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April 12, 2013

Five story lines of interest in Saturday's T-Day Spring Game

With spring football set to wrap up Saturday with the T-Day Spring Game, new Louisiana Tech Head Coach Skip Holtz has done an impressive job regrouping his Bulldogs in a short time. With a new offense and a new defense, and an almost brand new depth chart; there were many questions heading into spring practice. After two weeks of practices and scrimmages, a general idea is starting to form about how this team will look. However, there are still some burning questions for Bulldog fans to ponder as they await August 4th, the start of fall camp.

Who is going to be the quarterback?

The age old question that seemed unanswered for so many years under Derek Dooley and Sonny Dykes has once again risen to the forefront. Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young seemed to be the favorite. The redshirt junior was a blue chip recruit coming out of high school in Denton, Texas. Redshirt freshman Ryan Higgins has pushed Young and for most of the spring the two were both listed as starters. Young was put on the top of the depth chart as the clear no. 1 on Wednesday. While Young is a little bigger and deadly accurate on short and intermediate throws, Higgins has made some big pass plays this spring and he runs better. Higgins seems to be tailor-made for the offense that Tech ran last year with big passes downfield to Patton and White and the need for the quarterback to run when plays broke down. It's a new era in Ruston with Tony Petersen running the offense. Patton and White are gone and the quarterback will be called on to carry a heavy load this fall.

Speaking of Patton and White being gone, there are a couple of positions on the offense that will have completely new looks. At receiver, Paul Turner, Richie Casey, and Andrew Guillot all await decisions on their ability to play this season. Hunter Lee, Jaydrick Declouette, D.J. Banks, and Travis Reyes give Petersen several options to turn to when looking for trustworthy receivers.

Who can be counted on at offensive line?

Larry Banks and Matt Shepperd are the only returning players with experience. Shepperd missed the spring after starting at guard last season. He may be needed to take over at center this fall. Banks started out at tackle and is listed as a guard on the most recent depth chart. Jeremy Graffree and Mitchell Bell moved from guard and are now listed as the starting tackles. Having that kind of versatility among the top four linemen will be huge for Offensive Line Coach Matt Moore. The re-emergence of Graffree after last season's injury solidifies the starting unit. Junior Richard Greenwalt, 6-4 297, is listed as the starting right guard this spring. Shepperd could fill that spot this fall with 6-1 275 Senior Alec Davis starting at center. If the coaches decide they need more size, Shepperd could play center and Greenwalt could stay at Guard. Three young players that have pushed and will continue to push are Josh Robinson, Jens Danielson, and Darrell Brown. Robinson, a sophomore guard, and Danielson, a junior tackle, are both listed as co-starters on the current depth chart.

Head coach Skip Holtz said there is a purpose in having several spots still up for grabs.

"There are a lot of positions still being battled for starters, for back-ups, for 1s and for 2s and for the total team," he said. "I would also like to get as many reps as we can to get an evaluation as an offense and as a defense and where we are right now. It will be a great opportunity for us to evaluate a lot of little things on both sides of the ball."

Who will emerge as the linebackers?
Andre Wiggins and Beau Fitte are a couple of highly recruited players entering their sophomore years. Mitch Villemez and Nick Thomason were brought in from junior colleges to compete for starting spots. Ty Hook was moved to the outside in the latest depth chart to better use his speed. Former safety Mike Schrang has moved from outside to middle to better take advantage of his abilities. Six players is just enough depth for two spots, but it is not likely to see much of a 4-3 defense simply because of numbers. There is no room for error if a couple of linebackers go down to injury, as was the case last season. For that reason, plan on seeing a lot of the 4-2-5. Defensive Coordinator Kim Dameron's 4-2-5 will be more of an attacking and aggressive defense than what was seen the last six years. The athleticism and quickness of this current group will fit better too, where as last years linebackers all seemed to be 235-245 pounds and were better in run support than coverage.
Can a secondary survive a trial by fire?

Cornerbacks Le'Vander Liggins and Bryson Abraham started last year, but virtually everyone else has little experience. Adairius Barnes, Lloyd Grogan, and Kentrell Brice were the stars of the 2012 signing class. Barnes and Brice saw a little action as true freshmen. Barnes is now listed as a co-starter with Abraham at corner while Brice is listed as the starting strong safety. Grogan is listed as the starter atfree safety. The 6-0 201 redshirt freshman, is the only freshman starter listed on the 2-deep.

Colby Brown and Tra'Vez Taylor are two more young corners that made the two deep. Jabari Prewitt, 5-9, is listed as the starter at nickelback. Prewitt, a walk on from Hutto, Texas has played well this spring. Junior College transfers Terrel Pinson and Thomas McDonald, both 6-3 safeties, figure to compete for spots at safety and at nickeback when they arrivethis fall.

With Tevin King out, who will backup Kenneth Dixon?
Hunter Lee has played running back in the past, but seems to be entrenched at inside receiver. Another former District MVPTexas running back, Blake Martin, has had a great spring. Martin is listed along with fomer Alcorn State running back and Haughton native Marlon Seets as the primary backups this spring. Seets is the same size as Dixon at 215 pounds, while Martin is a do-it-all type back at 195 pounds. Two other running backs will figure into the rotation. Brandon Davis looks a lot like Tevin King on the field, while former Northwestern State back Rickey Courtney also brings some experience to the table. Courtney appeard in three games over the last two seasons and Davis rushed for 85 yards on 14 carries last season against Idaho.

Overall, the spring has provided the coaches with a chance to see a lot of players. They know have a little idea about what these players can do as they make preperations for the fall.

"We have come a long way," admitted Coach Holtz,"going back to the very first day when we didn't know how to line up in formation and we didn't know the defenses and we had to start putting it in in slow pieces. I think there has been a lot of learning and a big learning curve as far as not just the terminology but there has been a big learning curve for the coaches and the players as far as the standard and everything we want right now."

After a great offseason conditioning program, these young Bulldogs will be ready to go this fall. With only six returning starters (just one on offense), the open competition for so many spots will be good for this team. There is a lot of athleticism with this young group, it will be up to the new coaching staff to harness that and mold it into a product that is worthy of hitting the field in just less than five months.

Mississippi State NEWS


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