April 13, 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. Tenth and the final issue in this series of installments is a look at the quarterbacks with offensive coordinator Tony Franklin.
When the new staff came to Louisiana Tech, head coach Sonny Dykes opened up all spots on the depth chart prior to spring practice believing that a true open competition will challenge everyone to play better. In many instances, that has made the decision of who will be on the depth chart tough for the coaching staff and there is no more challenging position on the field for that than at quarterback.
With an open depth chart, Steven Ensminger was allowed to move back to the quarterback position after ending last season fourth on the depth chart at tight end. With a new lease on life, Ensminger has stepped up to challenge incumbent starter Ross Jenkins for the top spot.
With all four competing for one spot, the competition has led this group to a friendly battle for the top spot. That first began with all four needing to learn the new offensive package Dykes and Franklin have brought to Louisiana Tech.
"The quarterbacks have done well, they have improved as a whole, they work hard, they have competed extremely hard and I am pleased with their progress," Franklin said. "This group has picked up the offense better than any group I have ever had. As a group, they have studied harder and worked harder to learn it and they know the offense well."
For most of spring camp, the quarterback competition has been between Jenkins and Ensminger with each pushing each other to do better. Ensminger moved back to quarterback when the new staff came in after being listed as the fourth-string tight end last year.
"Fortunately for me I got a new shot; it's a new life," said Ensminger. "It's kind of kicked things up for me. I have been really excited. It has been a dream come true. Just work, that's all we really can do. Ross and I work together a lot, we're always at home and every once in a while and say `Hey Steve, what do you think about this play?' Technically, that's all we are doing. When we are not at football, we're at football, and we're talking about football."
The competition between Ensminger and Jenkins is something the two friends have relished rather than fought over.
"It is a lot of fun," Ensminger said. "A lot of people ask how we don't argue or fight. We're quarterbacks, we understand each other. We know that we are really good friends and we are going to push each other and whoever comes out on top deserves it. We've worked really hard together."
Jenkins echoes Ensminger's sentiments.
"We're roommates, we're good friends and we've been good friends," explained Jenkins. "We competed last spring and a couple years ago and we're doing it again. It is good being out there with someone you enjoy being around and competing with. Steven is the most talented out of all of us [quarterbacks]. I have always known that he has the talent. I knew he would be up there. He has remarkable talent and is fun to be around. He is always kidding around so he lightens the mood when things get serious. It's been great getting to compete with a friend like that."
Both have worked hard together to study the new offense, which included watching a lot of film prior to the start of spring camp. As for Ensminger, when Franklin came to Louisiana Tech he already knew the kind of arm Ensminger had.
"It's funny, I saw Steven when he was a sophomore going into his junior year in high school," said Franklin. "Back before I started coaching again I did a consulting job at Opelika and thought he could throw the ball then. Sometimes it is just a perfect fit for somebody and this offense definitely fits him. If he will continue to get better with his fundamentals, he has a lot of talent and could win for us. It has been a good competition this spring and competition makes everyone better."
However, the quarterback race at Louisiana Tech is quickly changing and instead of it being narrowed down, the field is expanding. Rising redshirt sophomore Colby Cameron has improved dramatically over the last week and is starting to gain some attention.
"The guy that has really been improving is Colby [Cameron]," said Dykes. "The last four or five practices he has made a steady improvement."
When Cameron was told he wouldn't likely have a chance at the starting job for the fall, it took that as a challenge from Franklin.
"What is good about Colby is I told him a couple weeks ago that Steven Ensminger and Ross Jenkins were going to get more of the reps with the ones and that he needed to just keep competing," recalled Franklin. "I told him something might happen but that it didn't look great for his chances for next year. Most quarterbacks you tell that to put their head down and pout and think about transferring. He took it as a challenge, worked harder to get better and got him back into the picture of getting a chance to be the guy."
Right behind Cameron is Doak Raulston, who is finishing up his true freshman year and is continually improving and learning.
"Doak Raulston is doing well and is getting better fundamentally," Franklin said. "He just needs what these other guys have had, which is two or three years of learning. It is hard for quarterbacks to play when they are young. They have to be incredibly gifted both physically and mentally to do that. It is just very difficult for a second year freshman to play."
"I see a lot of good things that Doak [Raulston] is starting to do," Dykes commented. "He is starting to practice with more confidence and more certainty. That is so critical with that position, just having confidence and understanding what is going on out there."
With one practice remaining in spring camp on Tuesday, the question of who Louisiana Tech's starting quarterback will be is a question that will likely be left open ended. The four quarterbacks will continue their competition throughout the summer and into fall camp.
"The thing that is going to be critical for all of those quarterbacks is having a great summer," explained Dykes. "Getting in and watching as much film as possible, spending a lot of time working with these receivers, really refining their craft and getting on the same page. That takes a lot more than 15 practices in the spring, it takes an entire summer and all of two-a-days and game week and everything before those guys can start operating at that level we need right now."
For the most comprehensive coverage of Louisiana Tech's spring football practices, check out Spring Football Central at LATechSports.com. For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.