Louisiana Tech QB race endures to Baylor week; when Skip Holtz could pick
RUSTON – The swift answer from Skip Holtz: “Nope.”
The question: “The first game is one week away; do you know who your starting quarterback will be?”
Louisiana Tech wrapped up preseason camp Saturday morning with a two-hour practice and scrimmage inside Joe Aillet Stadium, and now the team officially enters game week with its 2020 season opener at Baylor set for next Saturday at 11 a.m.
For the first time in three years, there’ll be a new starter under center for the Bulldogs, and the competition between the quarterbacks trudges on despite the opener drawing closer. In reality, it’s been even longer since the race continued this deep into camp, as former signal caller J’Mar Smith beat out Westin Elliott for the job in the 2017 preseason.
Elliott, now a senior, remains the constant in the equation, but the elder statesman, who Holtz said has done a “great job” and has the ability to “run the football team,” has mainly worked with the 3’s during fall camp, leading inquiring minds to assume that redshirt sophomore Aaron Allen and graduate transfer Luke Anthony are the top candidates to earn the starting spot against the Bears next weekend.
A main part of the offensive practice plan Saturday was giving the reins to both Anthony and Allen in an effort to further evaluate the pair manage and operate the offense from centering the huddle, to relaying play calls, making checks when needed and how efficient the group was with both in control.
“I don’t know how many times we threw it today,” Holtz said. “We didn’t tackle live because of some of our limited numbers. We put the quarterbacks back there with the ball in their hands, gave them some situations to make some reads, make some decisions. This will go a long way in evaluating it.”
Holtz has said multiple times during preseason camp that he’s left the field thinking it could Allen starting one day, then the next he felt it could Anthony driving the ship. The final fall practice didn’t see one guy as a clear favorite over the other, the coach said.
“I don’t have a deadline to name a starter. It’s not like one’s an option quarterback and they have to prepare differently. They both do the same thing and the offense doesn’t change from one to the other,” Holtz said. “If we have one, then we’ll take it and ride with it and we’ll name him the starter. But I don’t want to name one a starter because I came off the field today and he had a really good day. And the next day it’s the other guy. Then we change the starter. I think we have three quarterbacks that are capable of running this football team.
“Westin has done a great job, Aaron’s had a really strong camp, I think Luke has done some great things and has had a nice camp and he gets better and better. I think they all are doing some good things right now. I don’t know yet. We’ll have to grade this film (from Saturday’s practice) and see how the week goes and see what we have.”
Both Anthony and Allen orchestrated scoring drives with the first-string offense Saturday and both had some misreads and decisions they’d like to have back, but neither threw an interception or had a turnover during the media viewing period.
Holtz normally would like to have a clear picture as to who his starting quarterback would be one week away from opening the season. But nothing about fall camp has been normal as the team has had to navigate COVID-19 health and safety protocols including contact tracing and an adjusted logistical schedule. At least a handful of players have been missed practice at some point over the last month and there were eight that sat out practice for various reasons Saturday.
And normally, Louisiana Tech wouldn’t hold multiple full-padded practices during the first game week of the year, but with only three padded sessions a week during this season’s fall camp instead of five that it would have, the team will hold two padded practices this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. While Holtz said he hasn’t given himself a deadline to name Allen or Anthony the starting quarterback, he’ll use those two days to hopefully arrive at a decision by Wednesday at the earliest.
“Coming out of Wednesday, we’ll probably have a pretty good idea of where we are, but I don’t want to make a decision until I come out of Wednesday until all the pads come off and we really have to sit down and look at it.”