Louisiana Tech starts it's spring practice Thursday inside Joe Aillet Stadium beginning at 4 PM. Tech has 13 returning starters Chad Boyd, Matt Broha, Richie Casey, Adrien Cole, Lennon Creer, Javontay Crowe, Jay Dudley, IK Enemkpali, Andrew Guillot, Taulib Ikharo, Kevin Saia, Stephen Warner, and Ryan Williams. With all these returning starters and with a year under their belt, this Spring should have a completely different feel for Sonny Dykes and his staff and team.
"Yes we will throw a lot more at them this year. What you try to do your first spring is just teach the basic stuff. So much of last spring was spent teaching that. Now we get to teach them how to do the things, the little techniques and the little nuances that make it work. When you start doing that it is when you start becoming a really good football team because every team goes out and runs plays. What we have to get good at doing is coaching the details within the play and that is what we get to do this spring. Our players can learn those details and refine their craft and the results will show."
Dykes has his priority set for the Spring and it is no surprise for anyone who follows the Bulldogs.
"Well, we need to find a quarterback; that is the biggest thing we have to do. We have to find a quarterback and see where we are at that position. That is a position we need to get solidified and start building our football team around our quarterback."
Dykes spoke pretty freely about his returning quarterbacks on the roster that saw game experience.
"Probably Tarik [Hakmi] coming out last year, he would be it if we had an injury down the stretch. Part of that is Colby [Cameron] was playing a lot of receiver too. I felt last year Colby had the physical skill set to do it but just didn't have the tenacity, the want to win the job and that is something he is going to have to develop. I think he has but that is his biggest issue. He doesn't need any more physical development; his issues are just more taking the job over and wanting to do it. That is where it all starts at quarterback, you have to want to do it, you have to have the mental toughness and then everything else comes after that."
Other than the quarterback position, Tech has lots coming back on offense. With the return of their leading rusher, Lennon Creer, Tech will have a veteran in the back field that proved against the best of the best what he can do on the field after rushing for 149 yards against Boise State on 35 carries. Dykes had very positive things to say about his starting running back.
"It took Lennon a while to understand what we were expecting and I think he has started to understand that. AS a result, I think he will have an excellent spring, if he continues to work hard. There are a lot of things he still needs to work on, he needs to learn to run behind his pads a little better, be more physical, be a more complete back, get in a little bit better shape."
At wide receiver, the bulldogs return some guys that really have a grasp of the offense.
"This time last year we felt like we had a lot of depth at wide receiver and it didn't turn out to be the case. We had some guys that got in some trouble, dismissed some players and had some injuries. There are all kinds of things at that position. We added three [junior college] players at that position and I am excited to see where they are."
Dykes will not neglect his defense as he is completely aware of how poor their statistics were in the fall.
"We have to do is continue to develop depth defensively. If you look at our numbers defensively last year, we weren't very good statistically. I think part of that was we were some defensive players short. We were banged up at some positions. We didn't play well together and so the defense had to play a lot of snaps so the numbers got a little bit out of whack. What we have to do is find good back-ups, develop depth on special teams and then get our starters better. We have to improve our play in the secondary; I think that is something we have to do a good job of. We have a lot of returning people with experience, now they have to go out and get better at what they do. I am excited to see how those guys react to a new challenge given to them"
Specifically, Dykes is pleased with how two of his linebackers are progressing.
"I think Jay Dudley has probably improved himself as much as any player we've got in the last year, especially in the weight room. He has really bought into the program and I couldn't be more pleased at what he is doing. He is becoming a leader for us; he is leading by example and is a hard worker. I look for Jay to have a great year; he just needs to stay healthy. He was a little nicked up at times last year. Being able to stay healthy is his biggest issue and he has gotten a little bigger, a little stronger and he has added some weight to help him do that. Solomon Randle is someone who just does everything right. He works hard every day, has the right mindset, probably isn't as talented as some other players but just has such a great work ethic, great toughness and has a really good feel for playing that position. The linebacker is very similar to the quarterback. A lot of it is a feel for playing that position. People always suggest moving players to linebacker but I have never found that those moves are very good because those guys have an innate feel for the game - you have to in order to be a good linebacker - and I think Solomon has that."