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February 6, 2014

Tech could have several new faces on offense in 2014

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Louisiana Tech's offense received enough criticism to go around last season. Its receiving corps was plagued by drops and the inability to get separation on the outside. The quarterbacks struggled with accuracy and turnovers. Up front, the offensive line struggled to protect and create holes. In recruiting and with players sitting out last season, Tech could look completely different on offense in 2014.

Paul Turner and Carlos Henderson are the players Tech had sitting out last season. Turner because of NCAA transfer rules after his transfer from LSU and Henderson with a redshirt year to get bigger and stronger. Henderson is up to 190 pounds from the 160 pounds he reported to Tech at. The player development by strength coach Kurt Hester in this past off-season has been big for the Bulldogs head coach Skip Holtz said. From strength to flexibility, Holtz said it is exciting to see the development in the bodies of the team as a whole.

"We talked about speed at wide receiver and when I look at Carlos Henderson, Paul Turner and the addition of a guy like Sanford Seay, a junior college player coming in, who was a first team all-state selection in the state of Georgia coming out of high school. He brings a lot of speed and athleticism," head coach Skip Holtz said Wednesday.

In the 2014 class, Tech added upwards of six pass catchers. Some of those being inside receiver types who want to make people miss in Brodrick Jefferson and Marcus Gaines and big-bodied inside receivers Kameron McKnight and Michael Rodriguez. Jefferson and Gaines will have a tougher road to playing time at receiver but McKnight and Rodriguez come in at a position of need.

"I think one of the reasons Parkway was playing in the state championship game was because of Brodrick as well as the guy throwing to him. When you look at his big play potential, he made a lot of big plays for that football team. He brings one of those explosive weapons to the field that we talked about and I think we need. He is going to need to put on weight and he is going to need to continue developing."

"The other spot that we have not even had on our roster has been the tight end, an H-back or big bodied wide receiver and that is where I look at a guy like Kameron McKnight. McKnight is a very explosive player. A lot of people recruited him as a tailback, wide receiver, linebacker and defensive end. He was recruited as a lot of different things. I think he has a chance to find his way on the field, as well as a guy like Michael Rodriguez who I think is a very large individual. He is 6-5, 250 pounds and athletic. You look at his highlight films and the things he can do. Guys like that have a chance to make an impact because of the hole that is there."

At quarterback, Tech brings in two from the high school ranks in Price Wilson and Alex Woodall. When the coaches talked about both yesterday their faces lit up.

"We talked about the junior college players but I think the two quarterbacks are going to have an opportunity to come in and compete. It is not a secret that position was not a position of productivity for us. I think the more competition we can get the better. What Price Wilson and Alex Woodall bring to the table are two totally different skill talents. Alex is a 6-3, 235 pound quarterback that can run and throw and bring some athleticism to the position. Price Wilson has a nice touch and arm and his throwing ability brings you more of a throwing quarterback. I think they are both very different and have a unique skill set as they come in here and I definitely think those two are going to have an opportunity to compete for playing time as soon as they arrive on campus."

Wilson was compared to Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich by offensive coordinator Tony Petersen on signing day -- he coached both and both wound up first round draft picks.

"On tape you see a young man that has touch on the deep ball and that is something that we did not do very well this year. Hard to evaluate arm strength on film and I have not seen him throw live since he was not in one of our camps. I was not able to go out in the spring so I have to rely on my assistants on what they see. The comment that he said to me was, 'Coach he throws it like Zeus.' What impressed me more than the physical skills that Tony was able to evaluate live, was having the opportunity to sit him down and put him on a board and hear his understanding of defenses. To see him get the big picture, that is what really impresses me. I am anxious to see him get here, I am anxious to see Zeus throw."

Woodall brings a completely different skillset to the table for Tech and the coaches lit up equally for Woodall's abilities.

"When I look at our needs right now, we have three throwers at that position. When you get into a situation like last year and you cannot protect them, cannot separate, cannot catch it and you do not have a lot of production. What I see is a 6-3, 230 pound athlete that can run and move his feet and throws the ball well enough to be a quarterback. I do not think his game is to sit back in the pocket and throw the ball at this point. I think you are going to utilize a guy like him a little bit more like Auburn utilized their quarterback. You are going to get in more of the zone read stuff and the play action passing that comes off of that. I think he brings a different and unique skill set because he is not just an athlete as far as just speed, when you look at his size; he has the potential to be a durable runner for you. We tried to use Ryan Higgins a little bit more in that role early when we were struggling, as that zone read guy to try and make some things happen with his feet and obviously when you look back at 200 pounds, he was not very durable in that role. That is one of the things I think Alex Woodall brings to the table, a big physical and durable quarterback that has the athleticism to be able to be a little bit of a running and play action passing quarterback."

Offensive line was a big focus of Tech's 2014 class and with good reason. They added a couple of mid-year guys in Kirby Wixson and Blake Sharp along with a couple of high school additions, Shane Carpenter and Deonte McCrady. McCrady is expected to grayshirt however.

Wixson is expect to come in and start more than likely at center for the Bulldogs. Sharp is a very versatile and athletic offensive lineman who could play guard or tackle. Carpenter is a big tackle who will be a player for Tech in the future.

The offensive line is a place Tech could look to add some FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) transfers. Holtz talked about that possibility and was a reason Tech did not sign its full allotment of 25. Tech has the ability to count two of its December signees back to 2013 free up even more room for transfers.

"I think right now we are up against the wall with our 25 initials and I am making sure that we are not full when someone wants to come to Louisiana Tech. I think it is important to come out of signing day not just settling. I am not worried about the ones that we lose or do not take; I am worried about the ones that we take. One of the philosophies that we come out of with signing day is that we want to come out with a couple of scholarships in our hip pocket just in case one of those transfers like Daniel and Sterling. They were a great contribution to our team last year."

Even with a horse like Kenneth Dixon Tech was still mindful of the future and pulled in Haughton's Jarred Craft, a big physical running back.

"I look at a guy like Jarred Craft coming in with what he did at Haughton. With his size, speed and athleticism, he is built like a Kenneth Dixon, a big durable back that can do a lot of different things. We feel very fortunate to have a guy with his talents and abilities."

With all the additions Tech made on the offensive side of the ball, you may need a program for the first half of the 2014 season just to know names and numbers.



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