Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz shares his thought of freshman running back Elijah Hines’ performance after the first fall scrimmage.
Cory Diaz, firstname.lastname@example.org
RUSTON – Who ultimately makes the 70-man travel roster for Louisiana Tech?
As a whole, that question still hasn’t been completely answered, but after the team’s first team scrimmage of fall camp Saturday morning on the practice field, head coach Skip Holtz and his staff are closer in that determination than where they were coming into the day.
Mainly about personnel and seeing which players could potentially add depth at certain spots as well as hotly contested position battles for starting jobs fell under the microscope as Tech scrimmaged for nearly an hour-and-a-half, working mostly with the twos and threes using a watered down playbook and calls.
“We get a good six, nine, 10 plays of live work in the red zone and goal line with our ones. I thought it was a productive day on both sides, we made some plays on defense and we made some plays on offense,” Holtz said. “The key to days like this is to watch the film, correct the mistakes and get better.
“This scrimmage was personnel more than anything to see where we are and who that 70 on the bus is going to be.”
Holtz said he was anxious to see the competition at both offensive tackle positions, how the depth currently stacks up at linebacker behind senior starters Collin Scott and Connor Taylor as well as the safeties behind seniors L’Jarius Sneed, James Jackson and Darryl Lewis.
And what better way to gauge those players than by designing play calls to see how they react.
“It wasn’t to evaluate where we were as an offense or defense. I’m looking at who’s in and who I want to pull him, see him run and how he’s going to do,” Holtz said. “I want to see this receiver.
“You’re calling plays more to get the ball and (defensive coordinator Bob Diaco) was calling defense more to see certain guys in pressure situations. Where you isolate a guy and see how he’s going to stand up to the challenge.”
In the first fall scrimmage, running Diaco’s 3-4 system, senior linebacker Scott said he was impressed with the unit’s communication.
“Even the ones, twos, threes, from the top to the bottom of the depth chart, we were getting in good communication,” Scott, who recorded a sack, said. “When the offense checked, we were checking so that’s what builds confidence to be able to communicate with the person left and right to you, building trust on the field. That’s the most important thing in learning this defense is you got to be able to trust the person next to you.”
Backup free safety Bee Jay Williams started out the practice with an athletic, one-handed interception of backup quarterback Westin Elliott, the first of two turnovers caused by the defense on the day. Freshman safety Khiry Morrison jarred the ball loose from redshirt freshman running back Elijah Hines near the end of the scrimmage that was recovered by freshman linebacker Maki Carabin.
Redshirt junior defensive end Willie Baker and redshirt freshman Steven Shaw each had a sack.
The Bulldogs scored three touchdowns during the scrimmage, all three rushing scores, the first from Hines before redshirt junior tailback Israel Tucker tallied two during red zone situations.
A position senior three-year starting quarterback J’Mar Smith had his eye on Saturday was the receivers and the group pieced together a solid performance. Redshirt freshman Davon “Smoke” Harris hauled in several passes, while well-known names like Adrian Hardy, Isaiah Graham and Cee Jay Powell made the most of their limited opportunities.
“Everybody wanted to see the receiver and running back depth. I think they did great today,” Smith said. “In the goal-line situations and the open field, just making plays and executing at a high level.”
“The receiving corps is one of the best I’ve been around,” said Graham. “You can go from A to Z and it’s a great receiving corps. I’m excited for the season. The chemistry has been lovely, outside of football we’re together, inside football we’re together. It’s a real brotherhood.”
Louisiana Tech’s coaching staff will watch and breakdown the film following Saturday’s scrimmage and begin to inch closer to nailing down a more concrete three-deep depth chart.
“It’s kind of hard to evaluate where we are on either side of the ball, we’re making sure we continue to get better,” Holtz said.
Running backs shine
With the twos and threes receiving the bulk of the work, guys like Hines and redshirt freshman Deandre Marcus took advantage in Holtz’s eyes.
Outside of Williamson’s interception, Hines provided the other highlight of the day for Tech on his 30-yard touchdown scamper where he got bottled up at the line of scrimmage before breaking free and bouncing out to the right side, sprinting untouched to the end zone.
“Elijah Hines had a great day. He did some really good things with the ball under his arm. Unfortunately, he had the fumble at the end of the scrimmage, but I thought that he’s a freshman, he doesn’t always know what he’s doing right now, but you can see the talent is there,” Holtz said. “When he puts the ball under his arm and runs, he’s a slippery son of a gun to tackle. He runs physical, he broke an awful lot of tackles today.
“I thought a couple of the running backs ran really hard today, broke some tackles, made a difference. I thought some running backs showed up, did some really good thing.”
Heated tackle battles
Tech’s first scrimmage was all about allowing players locked in highly contested position battles to try and get a leg up on their competition. Two positions that will continue to be evaluated after the scrimmage will be both tackles spot on the offensive line.
At right tackle, senior Gewhite Stallworth and JUCO transfer Antawn Lewis both got snaps with the ones. And at left tackle, former LSU signee Willie Allen and redshirt freshman Biron Rossell continue to fight for that coveted starting role.
“They’re competing their tail off right now. I think grading this scrimmage will go a long way, starting to see whether we’re going to continue to roll them until somebody takes it,” Holtz said. “That’s what a scrimmage like this is all about — letting them determine that on the field and not letting us in the meeting room talking about it. Let them come out here, show how they’re going to play and that one of them is ready to play at a championship level.”
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