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LA Tech Offensive Line Could Be Key to Season

With star players like Kenneth Dixon coming back, new additions like Jeff Driskel coming in, and with potential break-out players like Paul Turner returning from injury; there is reason to hope that Louisiana Tech can build on the offensive gains made in Skip Holtz's second year. The rebuild project on the offensive line is now in year three and Holtz's new found depth and experience up front may be the biggest thing he has going for him.

Kirby Wixson (73) opens up a big hole for Blake Baker against Auburn.
Kirby Wixson (73) opens up a big hole for Blake Baker against Auburn.
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Holtz hired Robert McFarland to coach the offensive line this season, and the veteran coach is already making an impact with his players.  "He's had a great career and had good experience everywhere he's been," Guard Joseph Brunson told the Monroe News-Star. "He knows what he's doing so he's teaching us some new things."

At the time of the hire, Holtz had nothing but praise for McFarland. "He brings a tremendous amount of experience as a head coach, coordinator and offensive line coach in over 25 years of coaching and that experience will be invaluable in continuing to build our program. I have known him for a long time and I know he will be a great asset to our program."

The line is anchored by 325-pound senior center Kirby Wixson, who started 12 games last season. Wixson was recently named to the Remington watch list for the 2015 season. In 2014, Wixson was the lone constant on an ever evolving offensive line.

Mitchell Bell and Tre Carter are the key departures from last season, but neither played in the CUSA championship game or the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Brunson (6-4 302) started 8 games at guard last season, while Jens Danielson (6-4 286) started 6 games at tackle. Darrell Brown (6-4 300) started 9 games at tackle, and David Mahaffey (6-4 310) started 3 games at guard.

Brown and Danielson have spent the last few years trying to add weight and get stronger. Mahaffey and Brunson both stepped on the field for the first time in Ruston last season and have a whole year under their belts now.

With 38 starts among the group and a veteran coach teaching them new techniques, the Bulldogs are poised to have a breakthrough season. Tech rushed for 148.6 yards per game while ranking 21st in the country allowing just 1.36 sacks per game. The Bulldogs ranked 88th the year before, giving up 2.5 sacks per game.

Tech has depth for a change this season. Senior Josh Robinson (6-1 302) started the last two games of the season at right tackle. Robinson can play either guard or tackle and has also come in as a blocking tight end in goal line situations.

The Bulldogs have also brought in some added size. True Freshman O'Shea Dugas (6-5 294) has a massive frame and the staff is really high on the offensive tackle. Shane Carpernter (6-6 290) is a redshirt freshman that will get plenty of playing time. Carpenter and Dugas are the two offensive tackles of the future for the program and should be another 15-20 pounds heavier in a year or so.

LSU transfer, Derek Edinburgh, 6-8 331, is a massive talent and very mobile for his size. The 4th year junior could start at guard or tackle if he has a good fall camp. If not, McFarland has a big option off the bench that he can call on.

With size, experience, and versatility - Tech has a chance to have a great season on offense. Dixon had 1299 yards and 22 touchdowns last season.  Jeff Driskel has rushed for over 600 yards in his career at Florida. With Turner coming back healthy to go with Carlos Henderson and Trent Taylor, the passing offense will have three very good targets.

Driskel is used to running and also getting good protection. Florida only gave up 17 sacks last season and 6 of those came in one game against Missouri.

The defense carried the bulk of the load last season for the Conference USA western division champions in 2014. This go around, the Bulldogs have enough talent to carry their weight on the offensive end - and it all starts up front.