Heading into his fourth season as the head coach of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, head coach Skip Holtz faces the same challenge as his first three years. He must make a decision at the quarterback position.
One thing that is different from previous quarterbacks battles is the lack of a graduate transfer at the position. In the last two seasons, Cody Sokol (Iowa) and Jeff Driskel (Florida) entered the program as graduate transfers. Both came in an played well above expectations in route to back-to-back bowl wins. In both seasons, the graduate transfers beat out Ryan Higgins for the starting position.
The one-time quarterback in waiting heads into his senior season looking to finally earn the starting role.
After redshirting in 2012, Higgins got on the field quickly in 2013 as as redshirt freshman. He passed for just over 1,700 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for three more touchdowns. During that season, Higgins threw for 275 or more yards on three occasions. An aggravating shoulder injury late in the season kept Higgins from fully taking control of the position.
Looking to be the favorite heading into his sophomore season, Higgins saw Sokol transfer from Iowa. Being a graduate transfer, Sokol was immediately eligible and beat out the sophomore for the starting job. Sokol was excellent in leading the Bulldogs to a nine-win season and trip to the Conference USA championship game, a 26-23 loss to Marshall.
All the while, Higgins sat as the backup with only 69 yards passing on 6-10 passing.
Another offseason saw Higgins reemerge as the projected starter for the 2015 season. Those plans went crashing to the ground as former Florida starting quarterback Jeff Driskel joined the program as a graduate transfer.
A battle for the starting job ensued, but Higgins was unable to beat out Driskell for the starting job. Driskel was excellent during his one season at Louisiana Tech, leading the Bulldogs to nine wins, a New Orleans Bowl win, over 4,000 yards passing (27 TD), and over 300 yards rushing (5 TD).
Higgins, as the back, threw for 138 yards and a touchdown on 25 pass attempts.
After the 2015 season, Holtz and company explained to the local media that they would not be looking to add a graduate transfer at quarterback. This was music to Higgins' ears as he is again the favorite to win the starting quarterback job. There is a chance that someone else could leave as a graduate transfer and throw everything into flux once again, but it is not likely.
While Higgins is again the favorite to lead the Bulldogs into the 2016 season, there is no guarantee that he will win the battle. Former Louisiana Tech star and now quarterbacks coach Tim Rattay expects to see the group of returning quarterbacks battle for the starting position.
You may be asking who else is on the roster to battle Higgins for the starting position.
- Price Wilson: One of two quarterbacks signed in the 2014 recruiting class, along with Alex Woodall (moved to tight end). Wilson was the #3 quarterback behind Driskel and Higgins last fall, his redshirt freshman season. He saw limited action and threw for 30 yards on 1-3 passing. Heading into his sophomore season, Wilson seems like the only realistic bet to beat out Higgins for the starting job.
- Kamal Brown: The rising junior from Lafayette, Louisiana did not see any playing time during his redshirt sophomore season. Brown was a walk-on and has shown signs of solid play, but will likely not be a factor in the battle.
- J'mar Smith: A dark horse in the battle for the starting job, Smith did not see any action as a true freshman, saving his eligibility. The son of a former NFL defensive lineman, Smith has a high football IQ. A dual-threat quarterback, Smith chose the Bulldogs over Mississippi State. He gives Louisiana Tech a running threat that is not as prevalent in other quarterbacks on the roster.
- Jack Abraham: An Oxford, Mississippi native, Abraham was the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year, USA Today High School Sports Mississippi Offensive Player of the Year and Mississippi Dandy Dozen honoree as a senior. He is a three-star recruit that threw for over 12,000 yards and 130 touchdowns during his high school career. Abraham was an early graduate from high school and will be on campus for spring practice
- Jon Randall Belton: Another incoming freshman, Belton is a preferred walk-on to the program. He is coming off of a season ending injury in 2015 and will need time to get back to 100%. He is very talented and could end up becoming an important player for the Bulldogs in the future, just not in 2016.