The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will be looking for improvement in Skip Holtz’s second year as head coach.
The Bulldogs finished 4-8 last season under Holtz, who replaced Spike Dykes. They lost three of their last four games.
At Conference USA’s Media Day last month, Holtz cited several reasons for the team’s lack of success — lack of speed at receiver, four new starters on the offensive line, inexperience at quarterback and turnovers.
It didn’t help, either, that running backs Tevin King and Kenneth Dixon battled injuries during parts of the season.
Holtz believes the Bulldogs made progress in addressing those issues in the offseason.
“I think the staff has done a great job of starting to plug some of those holes on the offensive side of the ball, and I think with the experience we have on defense it’s going to be an exciting year,” he said.
The improvement might not be apparent in the team’s record early in the season.
The Bulldogs play three games in 13 days to start the season, and they are all on the road against teams that went to bowl games in 2013. Four of the first five games are on the road against bowl teams.
The Bulldogs open the season Saturday against No. 3-ranked Oklahoma in Norman.
“We’re going to have to be oiled up, and we’re going to have to play well early,” Holtz said. “But I also think it’s going to help our team grow. I think it can help us in the long run. It’s a tremendous opportunity for our football team to showcase the progress that we’ve made.”
Tech returns five starters on offense and seven on defense.
With Dixon healthy, the running game could be Tech’s strength early. Blake Martin will be a key backup along with former Haughton star Malcolm Seets. Another former Haughton standout, freshman Jarred Craft, could also be in the mix.
Holtz announced Monday evening that Cody Sokol, a fifth-year senior who transferred from Iowa, will start at quarterback over sophomore Ryan Higgins, who started six games last season.
King, who rushed for more than 600 yards last season, has been moved to receiver.
LSU transfer Paul Turner could also provide some speed at the position along with junior college transfer Sanford Seay. Former Evangel star Trent Taylor, who played in all 12 games last season, returns.
The offensive line will be a work in progress with Michael Bell and Tre Carter the lone returning starters.
Defensive lineman Vernon Butler was a preseason All-Conference selection. Other returnees include lineman Vontarrius Dora, linebacker Mitch Villemez, and backs Le’Vander Liggns, Adairus Barnes, Xaver Woods and Bryson Abraham.
Linebacker Houston Bates, an Illinois transfer, should also be an impact player. Linebacker Tony Johnson wasn’t a starter but saw significant action last year. Holtz also expects lineman DeAngelo Brooks, an Airline product, to be a contributor.
La. Tech vs. Oklahoma
At Norman, Okla.
Saturday, 6 p.m. (1340 AM, 100.7 FM)
Parish connection: Freshman RB Jarred Craft (Haughton), junior offensive lineman Jeremy Long (Haughton), junior running back Marlon Seets (Haughton), senior DL DeAngelo Brooks (Airline)
— Staff Reports, firstname.lastname@example.org