March 29, 2010
RUSTON, La. - As the Louisiana Tech football team works through its first spring practice season with new head coach Sonny Dykes, LATechSports.com will be taking a look at the progress of various positions on the team. Fourth in this series of installments is a look at the defensive line with coach Stan Eggen.
One of the toughest and most experienced groups in 2009, the defensive line was hit the worst by graduation after three starters ended their collegiate careers at Tech last season. With Tech returning only one starter on the defensive line, the Bulldogs are looking for players to step up this spring to fill a trio of holes and some very large shoes.
Rising junior Matt Broha will be the only returning starter on a defensive line that was well respected last season. With the loss of starters Kwame Jordan, Adrian Logan and likely 2010 NFL draft pick D'Anthony Smith, the Bulldogs are looking for players ready to step up and fill the shoes of the departed seniors.
While Louisiana Tech may not be able to immediately replace D'Anthony Smith, a core group of guys may give the line more talent overall than just at one position.
"It is always interesting to see how players respond [when losing several starters]," said Eggen, who moved from linebackers coach to the defensive line this spring. "The challenge for our group is we don't have them; we're not going to have them, now who's going to take advantage of the opportunity? That's what I'm challenging right now - who is going to step up and take advantage of their opportunity to step in and be somebody we can count on. We'll have more players this year, we may not have a few that have the ability of a D'Anthony Smith, but if we can have a couple guys that can play as fast over the time, we can have as much production."
With a new fast-paced, attacking offense being implemented, the defense is adjusting to a faster pace of the game with players given the opportunity to make a name for themselves.
"You hope guys are here to take advantage of the opportunity, to get minutes, to play, to take chances all to be a productive Division I football player," Eggen said. "That's what we want and I think they are responding to it. It will be interesting and it is a work in progress, but we are moving forward."
Broha, the lone returning starter for the Bulldogs defensive line, recorded 36 total tackles last season and was just behind Smith with 5.0 tackles for a loss along with a team-leading four sacks. With impressive numbers recorded in the fall, Broha has not missed a step and is continuing to shine this spring while guys like Christian Lacey and Randy Grigsby are trying to separate themselves from the pack.
"I like how Matt Broha has performed, as well as Christian Lacey," Eggen says of guys who have performed well thus far in the spring. "Those two guys, along with Randy Grigsby from the end position, those three guys from the end position have done a nice job. Mason Hitt and Ramone Randle have taken the necessary steps to be guys [that we can count on]. We've got about three other tackles right now that are trying to push those two and that is Justin Ellis, Philip Longino and John White although John has been a little nicked up but we're trying to get him back."
The goal for the entire line is to become more of an attacking and physical unit this coming season.
"We've changed a little bit from a philosophy standpoint this year to be playing and attacking a little bit more," Eggen explained. "That's coming along and I am pleased with it but not satisfied. We are not where we need to be but our guys are working hard and trying to step up and be accountable to each other and be better teammates. I like to see that."
As the defensive line continues throughout the spring, the emphasis will be on looking for players who are wanting to take advantage of an open depth chart situation and be aggressive in going after the ball.
"I want to see us stress the line of scrimmage, get off at pad level and be violent with our eyes and hands and turning and run to the football," concluded Eggen. "We are looking for hunting dogs, not recreational dogs and that's what I've told them."
Fans don't have to wait until the T-Day Spring Game to get their first glimpse of the defensive line in action as all practices are open to the public. Bulldog fans are encouraged to attend the next practice, which will be held at 4 p.m. on Monday, March 29 at Joe Aillet Stadium with the second scrimmage of the spring season set for 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 1.
For the most comprehensive coverage of Louisiana Tech's spring football practices, check out the Spring Football Central at LATechSports.com. For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.