RUSTON – The heat may have pushed the first practice starting time back a few hours but that didn’t deter Louisiana Tech’s players from showcasing enthusiasm for returning to the practice fields as the Bulldogs held their first fall camp practice Monday evening.
The practice was split into two sections with work taking place on the practice fields to start then the team wrapping up under the lights and on the new FieldTurf at Joe Aillet Stadium.
Originally scheduled at 3:30 p.m., the start time was pushed back to 7 p.m. due to the excessive heat North Louisiana is currently experiencing (Ruston experienced a high temperature of 105 degrees Monday). That didn’t slow down any of the players.
“I think we’ve got a lot of talent out there that can run and that was really obvious,” head coach Skip Holtz said in a press conference after Monday’s practice. “When you are in shorts, it’s pass skell, there’s not any hitting and there’s no offensive line you can get in a little false deal (security) but I thought we had some guys that can run around and some guys that did some good things out there.”
Monday’s practice began fall camp practices after the Bulldogs reported to campus Sunday. The speed shown on the field impressed several
members of the coaching staff that were already excited to return to the practice fields.
“In my opinion – and this isn’t just blowing smoke or coach speak – I think we have one of the best strength coaches, if not the best strength staff, in America,” defensive coordinator Blake Baker said. “We were just talking about it as a staff in the locker room, on both sides of the ball. If we can put this together in 27 days with the speed we play with – and not everything was perfect – but with the speed and strength of our guys, my hat is off to the strength staff. They did a phenomenal job.”
While Holtz was excited about the speed many of the newer players displayed in practice, he was cautious as to how that would translate into on the field throughout camp or in a game.
“I like the way some of the receivers run,” Holtz said. “Jaqwis Dancy had some great speed. But how are they going to play when they put on pads? It is still way too early to tell. I am going to hold my reservations because I have tried to make early calls in the past and it is normally the guys you don’t like in shorts but you love in pads. We are not going to a seven-on-seven tournament, we are going to a football game. We are going to have to find out who is ready to put on the pads and play at this level and who’s got the toughness it is going to take.”
The later start time with the cooler – at least by comparison – weather may have helped the team keep an upbeat tempo throughout Monday’s practice session, but it is still early in a rigorous camp that will define the 2015 Louisiana Tech Football team.
“I certainly think that helped the tempo and mindset and the way they are working right now,” Holtz said of the later start with less oppressive temperatures. “We’ll learn about this football team as they go. They were out there and had a lot of energy, a lot of passion, flying around and running around. We’ll find out where we are when we hit day five or six and start putting on pads. That’s when you really start to find out what kind of character your football team has and what type of team you are going to have for the course of the season. I like what I saw but it is still early on day one.”
That character Holtz alluded to will be one that defines whether the Bulldogs can return this fall and take care of what Holtz has often described as “unfinished business” from a handful of games last fall, most notably against Marshall in the Conference USA Championship Game.
The drive to return to the league’s title game and claim a conference championship begins on Sept. 5 when the Bulldogs host Southern in the newly expanded Joe Aillet Stadium. Several ticket packages – including full season tickets, mini-plans, family packs and single game tickets – are currently on sale from the LA Tech Ticket Office by calling 318-257-3631, emailing TechTickets@latech.edu or by visiting LATechSports.com.