Defensive Line Disruptive as Bulldogs Return to Practice Field

April 8, 2015

RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech returned to the football practice fields Wednesday afternoon after an extended Easter holiday break, practicing for two hours in the first session in a week.

Like most teams coming off an extended break, there was a sluggish start to the practice but the two-hour session with fast-paced movement and physical drills kept the team's attention during the sunny afternoon practice.

"I thought we were a little bit sluggish as far as the excitement and energy as concerned but I thought we came out here and worked hard," said Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz. "We came out here and had a very physical practice today with a lot of inside teamwork, 3-on-3 and things like that. I thought they came out and worked hard."

As the Bulldogs head into the final third of spring practice leading up to the Spring Game on April 18, the focus on getting quality work in becomes even more important with only five practice sessions left before players will be on their own until fall camp.

"Our last five days are really important with what we are able to get done with this team," Holtz explained. "I thought we've come a long way in 10 days. I think we've made a lot of progress and a lot of guys have really stepped up and started to make a mark in the two-deep but we still have a ways to go in these final five practices. Today was a step in the right direction as far as the way we worked, got the fundamental work and knock on wood stayed healthy."

With returning starters Vernon Butler and Vontarrius Dora leading the way, the defensive line is finding leadership in a pair of seniors that are never satisfied with what they do on and off the field. The two quiet athletes are also beginning to make their presence known to teammates as they step into leadership roles left vacant by Houston Bates from last year and Justin Ellis and IK Enemkpali the year prior.

 

 

"I think both those guys are doing a really good job," Holtz said of the two senior linemen. "The two of them are going to be the two guys that are going to have to lead this thing and they both have to become more vocal, they are both very quiet personalities. I think it is important to both of them and when you watch the way both of them are playing, there is no question that it means something to them."

Part of the duo's excellent work on the field has been attributed to veteran defensive line coach Rick Petri joining the staff this year. Petri returned to Louisiana Tech - he coached the Bulldogs in 1992 - after spending the last four years at Duke with stops at Kentucky and South Carolina since he was first in Ruston.

"I think he has done a great job," Holtz said of Petri. "With guys like Vernon Butler and Vontarrius Dora, he has taken both of their games to another level. Those guys are lifting others up, they are not satisfied and they are not sitting at status quo. We finish one of the 3-on-3 drills and they are asking me if they can go again. They are not looking to get out of things. That speaks volumes about their attitudes and Coach Petri has done a great job of building a relationship with those guys. He is very knowledgeable and I think he has done a nice job of reaching to both. They are great young men and they are both very open to being willing to being coached and that helps."

Petri's coaching has helped Butler to play more consistent in reps than he has before. The 6-3, 317-pound tackle has been so efficient and disruptive on the line, he often has to get taken out of drills to allow the offense to run plays.

"[Vernon Butler is playing] more consistent than he did a year ago and more on an every down basis," Holtz said. "When you can get a great defensive lineman I ought to have to take him out to run plays [on offense]. I think Vernon is doing some good things but I also think he is going to make our guards and centers a whole lot better with them going against a guy like that every single day."

"I think Vernon has a tremendous amount of pride, he has been working extremely hard and he is doing an awfully lot of good things," Holtz added. "But he has taken his game to a new level which is what you want you seniors to do. In order for us to have a really good football team, we think our seniors have to play the best football of their career. I have to say with what I have seen through a handful of days of spring, Vernon is doing that."

Weather permitting, Louisiana Tech will practice Friday afternoon and then hold a scrimmage Saturday.

For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please follow @LATechFB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.

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