Louisiana Tech had a spirited practice Friday despite extremely hot and humid conditions as the team wore full pads for the first time this fall.
Friday's practice marked the most spirited the team has been through the first week of camp according to the coaches as the players continue to bear down in their preparations for the 2013 season, the inaugural year in Conference USA.
"We had some energy about us and we understand that everybody is tired and hurt and sore but everybody is pushing through it," said head coach Skip Holtz. "We need each other to get through this and I thought here was a lot of energy, a lot of leadership today, a lot of the intangibles of those things we talk about looking for that the great football teams possess. We just have to keep pushing."
Through the first five days in camp, the defense continues to improve with the defensive groups showing impressive athleticism. The linebackers, in particular, have made the most improvement in the short time from the end of spring practice to today with several newcomers contributing to that.
"I think our linebackers are the biggest surprise. There have been a lot of new additions that give us a lot more people to work with. The addition of Daniel Cobb, Tony Johnson, Nick Thomason, [Mitch] Villemez, [Mike] Schrang, [Beau] Fitte and Ty Hook, I look at all of a sudden what was two or three linebackers when we got here to now having seven or eight of them running around. That is probably the position that has made the most improvement since we got here."
Offensively it is still too early to evaluate the receivers but one newcomer making a quick impact is Shreveport native Trent Taylor. The all-state receiver from Evangel Christian Academy won a pair of 2-A state titles in high school and is trying to aid the Bulldogs in winning a conference championship in college.
"He has had a big day almost every day," Holtz said of Taylor. "It is almost to the point where even a lot of the older players out here are talking about how he is going to be pretty special. He can make some plays, do some things but I just think he is a football player. That is the best thing you can say about him; he is tough, he is physical, he runs great routes, he has great little fundamentals, he catches the ball, he competes his tail off and he has athleticism. I think Trent has a chance to be a really good football player for us."
Meanwhile one of the strongest groups overall has been the running backs. Kenneth Dixon is working hard on improving on his Freshman All-America season while Tevin King is working hard to recover from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of the 2012 campaign. The other three backs are just working hard.
"We know what Kenneth Dixon can do on the field," said Holtz. "We have seen what Kenneth Dixon can do on the field. What has impressed me the most about him are the work habits he has come into this season with. It would be easy for him to be pretty comfortable at this point and say look at what I've done and yet he is coming out here and working extremely hard. I don't think there is any doubt that Tevin King is full speed just coming out here and watching him running. I think [Marlon] Seets and [Blake] Martin are both doing a good job and [Boston] Scott – it has been nice to see him out here. I think he has been a nice addition."
While Friday was Louisiana Tech's last open practice of fall camp to the fans, the Bulldogs will host the program's annual Fan Fest on Saturday, Aug. 17 with an added bonus. This year's event has added a preseason tailgating event beginning at 4 p.m. and fans are invited to claim their regular season tailgating spots and fire up the grills in preparation for the 2013 season. Free food will also be available courtesy of some of Louisiana Tech's most loyal sponsors, including Brennan Dodge and Super 1 Foods. Free popcorn and drinks will be provided by Aramark.
Schedule posters, schedule cards and other material will be handed out while supplies last while fans can also purchase their season tickets or single game tickets during the event. The Louisiana Tech Barnes and Nobles Bookstore will also be set up selling merchandise.
Louisiana Tech opens the season on Aug. 31 at North Carolina State while the Bulldogs home opener is Sept. 7 against Lamar.