The lowdown on Louisiana Tech from the Tech beat writer

Clemson Insider recently caught up with Bulldogs running back Ben Carlisle to get some insight on Louisiana Tech. Carlisle covers Louisiana Tech football as publisher of

Carlyle hit on several topics during the following question-and-answer session, including what the Bulldogs’ offense will look like under first-year coach Sonny Cumbie, Tech’s quarterbacks, who their defense is and more heading into Saturday’s game at Memorial Stadium.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.

Is Tech’s offense at the start of Cumbee’s tenure really an airstrike? Or are they running a mixed crime based on air-raid principles?

It is described as a hybrid crime with several elements of air-raid. As Cumbie moves into his tenure at Louisiana Tech, he is expected to become more and more of a true air raider. The crew is not yet fit for a real air raid.

I’ve seen where Tech has made several touchdowns this season. What exactly is the quarterly situation there?

Matthew Downing started the season opener and had three first-half interceptions before pulling away in the third quarter of a 52-24 loss at Missouri. Parker McNeil came in and went 7 of 11 for 142 yards and two touchdowns, earning him the start against Stephen F. Austin last week. He played OK and finished 11 of 23 for 197 yards and three touchdowns. It was the sixth-year senior’s first career start out of Texas Tech. He will make his second straight start at Clemson this week.

Where do you think Tech can have some success against Clemson’s defense? And what worries you about that particular match?

If Tech is to succeed, it will be in the vertical passing game. McNeil’s strength is throwing the ball down the field. He’s just not accurate in the short and mid game. When it comes down to it, it’s pretty simple for me. Can Tech’s offensive line stack up against the best defensive line in America? If not, it will be a long night.

If you had to pick a few, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the tech up to this point?

Offensive, it’s hard to say. The passing game has shown flashes vertically, but there have been four interceptions in two games. Tech ran for 299 yards against Stephen F. Austin last week, but that won’t happen against one of the best defenses in the country. Talented people are great, so that’s probably the strength of the offense. Trey Harris will one day play wide receiver in the NFL, and Griffin Hebert is off to a strong start. Defensively, the secondary was very good. I’m interested to see how Myles Brooks and Willie Roberts match up against some of Clemson’s receivers at cornerback. Also keep an eye on linebacker Tyler Grubbs. He is small but has a nose for the football.

You weigh in a bit on some staff, but what’s the skin on Tech’s defense?

The front seven is a unit that wants to play an attacking style, with the corners playing a lot of man coverage on the back end. The front four put a lot of pressure on Stephen F. Austin last week, and the hope is that defensive coordinator Scott Power will continue to attack opposing offenses in a variety of ways. Keeping Clemson’s running game at bay will be key for Tech on Saturday night.

Who can be the cause of Tech X in this game?

I’m going with quarterback Parker McNeill. If Tech is going to be included in the game, it will have to play very well. I mentioned that Tech has receivers like Trey Harris, Smokey Harris and Griffin Hebert who can make plays, but he can’t make any turnovers.

So what does Tech need to do to make this a four-quarter game?

Since the Bulldogs can’t turn the football over, Clemson needs to at least respect the run game on offense. Defensively, the Bulldogs must stop the run and force the Tigers to beat them through the air. If Louisiana Tech has a chance to win the game late, that deficit will be huge.

Photo credit: Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

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