WKU football 2011: offensive and defensive line

31 07 2011

Note: This was part of a four-part football season preview that previously ran in the Daily News


The Daily News


When Western Kentucky began its transition into the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in 2007, there was one glaring hole that needed to be filled immediately, and was going to be hard to come by.

That was size.

WKU was routinely smaller on the offensive and defensive fronts during the initial stages of its transition, and, as expected, took some time – and two coaching staffs – to start accumulating the bulk necessary to be effective at the FBS level.

The Hilltoppers had one of their biggest and best offensive lines of their FBS era in 2010. A handful of those contributors were lost to graduation, but plenty of skilled big men are left on the roster.

Back to start at tackle for the fourth straight season will be Warren Central product Wes Jeffries (6-foot-4-inches, 295 pounds), who has served as an anchor up front for most of his WKU career, and will be the team’s best lineman this season.

Also back – and bigger – are sophomore center Sean Conway (6-3, 301) and junior guard Adam Smith (6-5, 334). WKU will have to replace the likes of departed linemen Preston King and Mychal Patterson, but added some bulk in its 2011 freshmen class, and had the luxury of developing other young linemen last season.

On the other side of the ball, the defensive line has been one of WKU’s weak spots over the past three seasons.

The Hilltoppers have routinely been one of the worst clubs in America when it comes to sacking the quarterback, and last season, WKU finished last in the Sun Belt with 12 sacks.

The hitch there, though, is that for the past three years, the team has relied heavily on young and inexperienced players.

The majority of those formerly inexperienced players are about to enter their junior or senior seasons and their development will have to turn the corner if WKU expects to fix its biggest defensive weak spot of late.

Offensive line

Incumbents: Wes Jeffries, sr. T (6-4, 295), Adam Smith, jr. G (6-5, 334), Sean Conway, so. C (6-3, 301), Luke Stansfield, jr. G (6-4, 303), Seth White, jr. T (6-5, 290).

The expected starting front five for WKU this season is one of the biggest and most experienced offensive lines the Hilltoppers have started since the 2007 season.

Jeffries is a four-year starter, Smith and Conway were fixtures in the starting lineup last season, White saw plenty of action a year ago when then-senior Preston King was battling an injury and Stansfield saw action in eight games last year after missing the 2009 campaign due to injury.

All five had key roles in Bobby Rainey’s record-breaking rushing season of 2010, and all five will once again be called on to keep people away from quarterback Kawaun Jakes.

For the second straight year, WKU’s men up front should be leaned on as the backbone of the entire offense.

Next in line: Ed Hazelett, so. T (6-8, 309), William Berner, r-fr. G (6-3, 283), Luis Polanco, so. G (6-2, 289), Cameron Clemmons, r-fr. T (6-6, 291), , Zane Karrer, so. OL (6-3, 272).

WKU’s second unit up front isn’t short on size, either.

Polanco spent time as a tackle and a blocking tight end as a true freshman in 2010 and might work his way into the starting lineup before all is said and done.

Berner and Clemmons redshirted a year ago, and Clemmons – one of WKU’s highest-rated recruits in 2010 – has seen his weight rise roughly 30 pounds since arriving on campus.

Hazelett remains the wild card. The 6-8 sophomore who redshirted last year is one of WKU’s most physically imposing talents. But he’s still in the midst of grabbing onto a new position, as he entered WKU in 2009 as a tight end. He has an NFL frame and body type – but he’ll need to take the next step in his development before anyone starts looking that far down the road.

The rest: Cliff Burns, jr. (6-8, 335), Delryn Wilson, fr. (6-3, 289), Darrell Williams, fr. (6-6, 260), Tim Gorski, fr. (6-7, 247), Dwayne Montgomery, fr. (6-5, 254).

Darrell Williams, along with Wilson, Gorski and Montgomery, will most likely redshirt this season, as is often the case with first-year offensive linemen.

Burns is a mountain of a human, and the junior college transfer could work his way up the depth chart before fall camp breaks. Karrer is another versatile player who could be used in various spots along the offensive front.

Defensive line

Incumbents: Quanterus Smith, jr. DE (6-5, 244), Jamarcus Allen, jr. DT (5-11, 282), Kenny Martin, jr. DT (6-0, 283), Jared Clendenin, sr. DE (6-3, 272).

One of the biggest questions on the field this season: Will this be the year that the young WKU defensive line stops being young and starts being a force? Or will the group continue to struggle getting into opponents’ backfields?

