August 23, 2018 7:27:17 AM
Luck has not been a fan of Louisiana Tech's. So many times, Tech has had promising pieces at many positions, but not at all of them. So many times it's prevented them from winning Conference USA; I imagine the same thing will happen once again this year, with the same culprit to blame.
Last year, Louisiana Tech chose a really bad time to lose all of its good wide receivers. This year, it's done that with running backs. Both running backs that took more than 100 carries are gone; Boston Scott took that 183-carry season and made it a 1,000-yard season, so there's a big blow.
Tech did use quarterback J'Mar Smith to run a good bit last year, so that could help, but this is ultimately about the second back. Jaqwis Dancy is serviceable, but Tech needs a No. 2 bad and that guy isn't obvious going into Week 1.
The timing is especially bad given pretty much everything else on offense returns. Smith returns after an admittedly uninspiring season statistically, but I imagine those numbers will improve with Teddy Veal (74 catches for 950 yards, 7 TDs) and Rhashid Bonnette (33 catches for 582 yards, 2 TDs) coming back. Running back Kam McKnight is also a solid pass-catching option.
All of that is boosted with four starters returning on the offensive line, and Tech has some depth to deal with injuries: they've already had to do so thus far in preseason camp.
Best defensive line in the Group of 5? It's a conversation.
Even after his relatively disappointing (to his own standards) 2017 season, it's easy to look at senior end Jaylon Ferguson as one of the best at his position in his conference; he has been voted such the last two years. The interior is strong with senior Jordan Bradford, junior Ka'Derrion Mason and senior Keonatye Garner.
If Tech figures out the other edge, this should be the best unit of its kind in Conference USA, which is good, because it likely won't be able to say that about the other two position groups.
Linebacker is a group that didn't do much in terms of havoc plays last year, but they are bolstered by former Mizzou Tiger Trey Baldwin and three junior college additions.
Now, I will say this, and I mean this in the utmost seriousness: cornerback Amik Robertson might be one of the best in the nation. Bill Connelly discovered he was one of just seven FBS players to have 7.5 tackles for a loss and 11 passes defended last season -- did I mention he did it as a freshman? I'm fascinated to see how Tech uses him against MSU.
Outside of him, this secondary will go as its safeties go. There are some juniors and seniors in this group, but even going down from there, experience is lacking. Robertson may be great, but if there's no deep help, Louisiana Tech could have an average year defensively once again.
Well this is just unfortunate. Last year, placekicking was awesome and punting was bad. The placekicker is gone; the punter is back.
How about this though: that punter, Brady Farlow, is apparently making the transition to placekicking. That'll be fun to monitor.
I have a soft spot for Louisiana Tech. I look at Jaylon Ferguson, Teddy Veal, Amik Robertson, the offensive line and Tech's well-established recent history of players like that and I think, man, it's a crime this program has won Conference USA exactly zero times in Skip Holtz's five seasons.
Then I look at position groups such as running back, safety and linebacker and think, yeah, it makes sense this hasn't happened for you.
Just one time, I want to see Tech put all the pieces together for one year, have it just so happened to be a year with two SEC schools on the schedule (like last year and this year) and see what happens. Unfortunately, I don't think this is the year.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson