Dooley toiling to make a winner out of LaTech
This is the sixth in a series highlighting the teams the University of Hawaii football team will face this season. Next up - Louisiana Tech.
Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley is the only Division I coach who doesn't have to worry about being called into the athletic director's office after too many losses.
Dooley added AD to his business card in the offseason, but concedes he still has a lot of work to do in his other job of building a winning football team.
LOUISIANA TECH BULLDOGS
Coach: Derek Dooley
2007 record: 5-7, 4-4 WAC (tied for fourth)
Hawaii series: UH leads 5-1
When he took over the Bulldogs last year, he stated priorities of improving the running game and stopping the run. Pretty basic stuff, but often easier said than done.
After the 5-7 campaign in 2007, it seems LaTech has a good start on one half of the equation. Patrick Jackson and Daniel Porter are both back after combining for 1,542 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall. Jackson got nearly 1,000 of those yards despite a painful toe injury that dogged him most of the year.
As for the passing game, LaTech may get a boost from Georgia Tech transfer Taylor Bennett. Not a fit for the spread option Paul Johnson brings to Atlanta, Bennett may have the drop back and passing skills Dooley likes. Ross Jenkins was the leader to replace Zac Champion before Bennett's arrival.
So offense might not be a problem. But the ability to stop other teams from moving the ball remains a big question mark.
Weldon Brown, considered one of the WAC's better cornerbacks, has missed substantial practice time due to a spider bite. He's one of five returning starters from the defense that was 91st in the nation in yardage yielded.
Two triple-figure tacklers are back in free safety Antonio Baker (118) and linebacker Quin Harris (101).
Dooley said linebacker Brannon Jackson is "the wild card." He was out last year with a knee injury and could be a difference maker if healthy.
But he added that three of four starting defensive linemen from last fall aren't back.
"We made some strides last year, especially stopping the run," Dooley said. "We have D'Anthony Smith, we're expecting big things out of him (at defensive tackle). I feel we have a strong future."
Tomorrow: Boise State