Smith showed flashes of being unblockable off the edge at times last season, but was not consistent enough, given his potential. Clendenin has been a mainstay up front for four years, and has continued to improve each season – but he’s still looking for that breakout year.

Martin and Allen dubbed themselves the “tiny tackles” a year ago, and seemed content with proving size-doubters wrong. Allen was virtually unblockable during spring ball, and appears to be recovered from an Achilles’ tendon injury he suffered early in his career. Martin has always played with a high motor, and is also in search of a breakout season.

Next in line: Cole Tischer, jr. DE (6-4, 248), James Hervey, jr. DT (6-1, 274), Rammell Lewis, jr. DT (6-2, 294), Bo Adebayo, sr. DE (6-4, 268), Brandon Whitty, jr. DT (6-1, 288), Jamichael Payne, fr. DT (6-1, 350)

Lewis could be placed in the starting lineup by week one, as he’s worked in a consistent rotation with Martin and Allen for the better part of his career. Tischer has seen game action since his true freshman season and may push either starting end if things become inconsistent again.

Hervey, Whitty and Adebayo have all had their moments while at WKU, and Adebayo is coming off a strong spring – perhaps his best yet.

Payne is the biggest (literally) wild card here, and perhaps for the entire defense. Physically he’s ready to play right now. But he’s a true freshman, and has yet to see a college snap. He’s still the heaviest player on the team, and the closest thing size-wise WKU has had to a run-plugger in several years.

The rest: Ketler Calixte, jr. (6-3, 229), Lawrence Campbell, fr. (6-4, 210), Tevin Holliman, so. (6-2, 261), Dimitri Johnson, fr. (6-3, 236), Gavin Rocker, fr. (6-2, 225), Jonathan Scott, jr. (6-3, 236), Bryan Shorter, fr. (6-2, 272), T.J. Smith, fr. (6-2, 219).

The initial plan will be for most all the incoming freshmen up front here to redshirt, unless they prove the coaching staff they can compete right away.

But most of the newcomers are going to need time to add strength to their frames.

As for the rest, WKU’s defensive line has been one of its weakest position groups over the past few years from a production standpoint. Depth is always needed, and the chance to steal a job up front is still ripe for the picking.


See Monday’s Daily News for the final part of this four-part series as we preview the team’s defensive backs and linebackers.


WKU football 2011: wide receivers and tight ends

31 07 2011

Note: This was part of a four-part football season preview that previously ran in the Daily News


The Daily News

The word “balanced” wasn’t prominent in the Western Kentucky football team’s vocabulary in 2010.

WKU was one of the better rushing clubs in the Sun Belt Conference a season ago, led by SBC Offensive Player of the Year Bobby Rainey with his record-breaking season on the ground.

But through the air? That was a different story.

The Hilltoppers were last in pass offense last season in conference, and put up 143 yards per game through the air.

While the knee-jerk reaction last season was to saddle quarterback Kawaun Jakes with most of the blame for the low output, WKU coach Willie Taggart repeatedly defended his quarterback, saying that the numbers weren’t going to be there if no one was at the other end of a pass, catching the ball.

WKU had 16 players catch a pass last season and while a handful of players were bright spots at times, none of them proved to be consistent receiving threats.

Leading receiver Marcus Vasquez missed three games with a collarbone injury and sat out this spring in recovery. The team’s second best receiver a year ago, Willie McNeal, suffered a season-ending knee injury during spring drills and won’t see the field in 2011.

In addition, promising freshman wide receiver Donald Campbell left the team before spring practice began, and junior Dexter Haynes was placed on indefinite suspension due to a violation of team rules following the 2010 year.

Haynes did not practice during the spring, but has been cleared by Taggart to return to the field this fall.

From the tight end spot, junior Jack Doyle is one of the best at his position in the Sun Belt when healthy – but the Mackey Award watch-list member was hampered with a neck injury last season, forcing him to miss five games.

The biggest question marks for Hilltopper football entering the 2011 campaign rest among the players tasked with catching passes.

Wide receivers

Incumbent: Marcus Vasquez, jr. (6-foot-1, 187 pounds)

Normally, there would be at least two incumbent top-line starters in this category, but with McNeal’s season-ending injury – and the lack of proven depth behind him – there isn’t.

Vasquez was WKU’s most impressive receiver over the first nine games of the 2010 season. After being converted into a wideout from his original quarterback position early in his career, Vasquez began to show his potential by making 30 catches for 332 yards and three scores in nine games.

