Bulldog wide receiver room blend of experience, youth

Smoke Harris enters his sixth season in a Bulldog uniform (photo by Kelsey Chanler).

Courtesy of LA Tech Athletic Communications

With a blend of experienced talent and impressive newcomers, the Louisiana Tech wide receiver room will have no shortage of competition and skill as the Bulldogs enter the 2023 season.

Louisiana Tech returns five wide receivers who tallied a reception in 2022 and added a handful of newcomers before fall camp.

Louisiana Tech Co-Offensive Coordinator and Wide Receivers Coach Jake Brown is pleased with his group’s progress so far and credits his receivers and the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks for putting in the extra work outside of practice on their own time this spring and summer.

“We are way farther ahead than where we were at in the spring and summer,” Brown said. “The quarterbacks threw to the receivers almost every day in the summer. The work they put in shows so far with the camaraderie between the skill guys. It is enjoyable to watch the progression of them from the spring to now.”

Smoke Harris headlines the Tech receiver room, entering his sixth and final season in Ruston as one of the most accomplished and electrifying receivers in all of college football. Harris led Tech with 66 receptions while tallying 640 yards and five total touchdowns in 2022. Harris enters the 2023 season among NCAA active career leaders in receptions (3rd, 224), receptions per game (6th, 4.57), and receiving touchdowns (6th, 19). The St. Francisville product has recorded a reception in 32 consecutive games, the seventh-longest active streak nationally.

“As a coach, it is always nice to have guys with Smoke’s experience in the room,” Brown said. “He is great for our younger players and is another coach on the field. Offensively his skill set and experience allow us to move him around and do complex things to get him the football. He knows the whole offense and every position. He watches a lot of film and studies opposing defenses. He is a real student of the game.”

Last season also saw the emergence of Cyrus Allen, who will look to build off a breakout freshman season in which he averaged 22.73 yards per catch which were the second most nationally while ranking sixth nationally among all true freshmen in receiving yards with 500. Allen led all C-USA true freshmen in receiving touchdowns with four. The New Orleans product also led all FBS freshmen in scrimmage plays over 30 yards with 10. Allen has spent the summer improving his all-around game to prepare for his sophomore campaign.

“He is so fast. On a lot of balls that he catches he outruns defenders,” Brown said of Allen. “Rarely does Cyrus get challenged on 50-50 balls. Throughout the spring and summer, he got much stronger and worked on attacking those 50-50 balls. Also, in third and short situations, we may need him to be the guy that runs a slant instead of a deep threat. He has embraced developing as an all-around receiver and is working hard on it.”

With the departure of first-team all-conference selection Tre Harris, Brown will look for several receivers to complement Smoke Harris and Allen.

Julien Lewis and Kyle Maxwell highlight other returnees from a year ago. Lewis hauled in 18 passes for 187 total yards, and Maxwell tallied 104 yards on 12 receptions in 2022. Maxwell has topped the century mark in receiving in three consecutive seasons.

Maxwell agrees that the blend of returners and newcomers has helped elevate competition in the receiver room and brought out the best in each other.

“I feel like throughout the summer and bringing a lot of new guys in, everyone is sticking to the plan and getting along good,” Maxwell said. “The energy is great. Everybody is coming out here and competing hard.”

In the offseason, one of the most heralded transfer portal additions was the signing of Shreveport native and Nebraska transfer Decoldest Crawford. Crawford was limited in the spring while working his way back from an injury he suffered as a true freshman with the Cornhuskers but has been impressive since getting back to speed in the summer.

“Decoldest has been great so far,” Brown added. “In the spring, he was limited working back from injury. When he got cleared this summer, he had a great summer and put on good muscle. We forget he was a true freshman last year, so he is still young. He has learned fast, is very good in meetings, and loves football. He came in and fit right into our receiver room, and we are thrilled that he is here.”

True freshman Dedrick Latulas is another receiver to keep an eye on. Latulas comes to Tech from Westgate High School in New Iberia, La., where he led the Tigers to a 10-4 mark as a senior while tallying 1,549 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns.

The Bulldogs receivers paired with quarterback Hank Bachmeier and the Bulldog offense will continue to build throughout fall camp as they prepare for their week zero Conference USA showdown with FIU on Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. inside Joe Alliet Stadium when Louisiana Tech opens its 120th season of collegiate football.