By: Ashley Springer (Louisiana Tech Athletic Communications)
RUSTON, La. – Though their meeting rooms may not be as big as some of the other groups’, the competition at the quarterback and specialist positions are just as fierce.
Louisiana Tech returns two letterwinners at quarterback in graduate Luke Anthony and sophomore Aaron Allen.
“There’s been a lot of competition,” Allen said. “Every day is a competition. That’s been the best part. We’ve been rotating a lot. Everybody is competing. JD (Head) has been doing a good job. Caleb (Holstein) has been doing a good job. We’re learning the offense and recognizing the defense. The biggest thing is competition.”
Anthony, the 2020 C-USA Newcomer of the Year, played in nine games and made eight starts in the 2020 campaign before suffering a season-ending injury at TCU (Dec. 12). He completed 138-of-221 passes for the 1,479 yards and 16 touchdowns. Anthony was the third Bulldog quarterback in program history to throw at least 10 touchdown passes through the first three games of the season. He threw a season-high 314 yards and five touchdowns and had one rushing touchdown against Houston Baptist (Oct. 2), becoming the fifth player in program history to account for at least six touchdowns in a single game. Anthony finished the season ranked fourth in C-USA in passing efficiency (138.0), sixth in passing average per game (164.3) and ninth in total offense (157.9).
Allen saw action in all 10 games, while making two starts at quarterback. He completed 73-of-121 passes on the season for 602 yards and four touchdowns. Allen completed at least three passes in all 10 games of the 2020 season and completed double-digit passes in three games during the campaign. He had a season-high 18 completions on 26 passes for a career-high 191 yards and a season-best two touchdowns with zero interceptions in the comeback victory over UAB (Oct. 31).
Freshman quarterback JD Head also returns from the 2020 season where he appeared in two games. Head completed 9-of-14 passes for 78 yards against Georgia Southern in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 23). He made his Bulldog debut against TCU.
Joining Tech’s quarterbacks this spring is freshman Caleb Holstein. Holstein was a three-year letterwinner in football and basketball at St. Thomas More Catholic. He accumulated a 33-6 record during his high school football career, completing 634-of-965 passes for 9,519 total yards and 106 touchdowns. Holtsein also rushed for 15 touchdowns during his high school career.
“With Luke Anthony being out, it has been a two-man race,” head coach Skip Holtz said. “We’ve got a young Caleb Holtsein who is learning and has been doing a really nice job and has shown some promise at times of what he is going to be. But, there’s a pretty heated debate going on right now with JD Head and Aaron Allen. It seems like every day you walk off the field and you say ‘Today, if I had to make a decision, it’d be him. Tomorrow when I walk off the field, it’d be him.’ There’s a heck of a competition going on and it’s going to be a lot of the little things will that make the difference. It’s putting a lot of weight on the spring game on Saturday.”
Louisiana Tech returns five letterwinners on special teams to the 2021 roster in redshirt freshman kicker/punter Jacob Barnes, junior deep snapper Reeves Blankenship, sophomore punt returner Smoke Harris, sophomore deep snapper Noah White and freshman kicker/punter Garin Boniol.
“We’ve definitely had progress since our first day of camp,” Barnes said. “We’re working on consistency field goal-wise and punt-wise. We’re focusing on being an overall consistent group.”
Barnes was a Lou Groza National Collegiate Place-Kicker Award Semifinalist, was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team and was an all-Conference USA Honorable Mention in the 2020 season. He served as both a kicker and punter in all 10 games last season. Barnes was a perfect 33-for-33 in PATs, including a career-best 9-for-9 against HBU (11/26). He opened the season with eight straight made field goals, including a career-long 51-yarder against HBU, and finished the season 12-for-14 in field goals, including the game-winning 35-yarder in double overtime against UAB (Oct. 31). Barnes punted the ball 49 times, averaging 36.9 yards per punt, and had two punts over 50 yards, including a career-high 53-yard punt against UAB.
Blankenship, an all-Conference USA Second Team selection, appeared in nine games as Louisiana Tech’s starting deep snapper in the 2020 season. Tech did not give up a blocked field goal and only have one blocked punt during the season. Blankenship helped Barnes go 12-for-14 in field goals, including the game-winning 35-yarder in double overtime against UAB.
Harris served as Tech’s primary punt returner in the 2020 campaign where he appeared in eight games. He was named to the all-C-USA second team as a punt returner in 2020. Harris averaged 21.50 yards per punt return after returning six punts for 129 total yards. He had a career-long 60-yard punt return at the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Dec. 23).
White appeared in eight games during the 2020 season as LA Tech’s primary holder. He helped Barnes be a perfect 33-for-33 in PATs and go 12-for-14 in field goals.
Boniol appeared in four games for the Bulldogs in the 2020 campaign. He registered five kickoffs for a total of 202 yards, averaging 40.4 yards per kickoff.
“There are a lot of battles going on amongst the players in the first 14 days of practice and Saturday will go a long way in the spring game in trying to make the decisions on some of these and one of them is certainly the specialists,” Holtz said. “We have two guys who are competing both for the field goal kicking job and the punting job in Garin Boniol and Jacob Barnes. Jacob Barnes had the opportunity to punt and kick last year. Garin Boniol was sitting out last year with an injury but is now at full strength. It’s been great to watch those two compete. I’m really excited to see what they’re going to do on Saturday with people in the stands and how they are going to punt and kick the football.”
Louisiana Tech fans will have the chance to preview the 2021 football team during the LA Tech Spring Game presented by Origin Bank on Saturday, April 24, at Joe Aillet Stadium as part of a big weekend of home athletic events.
The 2021 LA Tech Spring Game is set to begin at 12 p.m. CT with gates to the stadium scheduled to open at 11 a.m. LA Tech officials expect the game to last approximately 90 minutes.
Fans are encouraged to enter on the west side of Joe Aillet Stadium where concessions and bathrooms will be accessible. The 13 suite holders within the Chris Richardson Family Suite Level will have access to their individual suites during the game.
Louisiana Tech fans will have plenty of opportunities to cheer for their Bulldogs and Lady Techsters that Saturday as both the baseball and softball teams will be hosting double-headers inside their respective facilities.
LA Tech softball will be hosting UTEP at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at Dr. Billy Bundrick Field. Gates will open at 11 a.m. Tech will wrap up the series versus the Miners in another doubleheader on Sunday, April 25, at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
A limited number of softball season tickets are available. Season tickets are only $80 for chairbacks and $50 for bleacher backs at Dr. Billy Bundrick Field and can be purchased at latechsports.com/tickets or by calling 318-257-3631 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
The No. 14 Louisiana Tech baseball team will host Marshall in a doubleheader at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park with the first game set for 2 p.m. Gates will open at noon. LA Tech will have opened the series against Marshall on Friday, April 23, at 6 p.m., and will play the final game on Sunday, April 25, at 10 a.m. Tickets are currently sold out for the LA Tech vs. Marshall series.
Season tickets for the 2021 Louisiana Tech football season are on sale now. Fans can purchase season tickets online at LATechSports.com/tickets or by calling the LA Tech Ticket Office at (318) 257-3631.
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