The broken collarbone cost him his final three games last season, and forced him to miss the spring. He is, however, expected to be back in action this fall and will likely be the team’s unquestioned No. 1 receiver.

Next in line: Rico Brown, r-fr. (5-11, 185), Jamarielle Brown, so. (6-1, 175), Neil Wilson, so. (6-2, 201), Joel German, r-fr. (6-0, 185)

All four of the above impressed enough during spring practice to make their way onto the two-deep depth chart, but of the group, only Jamarielle Brown caught a pass last season.

And it was one catch for five yards.

Rico Brown was arguably the most impressive of the lot during spring drills, seemingly taking advantage of McNeal’s injury to force himself into the conversation for playing time.

All four will have a shot to make waves early this fall, but all still have plenty to prove.

The rest: Courtney Dalcourt, so. (5-11, 222), Cameron Brown, fr. (6-2, 205), Boe Brand, fr. (6-0, 144), Andrew Pettijohn, so. (5-8, 180), Dexter Haynes, jr. (6-4, 189)

Dalcourt is perhaps the most intriguing option here, as the former Franklin-Simpson standout quarterback took his first real strides to overcoming his two knee injuries at a new position this past spring. He still has plenty of catching up to do to become a legit college receiver, but if he catches on and shows flashes of his former self, things could get interesting.

Brown and Brand were both highly rated prospects out of high school that signed this winter, and both could have a chance to make an impact on WKU’s most wide-open position group. Brand is known as a speedster, while Brown – a former Minnesota commit – has the size to possibly make an impact.

Haynes would perhaps be higher on the list if he hadn’t found himself in a sticky situation off the field earlier this year. He’s been given the green light to return to the practice field, but he’ll have to prove to his teammates and to the coaching staff that he’s ready to take the next step in his career.

Tight ends

Incumbent: Jack Doyle, jr. (6-6, 244)

Easily the team’s best pass-catching option since his freshman season, Doyle had to fight through a lingering neck injury that forced him to miss five games a season ago.

He was a limited participant in spring drills earlier this year, and is scheduled to be ready to roll once fall camp opens.

Doyle has NFL-level size and ability at the tight end spot, and if he stays healthy, he’ll once again be one of the top two or three tight ends in the Sun Belt – and right up there with Bobby Rainey as WKU’s best offensive player.

Next in line: Demetrius Coley, so. (6-2, 247), Ryan Wallace, jr. (6-5, 248)

Wallace – the former Bowling Green High School standout – arrived on campus officially prior to spring practice as a transfer. Wallace has had stops at Colorado and Kentucky, but has yet to actually see a live game snap during his career.

He outplayed Coley enough during spring ball to move ahead of him on the depth chart, but Coley opened people’s eyes late last season when he filled in for an injured Jack Doyle. Coley showed potential as a pass catcher and blocker during the latter part of the year – and both he and Wallace should see playing time this season behind (or alongside) Doyle.

The rest: Mitchell Henry, fr. (6-4, 247), Tyler Higbee, fr. (6-5, 215), Devin Scott, fr. (6-4, 250), Jim Murphree, so. (6-5, 225)

Tight end is easily WKU’s deepest position on the field. Henry – an Elizabethtown product – leads a talented group of incoming freshmen that will make their debut this fall. He starred on the football field and basketball court at Elizabethtown, and ultimately chose WKU over Ole Miss.

Murphree is a former Franklin-Simpson standout who built up his frame last season and worked hard enough to get himself on the field when WKU’s tight end corps was hit with some injury issues.

WKU football 2011: quarterbacks and running backs

31 07 2011

Note: This was part of a four-part football season preview that previously ran in the Daily News


The Daily News


Several jobs will be up for grabs when the Western Kentucky football team opens fall camp for the 2011 season Aug. 6.

But the spots in the offensive backfield likely won’t be among them.

Both junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes and senior running back Bobby Rainey held on to their starting spots following spring practice.

With Rainey – the reigning Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year – the decision was a no-brainer.

As for Jakes, there was some speculation that redshirt freshman Brandon Doughty might give the two-year starter a run for his money in the spring – but that wasn’t the case, as Jakes earned spring game MVP honors following the best spring camp of his career.

“I would say he solidified (the job) right now,” WKU coach Willie Taggart said after the spring game in April. “But he’s still got to work and go through the summer. He stepped up to the challenge throughout spring ball and never got rattled. And it helped him, having some competition knowing that Brandon was going to give him his best every day.

“I think that made Kawaun better.”

Now, a look at the two positions that will set the tone all season for Taggart’s West Coast offense.


