Tech’s practice priority 1: assess and develop depth

Louisiana Tech hit the practice field Tuesday morning for the Bulldogs fourth session of fall workouts as head coach Skip Holtz and Co. continue preparations for the upcoming season.

With the Sept. 4 opener against SEC foe Mississippi State in Starkville looming just over three weeks away, the Louisiana-based Bulldogs conducted another productive practice.

“We keep talking about depth and that’s the key,” said Holtz, who is set to enter his ninth year at the helm in Ruston. “If there’s nothing else from what we learned a year ago, you better have depth on your football team.

“This is about development from our freshmen to our sophomores to our juniors to all the transfers. We have to develop them all and we have to bring everyone. You never know who is going to have to play for you, so we’re just trying to get everybody ready.”

On the defensive side of the football, the Bulldogs return its entire starting linebacking corps in Trey Baldwin, Ezekiel Barnett and Tyler Grubbs. Holtz said he is confident in that groups abilities and feels like depth won’t be an issue on the second level of the defensive side of the ball.

“That’s three seasoned guys who have played an awful lot of football,” Holtz said. “Behind them, you have Kody Fulp who is really going to make a huge impact for our football team this year. Maki Carabin who has played a solid role. I’ve really been encouraged with Allen Walker. He played defensive end in high school and we moved him back to linebacker. He redshirted his first year, came through and got a little bit of a taste of it last year on the field and he’s really responded and had a great offseason.

Those five guys on the inside and then on the outside with Joren Dickey and Taz Marshall backing up Ezekiel Barnett, we have depth there. We have guys who have played a lot of football, guys who are ready to play and we’re not counting on guys who are true freshmen to come in and make an impact for us.”

Grubbs, a freshman All-American and first team all-Conference USA honoree a year ago when he led the team with 99 tackles, has already been named to the preseason watch lists for Chuck Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award.

Baldwin, who registered 85 stops in 2020 including a career-high 18 against UTSA, was also named to the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List along with the 2021 Conference USA Preseason Watch List. He was named second team all-C-USA and earned a spot on the Phil Steele All-Conference USA third team in 2020.

Barnett finished fourth on the team with 49 stops during a season that saw him named all-C-USA honorable mention and Burlsworth Trophy nominee. The Benton native opened the 2020 campaign with a career-high 10 tackles at Southern Miss and added a career-high-tying 10 tackles against UTEP.

“I really like not only the way they’re playing, the way they’re communicating and the way they’re talking, but the leadership right now,” said Holtz. “You hear their voices a lot. You hear their voices in the team setting. You hear their voices on defense. They’re all doing a great job as leaders.”

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