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College football: Louisiana Tech opens spring practice

by Russell Hedges

By Hunter Corneliusen, Louisiana Tech Associate Director Strategic Communications

RUSTON — Louisiana Tech had its first official spring practice this morning inside Joe Aillet Stadium.

The Bulldogs will complete 15 practices during the spring period, which will be capped by the annual spring game on April 27.

Improved confidence, personnel, and depth at various positions, combined with increased repetitions throughout the inaugural practice period, made the first day of spring ball successful in the eyes of the Bulldogs’ coaching staff.

“There is a lot more confidence about our football team. If you look out on the field, you will see that we are noticeably different personnel-wise than we were a year ago regarding the depth of our linebackers, defensive line, and safeties. Defensively, we flew around and did a great job on day one. I was proud of how everyone came out. We got a ton of reps. By splitting up into two pods, we were able to get a lot of reps. For our first day, we had a really good foundation, and now we have to increase the production as we go through the spring,” head coach Sonny Cumbie said.

Quarterback Jack Turner thought the players stepped onto the field prepared with high energy in practice No. 1. 

“The energy was really good, and the guys were excited to be here,” Turner said. “The guys were very prepared. We had some mistakes here and there but the whole team was excited to play and took care of their assignments. I think it went very well. It is all about improving each day and building throughout the spring.”

The wide receiver room is a storyline heading into the 2024 season for the Louisiana Tech offense. The Bulldogs graduated one of the greatest wide receivers in program history, Smoke Harris, and had others exit, but Cumbie and Turner think that there are a lot of talented guys who can step into roles throughout the spring and fall.

“There are definitely some viable candidates that we have in the receiver room with us right now,” Cumbie said. “I am looking forward to having a spring with Marlion Jackson. If you have seen him, physically, he has put on weight. He is explosive and attacks the football. I think Solo Lewis has progressed a lot since we have been here, so to see his development and growth. Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim, who comes to us from Bowling Green, was a productive player at Alabama A&M. He is very explosive off the ball. Dakota Williamsis another guy I am excited to see out here for a whole spring. I am excited for those guys, and I have no doubt we will be just as productive or more productive in that position than last year.”

“I have a lot of confidence in our receivers,” said Turner. “What we lost has been talked about a lot, but we have a lot of really talented guys in that room who are going to step up both on and off the field.”

The big story in the 2023-2024 offseason for LA Tech was the hiring of defensive coordinator Jeremiah Johnson. An innovative and experienced defensive mind, Johnson arrived in Ruston from Northern Iowa, where he spent the 2023 season as defensive coordinator following a one-year stint at Kent State, where he served in the same capacity in 2022. Before Kent State, Johnson spent 15 seasons at Northern Iowa, including nine as defensive coordinator.

“Coach Jeremiah Johnson and his staff have done an excellent job of using their time and getting to know players,” Cumbie added. “There is still going to be installs, and this is probably the third or fourth time that they have gone through the installs, but this is the first time that they have done it on the field with an offense going against them. It will take just a bit, but I saw some really good things early on in team periods in terms of our front and linebackers. I am excited about things they did on the field for the first day and the time, effort, and energy they have taken to teach and build relationships with our players on that side of the ball.”

Defensive lineman Jayden Gray believes that the Bulldogs’ addition of Johnson and preparation with the installation of the new defense allowed the players to fly around and run through practice more efficiently.

“The first day went well,” Gray said. “I love the defense that he brought because we are allowed to play more aggressively and faster. Everybody in the room was excited for the first day. We have installed nearly everything that we are going to, so we are running things early. Getting the basis down on the calls that we have now allows everyone to fly and run through everything efficiently, which made the first day good.”

A player to watch on the defensive side of the football is linebacker Kolbe Fields. After having to sit out in 2023 due to transferring from LSU, Fields is looking to make an impact in 2024. He believes his time on the sideline last year has rejuvenated his drive and built a bigger appreciation for the game.

“Sitting out last year kind of opened me up and made me more fortunate for football,” Fields said. “Now I look at it way differently. I wake up every day trying to attack the day and compete to improve. Last year, being on the sideline and watching, I learned a lot by watching other guys make mistakes and make plays.”

With day one in the books, LA Tech will continue spring practice for the next three weeks as they prepare for the 2024 fall season.

For complete coverage of Bulldog Football, please follow Louisiana Tech on social media at @LATechFB (Twitter), LATechFootball (Facebook), and @LATechFB (Instagram) or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.

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