Incumbent: Kawaun Jakes, jr. (6-foot-3, 189 pounds)

Jakes started every game as a redshirt sophomore last season, and has been the team’s No. 1 quarterback since midway through the 2009 campaign.

His record isn’t sparkling, but he improved last season and showed an ability to digest a new offense after Taggart was hired and changed the WKU scheme from the spread-option to the West Coast attack.

Jakes was careful last season, throwing for 1,680 yards to go along with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. Taggart will no doubt ask the junior signal caller to do more this season – with his arm and his legs.

Jakes will have to become more than a huddle-organizer on the field this season if WKU wants success. And if he wants to keep his job, Jakes will have to start making plays at a more consistent rate.

Next in line: Brandon Doughty, r-fr. (6-3, 203)

Doughty was Taggart’s first highly touted quarterback signee out of high school, signing with WKU as a Rivals.com three-star prospect prior to the 2010 season.

From a raw ability standpoint, Doughty appears to have it all. He’s got good arm strength, has nice touch on the ball and is mobile enough to make things happen.

He had all the reps he could handle this spring, though, and didn’t do enough to make Jakes nervous about losing the starting spot.

Doughty made several mental mistakes under pressure, while Jakes seemed to steer through the game easily.

Just a redshirt freshman, Doughty will likely continue to improve – and could still push Jakes hard this season, depending on how things go come game time. As of this minute, though, Doughty appears to be entrenched as WKU’s quarterback of the future.

The rest: James Mauro, fr. (6-7, 198)

The first thing that stands out about Mauro is his size. At 6 feet 7 inches, Mauro not only has the ability to see over the line and have a clear vision of the entire field, but also probably has little trouble dunking a basketball.

Mauro will likely serve as the absolute last-resort emergency quarterback this season for WKU, simply because Taggart won’t want to remove his redshirt unless it’s absolutely necessary.

The big Texan has some catching up to do, but doesn’t enter WKU without accolades. He was rated as the fifth best prep quarterback in Texas last season by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the 67th best prep quarterback in the country by ESPN.com.

Running back

Incumbent: Bobby Rainey, sr. (5-8, 205)

Perhaps the biggest lock on the team, in the conference, in the country and maybe even the planet: Bobby Rainey will start at running back once again this fall for WKU.

After a record-setting season in 2010, the senior from Griffin, Ga., has landed on the Maxwell Award watch list (given to the top player in college football) and is one more monster season away from becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher.

After doing everything but driving the bus and cooking the postgame meal for WKU in 2010, Rainey – who led the nation with 340 carries and finished with 1,649 yards last year – is 1,534 yards away from breaking Lerron Moore’s career rushing record of 4,396 yards.

Rainey is also 1,135 yards away from passing his coach, as Taggart sits second on WKU’s all-time list with 3,997 yards.

Next in line: Antonio Andrews, so. (6-0, 201)

Rainey led the country in carries last season, so there wasn’t much else to go around. But the player who came forward as the clear-cut No. 2 was Antonio Andrews.

The former prep superstar at Fort Campbell, Andrews was saddled with a hand injury for a good portion of the spring, but managed to make defenders look foolish in scrimmage drills.

Perhaps WKU’s second most explosive offensive threat behind Rainey, expect Andrews to get more touches out of the backfield – and perhaps in the receiving game this season, as WKU can’t afford to have his athleticism off the field.

The rest: Tevin Bryant, r-fr. (5-9, 226); Keshawn Simpson, so. (6-0, 236); Quarrtterrio Morgan, fr. (5-10, 181); Marquis Sumler, fr. (5-9, 172)

Bryant and Simpson both had their moments during the spring while Rainey and Andrews rested. And both players are of considerable size, meaning that they could work their way into an option as a short-yardage back. Though fullbacks Kadeem Jones (5-11, 270) and Nick Baisch (5-11, 258) did an outstanding job when called upon as a lead blocker or short-yardage back last season.

Other players who could possibly make a splash are a pair of highly touted incoming freshmen in Morgan and Sumler. Both three-star prospects according to Rivals.com, Morgan was a former Georgia Tech commit, while Sumler opted to head to WKU after de-committing from Vanderbilt – meaning both players were very highly thought of coming out of high school, and will both be fighting to position themselves for WKU football ABR (After Bobby Rainey) in 2012.

WKU Board of Regents approves Ken McDonald’s revised contract

29 07 2011

The Western Kentucky Board of Regents officially approved men’s basketball coach Ken McDonald’s new revised contract today during its third quarterly meeting inside the Mass Media and Technology Hall on campus.

