Tuesday, April 25, 2006
AN ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENT OF: LOUISIANA TECH
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered, too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inevitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden transfers, debilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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Looking great against San Jose State since 2001
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 28-30 (24-16 WAC) 2005: 7-4 (6-2 WAC)
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 9 (7 Offense, 2 Defense)
WHAT'S CHANGED: The Bulldogs were easily one of the most senior-laden teams in the country in '05, especially on the defense, where six of the front (and five of the back) seven graduated. As its Spring prospectus notes in a surprise fit of weakness accentuation, the eight career pass attempts by returning Bulldog quarterbacks is one of the lowest totals in the country....though Jack Bicknell for some reason says "Quarterback isn't a position I'm worried about."
WHAT'S THE SAME: The Bulldogs remain significantly better than the sad sack bottom half of the league, but don't be deceived by the 7-4 record - even Rutgers didn't beat up on such a sorry slate of ne'er-do-wells as the losers that fueled the Bulldogs' winning season: collectively, Tech's seven vanquished foes won 23 games - more than a third of them by Fresno State in the finale, the one respectable showing of the lot. The other winners - Florida, Kansas, Nevada, Boise State - beat the Bulldogs by an average of almost 24 points. Since it joined the WAC, La Tech is only 4-14 outside the conference; if it repeats the seven wins, though, with Nebraska, Texas A&M and Clemson among the first four of the Hawaii visit-inflated 13-game schedule, the bowls aren't going to spurn them again.
SHIFTING DOWN: The strength of the offense, for a team recently known for pinball passing stats, was again the running game last year, where the underclassman trio of Mark Dillard, Freddie Franklin and Patrick Jackson collectively made up for the premature loss of Ryan Moats. Leading rusher Dillard missed Spring practice in the process of being cleared on a rape charge, and will return as a safety in the fall, leaving Franklin - who probably would have hit 1,000 yards himself if he hadn't missed four games - as the main back.
PLUG AND PLAY: Among all the new starters on defense, four will be seniors and two will be juniors, so it's not exactly a young bunch coming in. The returnees, middle linebacker Brannon Jackson and safety Dez Abrams, were hardly stars but both had more than 40 tackles. If the group was only mediocre in '05 (66th overall), it might not be all that much worse.
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC POST-SPRING CHATTER: Look out - walk-ons! A pair of them - quarterback candidate Bradford Broderson and running back Adrian Jackson - each scored touchdowns in the disturbingly-named "Bone Bowl" on April 8.
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The Bone Bowl without the Bone Thugs? Preposterous!
Michael Mosley, Zac Champion and ... Danna took most of the snaps and put up over 400 yards - yay! for the resurgent passing game! Er, uh, and boo! to the lousy, inexperienced secondary.
REASON FOR HOPE: Offensive skill talent is experienced, with three starters back on the offensive line.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: Spanking new quarterback and defense=recipe for disaster.
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, LITERARY OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... Gareth Keenan: moderately successful in an utterly mediocre setting, Keenan as Assistant [to the] Regional Manager at Wernham Hogg (which he personally thinks is the best paper merchants in Thames Valley area), La Tech as a seven-win team tied for third in the Western Athletic Conference, who'd like to be seen as a bit more than they are.
WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING: Well, of course, he looked at the schedule this time, to pick up on the brutal opening slate, and it's hard not to notice another six basically automatic wins against the same bottom-dwelling weak links that puffed up last year's mark. So he'll say seven again, and perhaps an attractive bid to the most obscure bowl game of all time.
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Previous absurdly premature assessments:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: Brigham Young...April 6: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green...April 8: Southern Cal...April 11: Rutgers...April 12: Marshall...April 13: Florida State...April 15: San Diego State...April 17: Alabama...April 19: Oregon State...April 20: Buffalo...April 22: NC State...April 23: Arizona...April 24: Memphis
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