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Underdog Dynasty Q&A: Louisiana Tech defense retooling with new defensive coordinator

Bob Diaco is now at the helm for the Bulldogs and has to rebuild the LaTech defense.

DXL Frisco Bowl - Louisiana Tech v SMU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After a long offseason, its finally game week for the Texas Longhorns, but the last two openers have been less than ideal for the Horns under head coach Tom Herman. This year, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs come to Austin and are clearly gearing up to try and pull off an upset.

To get some insights into the Bulldogs, we caught up with Tanner Spearman (@tannerspearman) of Underdog Dynasty (@UnderdogDynasty), who shared his thoughts on what Louisiana Tech brings to the table.

The Louisiana Tech offense went through J’Mar Smith a year ago, who turned in a 3,100-yard season and setting the pace for the offense. What are the expectations for the senior as he tries to improve in his final season?

J’Mar Smith has been a middle-tier quarterback in Conference USA the past two years. He’s shown some flashes of potential, but hasn’t been consistent enough to keep Tech in contention for conference titles. As a senior, the burden will be on him to step up his game and play like a third-year starter should. With a change in quarterbacks coach this offseason, we’ll just have to wait and see if he can take that next step in 2019.

Adrian Hardy is a massive threat for Smith, finishing with 1,110 yards and six touchdowns in a bit of a breakout sophomore year. What should Texas fans expect to see from the big wideout?

Adrian Hardy initially signed with Oklahoma before transferring to Louisiana Tech before his freshman season started. Now, he finally gets a shot at Texas. With most of the other experienced receivers now gone, he’s going to have to step up and lead the way. Expect to see him be the number one target for Smith, especially with it being the first game of the year. Since he very nearly played for a Big 12 school, it’s probably fair to think he’ll be able to have success against a Big 12 opponent. But if Texas decides to double team him and force someone else to beat them, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone else can step up.

The Bulldogs are breaking in a new defensive coordinator in Bob Diaco. What look does he bring to the Bulldogs and what kind of growing pains are you expecting in Year 1?

The biggest growing pain will be that Diaco walks into a situation where there are no returning starters on the defensive line. In addition, Tech used a 4-2-5 defense under Blake Baker, but Diaco traditionally uses a 3-4. He’s had a whole offseason to install his system, so the players are probably used to it by now. But will that translate to a real game scenario, especially against a Big 12 offense?

Louisiana created havoc in the backfield last year, finishing with 3.46 sacks per game and 7.8 tackles for loss, but graduated Jaylon Ferguson, who is now playing for the Baltimore Ravens. Who will lead the pass rushing efforts for the Bulldogs in 2019?

As I said before, the entire starting defensive line is gone. However, keep an eye on Willie Baker. The junior was second on the team in sacks after Ferguson, including four against Hawaii. Whether he stays a defensive end or moves to outside backer in Diaco’s 3-4 defense, expect him to be the guy looked at to lead the pass rush in 2019.

Amik Robertson is the stud in the pass defense for LaTech, but is a bit undersized compared to many wide receivers. What does he bring to his game that allows him to be a lockdown corner in spite of that?

He works hard and is technically sound. Being undersized likely gives him a chip on his shoulder to prove how good he really is. Skip Holtz said last year that if Robertson were any taller, he’d be on an SEC team. He’s as good and reliable as you can be at 5’9, and doesn’t treat his height as a hindrance.

What do you want to see from the Bulldogs in their 2019 season opener after ending their 2018 season on a high point?

I want to see them play a competitive game against Texas. Even if they lose, go out there and look like you know what you’re doing. I want to see the offense show they can move the ball and finish drives, and I want to especially see if the front seven can pressure a quarterback and at least slow down the run. If Tech can play at least a solid game against Texas, that can bode well for the rest of the season. A win would be the cherry on top, but just keeping it within a couple of scores will be good enough.