stronger and more explosive. His weight is up a little but he is just as fast."

Appearing in 11 games last season while starting the last nine, Enemkpali was a surprise last season as he tallied 36 total tackles with 17 solo stops.

"I.K. has come out on the other side and been really good and I'm pleased right now," said Eggen.

"Obviously I.K. Enemkpali and Matt Broha are proven commodities," added head coach Sonny Dykes. "I.K. is real explosive and he has a chance to be a really good player for us this season."

Because speed and depth are critical in college football, Eggen is pleased with the development of the backups at the end position.

"Behind [Matt Broha] on the depth chart would be Kendrick James and Eric Harper," said Eggen. "Christian Lacey is having a really good camp and is playing with the twos. He has come out and shown more passion and spirit playing the game and that is good to see.

With the coaching staff confident in the abilities of the top of the depth chart at the end positions, much is still to be settled in the rotation with the interior defensive line.

"When we say number ones we've got Justin Ellis and Shakiel Lucas," said Eggen. "Behind them is Adam Himel and Jon'al White."

Both redshirt sophomores, Ellis and Lucas combined to appear in 16 games last season while Lucas led the duo with three starts and 25 total tackles. Even though game experience is lacking for the defensive tackles, Dykes admits that the position will be crucial for Tech's success this season.

"I like what I am seeing out of that group," said Dykes. "Justin Ellis is a different player than he was even in the spring and he could be the 'x-factor'. He is a guy that has pretty good speed and can move pretty well for his size.

"(Transfer) Jon'al White is improving as well. I think he's getting tougher and learning how to play at this level day in and day out.

Football games are won in the trenches. With a solid first string, the remainder of the fall camp will dictate who emerges and pushes the starters for playing time or perhaps making that move to second string.

"I feel good about our five or six guys," said Dykes. "I'm excited about some of the younger guys like Vontarrius Dora who has a lot of ability and the three freshman tackles all have a lot of upside."

"I'm pleased with how we stack up with our depth but not satisfied because we have a long way to go," added Eggen. "I think we have some numbers there and we've got a little bit more size and strength inside with the tackles and I think we're playing a little bit faster with the defensive ends."

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