Louisiana Tech has more depth this season, but the roster is still not quite full.
In 2013, Louisiana Tech Head Coach Skip Holtz inherited a team that was short on numbers. He spent most of fall camp waiting on waivers for players looking for a 6th year of eligibility. Even after gaining those waivers, the Bulldogs had a total of 79 Scholarship players.
This season, that number has grown to 83. However, it took adding 7 players after signing day. This includes senior transfers Cody Sokol and Houston Bates. Holtz also awarded scholarships to 6 underclassmen walk-ons that earned them by their hard work.
"Right now we are at 83 which is a huge jump from last year when we played at 79," Holtz said. "One of the things that really limits you is you only have 25 initials and we talked about when 32 players walk out the door, you can only replace 25 of them with incoming players. That is what we have tried to do is try to use some of the scholarships without using an initial with some of the guys we have talked about like Conner Smith and Kyle Fischer and those guys that have been here to help us get back to 85, then you can be healthy enough where you can go sign 25 a year and not feel like you are under the limit."
Holtz has pieced together a senior class that includes the senior transfers (Sokol and Bates) and junior college players signed a year ago, most notably Mitchell Bell, Tre Carter, Terrell Pinson, and Mitch Villamez. Levander Liggins is the only four year player on Tech's roster who is likely to start as a senior.
This shortage of seniors is a direct correlation to the signing of multiple junior college players in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, Tech signed Levander Liggins out of high school in a class that also included Quinton Patton and Myles White. That junior college heavy class was a huge part of Tech's very successful 2012 season.
That class will always be fondly remembered by Tech fans and the 2012 season was certainly payoff for the strategy involved in putting that class together. However, it left Tech short handed in 2013 and Coach Holtz is still building those numbers back up.
On the bright side, Tech may lose only 7 or 8 senior starters a year from now (Sokol, Bates, Bell, Carter, Villamez, Pinson, DeAngelo Brooks, and Liggins). With 18 commitments already on the board for the 2015 class, and a 2014 class that was heavily built on high school players; Tech will be in great position heading into the 2015 season.
In the meantime, the 2014 season may depend on those senior starters and a handful of standout juniors (Kenneth Dixon, Vernon Butler, Paul Turner, Sanford Seay, Adarius Barnes, Tony Johnson, Malcolm Pichon, and Vontarius Dora). The schedule won't help, especially early in the season. This young team should show sign of improvement by the time October rolls around.
"Right now when I look at Kameron McKnight as one of those bigger mids coming in here who could hopefully make an immediate impact. When I look at the speed and athleticism of a [Marcus] Gaines, [Marlon] Watts and [Tywun] Walters at wide receiver. When I look at our depth and some of the things we are doing, I look at a Jarred Craft too who is very talented."
If Price Wilson can come in and take over the offense next spring, 2015 could be the payoff.