BTB Mailbag: 3/31/17

Ben Carlisle, Publisher
Bleed Tech Blue
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Sutton Davison

What are the chances of Tech being able to keep Coach Holtz long term? He seems to be the kind of guy who is very loyal to the program (seeing as he has really tried to take care of his assistants and he has mentioned that we are beginning to build a program at Tech). Also, I could see him being at the age where he wants to stay in one place and retire there. Personally, I would to see this take place! What are your thoughts? ---Chase G.

On December 14, 2012, Louisiana Tech introduced Skip Holtz as its 33rd Head Coach in program history. Coach Holtz came from the University of South Florida and signed a five year deal with the Bulldogs. Fast forward to 2017, and Holtz is entering the last year of his original contract. Over his previous four years at Tech, Holtz has compiled a 31-22 record while going 22-10 in Conference USA play, winning two C-USA West Division Championships, and three consecutive bowl games. It has been widely reported that Coach Holtz and Louisiana Tech have been having on-going contract extension talks throughout the winter and into the spring. I strongly believe that an extension will get done and Coach Holtz will be locked up for years to come. However, in the world of college football when a coach wins at the G-5 level, P-5 school always seem to come in and scoop up the better coaches. Holtz certainly classifies as a quality coach and would interest many P-5 schools. The question is, would he take the bait and make the move? Money talks and money will always talk, but if there is a coach that would turn down the money to continue building a consistent winner it would be Holtz. He has proven too many that he can build a program the right way and sustain that success for multiple years. The fit between Tech and Skip Holtz is one that fits together like a puzzle. Unless the perfect offer comes along, which are few and far between in college football, I can certainly see Holtz leading the Bulldogs for 10+ years and riding off into the sunset as one of, if not the best coach in Bulldog history.

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Star-Telegram

Who are some potential fifth year transfers to Tech? ---Marshall N.

Fifth-year transfers have been very kind to the Bulldog football team in recent years. Cody Sokol, Jeff Driskel, and Houston Bates have all provided positive impacts. Sokol and Driskel both accounted for 30+ touchdowns while Bates collected 10 sacks in route to getting an opportunity in the NFL. The instant impact that these fifth year guys can have can be a blessing or a curse. During Coach Holtz’s tenure at Tech they have paid off in a big way. As far as fifth year guys for 2017, the holes are still being identified by Coach Holtz and his staff. When spring practice wraps up in a just over a week, there will be a better understanding of who the targets might be. Spring is critical in so many ways for guys to earn their position so that the coaches don’t feel an obligation to go out and get a fifth-year stop gap player. Cornerback is lacking experience, but with Mike Sam coming in this fall and with limited scholarships available this could be a year where Tech does not go out and get a fifth year guy. BleedTechBlue.com will have the latest on fifth year transfers when spring practice comes to a close April 8th.

Offensively, last year, we saw a ball distribution that went to 1 of 2 guys 218 times out of 362 completions (just over 60%). This year, with such a deep group of talents WRs and no real “studs”, could we see a lot more distribution of the ball to different guys and utilizing different groups of WRs based on situation instead of following a “these are the starters and we only put in their backup if they need a break” kind of thing? ---SeekerHound

Carlos Henderson and Trent Taylor were the clear focal point of the Tech offense in 2016. With the talent that those two possessed they will be extremely difficult to replace. Get this, Henderson and Taylor combined for 474 catches, 7,057 yards and 65 touchdowns over their careers. In 2017 the WR corp will not be as focused on one or two guys. The talent is there to be special when you look at the likes of Teddy Veal, Rhashid Bonnette, Kam McKnight, DeJuawn Oliver, Alfred Smith, Marcus Gaines, Marlon Watts, Zach Cousar, Adrian Hardy and Javonte Woodard. On the surface it looks like there may not be one stud receiver, but I am of the belief that Teddy Veal will be the clear cut #1 receiver. Veal has shown throughout the spring that he has elite talent and uses it very effectively in his route running and catching the football. Outside of Veal, I look for a good number of guys to make solid contributions. Kam McKnight will be a big target over the middle, Bonnette can use his speed to stretch the field, Gaines is a big play guy as we’ve seen in years past, Smith is a great blocker in the run game and continues to improve receiving, and Watts should have a role as a jump ball receiver in the red zone. The thing that I love about this receiving group is the multitude of talents that they bring to the table. Replacing Henderson and Taylor individually will not be achieved, but as a group these guys will get the job done.

Last year Jake Wells was our hitting coach. Does anyone have that title this year or are duties split? Is this year’s approach an extension of what Wells taught or have we changed? What are the differences (if any) and how have the players adapted/bought in? ---ChuckBoy

Jerry Zulli was named as the hitting coach for Coach Burroughs and Louisiana Tech shortly after Burroughs took over in the summer of 2016. Zulli came from the Univerity of Missouri where he spent one year as recruiting coordinator, infield coach, and 3rd base coach for the Tigers. Zulli teaches a very aggressive offensive style which suits the 2017 Tech team perfectly. The Diamond Dogs carry a number of great hitters who are very offensive and love to swing the bat. The offensive style has changed to some degree from what Wells taught in the previous two years. The one noticeable change has been the fewer number of sacrifices bunts. In 2016, Bulldog fans saw Coach Goff and Coach Wells opt for the sacrifice regularly in order to have more opportunities with runners in scoring position. The 2017 club has shown an innate ability to get on base, so Coach Burroughs and Coach Zulli have opted for more of a moneyball approach and wait for those guys to be driven in, instead of giving up outs. The end result to this point in the season has been an increase in the runs scored per game by two runs, so I would definitely say that the players have bought into Coach Zulli’s offensive philosophy.

Have any of the walk-ons caught your or any coaches attention? ---tlphillips46

Walk-ons have played a huge role in the Tech program for a few years now. Names like Hunter Lee, Ray Holley, Andrew Guillot, Blake Martin, and more recently Boston Scott always seem to be fan favorites. The 2017 walk-on group is relatively small at this point, but has some talented guys in it. Dee Fleming at RB impressed in his freshman year and wound up with four carries in 2016. He continues to push Jarred Craft and Boston Scott in hopes of more playing time in 2017. Kirkland McCullough is a safety that has shown well throughout the spring. McCullough is entering his RS JR year, so he has some experience in the program. He possesses great ball skills, and has shown great tackling technique thus far in the spring. After seeing minimal time in his first two years, he will look to earn more time in 2017. The final name that has shown some flashes is Ezekiel Barnett. Barnett is a long, rangy safety that has that prototypical size that is looked for in a safety. Barnett, from Benton, LA, could see some time on special teams and possibly in the secondary if he continues to work hard. When fall camp rolls around in August, a better gauge will be able to be determined as far as walk-ons contributing.

Thank you for all the questions and be on the look out for next week’s Mailbag to submit yours! For more in depth discussion on these topics and more, subscribe to BleedTechBlue.com.

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