Depth Starting to Show for @LATechFB Receivers
Aug. 11, 2015
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech practiced for two hours under the lights at Joe Aillet Stadium Tuesday in the second official practice of fall camp with the cooler evening temperatures again allowing the speed and conditioning of the student-athletes to be showcased on the field.
Per NCAA rules, the team was still limited to helmets and shorts Tuesday while Wednesday’s practice will be the Bulldogs’ first opportunity to don shoulder pads.
“Again we went at night under the lights,” Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz said of Tuesday’s practice time. “I am not going to say it is cool but it is cooler than it is in the middle of the day. We had a lot of energy, just like last night, a lot of energy, a lot of passion, guys flying around out there. We have a long way to go but I am really encouraged by what I see. I am encouraged with where we are and the talent we have to work with right now. There are a lot of things that are rusty but our ones look pretty good and have retained some things pretty well, as far as knowing what to do. We will find out where we are fundamentally when we start putting on pads and going against each other tomorrow.”
The depth at outside receiver has been notable throughout the first two days to both coaches and the fans that have made it out to watch the team in its drills. The group, coached by Tim Rattay, returns significant experience and depth. Paul Turner (42 catches for 514 yards, four touchdowns) and Carlos Henderson (29 catches for 569 yards, four touchdowns) are the top returning producers at the outside receiver position but returnees Marlon Watts, Marcus Gaines, Sanford Seay and walk-on DeJauwn Oliver all add significant depth.
“Marlon Watts is getting better, he is now in the program going into his second year,” Holtz said. “I still wish he had a redshirt year because I think if he were 220 pounds, I think he would be phenomenal. Right now he is a 190-pound, tall, lanky receiver with great ball skills. I mean great ball skills. Probably the best ball skills of any receiver we have out there right now. I just think he has to mature and grow. Marcus Gaines is doing some really good things, then obviously you have Paul Turner and Carlos Henderson but Marcus and Marlon bring a little depth to the table. DeJauwn Oliver and Sanford Seay and I really like what Javonte Woodard has done in the first two days that he has been here. I think he has shown some flashes and really has a chance to help this football team - or at least be a spare if we were to have an injury or some needs – but I think he is going to be a really good player here as well.”
The experience returning at the position, coupled with the gains made with the strength and conditioning staff over the spring and summer, could pay big dividends for the Bulldog receiving corps this fall.
“I told the guys in the first [position] meeting that I had eight guys in there and six had actually played in a game last year for us at some point,” Rattay said of his position group. “I have some guys that have played before now so they understand what I expect out of them, they understand what they need to get better and they all improved this offseason and did what I asked them to do. It is good to have a veteran group. I told them after the first two days that I thought they were better than they have been.”
The depth created at outside receiver is aided by the work ethic of Oliver, a walk-on that has worked his way into playing time.
“DeJauwn Oliver had a lot of flashes a year ago when he came in here as a walk on,” explained Holtz. “I would think ‘Wow, who is that,’ and then he would drop the next eight balls. He knew what he was doing, he is running good routes, he is working hard but he just wasn’t as consistent as he needed to be. But I’ll tell you, he has an incredible attitude, he is working extremely hard and he’s gotten better. He has changed his body, he has gotten more physical, he is bigger, he is becoming a better blocker and he is becoming an every down player. Right now he is a guy I trust.
“You talk about him as a walk on and I don’t view him as a walk-on. He is going to be in our depth chart, he is going to travel, he is going to be on special teams, he is going to play and he is going to be a guy that is going to earn a scholarship here as we move forward because he has certainly earned it just with the way he has worked, like the way Michael Mims has. Just like Michael Mims got an opportunity to get on the field last year quite a bit and earn it now, DeJauwn is going to get the opportunity to get on the field this year and earn it as he moves forward.”
It is no surprise Oliver and Mims found an opportunity to be successful as walk-ons at Louisiana Tech. The program has a proud history of walk-ons becoming significant collegiate players. Most recently that occurred with Hunter Lee the past four years and even with a notable story in Tramon Williams, who is now entering his 10th season in the National Football League. Several walk-ons have gone on to earn scholarships and even play football at the next level.
“Looking at a year ago, we put six walk-ons on scholarship,” Holtz said. “You look at Ricky Jones and Marlon Seets who played a critical role for us a year ago. I look at what Conner Smith has been doing for us and the role that he has played. All these guys, they bring to the table an unselfish attitude, hard work and they just want to go out there and play football. They love the game, they’re tough, they’re physical, it’s not about entitlement or about ‘I play football’ it is about wanting to be good. We can’t have enough program players like that.”
The opportunities that arise to award a walk-on a scholarship come from the plan set in motion in January and early February when Holtz and his staff do not sign the maximum 25 players on National Signing Day. That has led to some important late additions to the roster throughout Holtz’s tenure at Louisiana Tech.
“Undersigning to me, especially at Louisiana Tech, there is always going to be somebody available,” explained Holtz. “With Alfred Smith[‘s situation], I would hate to sit here and say ‘Alfred, we can’t take you because we don’t have any more initial [scholarships]. You only get to sign 25 initials a year. When you get to that 25, you can’t take anymore. So I don’t want to be at 25, I want to have one because there is always going to be a possible transfer, bounce back, somebody qualifies late, there’s always things that happen out there. When you look at the last couple years - Houston Bates, Paul Turner, Cody Sokol – some of the transfers we’ve had come in here, to have a scholarship available and to be able to take them, I think that is huge.
“I want to sign high school players, I want to bring them in here and if we don’t get a transfer, then I’ll take a couple walk-ons and put them on scholarship because we have guys that have earned it on this football team. There’s a couple more that are coming down the pipe that are going to earn it in the future as well. I have about three more that I think are like DeJauwn Oliver that I think are going to get an opportunity to play a little bit this year and make a name for themselves.”
Louisiana Tech will continue to build its depth over the next few weeks as the Bulldogs gear up to open the season on Sept. 5 against Southern in the newly expanded Joe Aillet Stadium.
For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please follow @LATechFB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LAT echSports.com.
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