In addition, the regents OK’d a one-year extension for women’s basketball coach Mary Taylor Cowles and the new employment contract of baseball coach Matt Myers.

McDonald’s contract, which was revised in March and included a $100,000 pay decrease, has been basically official for some time now.

But with Friday’s final stamp of approval, WKU athletic director Ross Bjork said that the program can now officially turn the page toward the 2011-12 season.

“I’m glad this is over,” Bjork told the Daily News. “This stuff weighs you down and you have to go through all the formality of the approval process and then that becomes public. And that’s fine, it’s the world we live in. But really, you want to just get to work, buckle down, get them back to recruiting, coaching and focusing on academics.

“I’m excited about both our men’s and women’s teams. We have good kids. We have a strong senior class on the women’s side with some young ladies that are very talented. On the men’s side, you have all that new, positive energy with good character kids. I’m glad this chapter is over, glad we can turn the page and focus on 2011-12.”

Bjork also gave his year-end report on athletics – for more on all of this, see Saturday’s Daily News.

More on new WKU tailgating policy

28 07 2011

Here’s the basics on the new tailgating policy – will have a full story in Friday’s Daily News.

Per WKU:

Three additional grass parking locations in close proximity to Houchens Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium have been made available for the 2011 football season, WKU Athletics announced today.

The additional locations are located along College Heights Boulevard and will add additional parking spaces on the grass in the heart of campus.  The parking spaces may be secured for $20 on a per game basis upon entry to the lots.  There is no pre-purchase available in these lots; they are available day of game only – first come first serve.  The money collected will be used to employ security and staff to operate and maintain these areas in a fan friendly environment.  WKU will reserve the right to close the grass parking locations in case of inclement weather.  These parking lots will open six and a half hours prior to each home game.

The grass parking locations available on a per game basis are in addition to the two seasonal grass parking locations that were made available last season.  The two seasonal grass parking areas, located on College Heights Boulevard and University Boulevard, contain close to 150 parking spots, cost $100 for the entire season, and are also available to the general public and WKU students.  To purchase seasonal grass parking, call the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation at (270) 745-2468 or e-mail Elizabeth Leftwich at elizabeth.leftwich@wku.edu.

These additional reserved grass parking spaces, the designated student tailgating and picnic area, and approximately 4,500 free parking spaces highlight student and fan friendly features for 2011 football game days.



  • “Topperville,” the large on campus area adjacent to College Heights Boulevard, remains as a reserved student-only tailgating and picnic area.  Students may begin parking in this area at 6:00 p.m. on Friday on a first come-first serve basis.  This area will close 30 min. prior to kickoff.


  • Fans can experience Topper Walk two hours and 30 minutes prior to kickoff across from DUC and South Lawn to cheer on the entire WKU football team along with the cheerleaders, Topperettes, marching band and Big Red as they make their way into Houchens Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium.


  • The Parking Structure 1 Garage located on the north side of Diddle Arena remains admissible on game day free of charge.  This provides approximately 500 covered free parking spaces and is part of over 4,500 free paved parking spaces available throughout campus for fans attending football games.


  • The WKU campus now offers over 30 areas designated specifically for tailgating and picnicking, all located less than half a mile from Houchens Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium.


  • Those utilizing the lawns on game day may set up tents six hours and 30 minutes prior to kickoff, and all lots will be closed 30 minutes prior to kickoff.  Pop up tents, grills, and coolers are permissible.  Loading and unloading zones are located throughout campus and available on a temporary basis for those wishing to unload items and tailgate on the lawns where parking is not permitted.  No pets will be allowed in tailgating areas, and security in these areas will monitor alcohol consumption.

·         Topper Town, which features inflatables, a kids play area and activities for children of all ages, will open three hours prior to kickoff and is free for the entire family.  Topper Town is located in South Lawn.

New WKU football tailgating map

28 07 2011

We’ll have more on this soon, but here’s the map – per WKU.

A few changes, three new grass lots have opened up.

Again, more soon.

WKU teams give back in United Way event

27 07 2011



A total of 137 WKU staff members, coaches and student-athletes participated in the United Way of Southern Kentucky’s 3rd Annual Day of Caring on Wednesday, July 27th. WKU’s participation is a component of the Athletics Department’s expansive Hilltoppers with Heart Community Service program.

“Having the WKU family support the Day of Caring with a 137 volunteers reinforces the strong partnership between United Way and WKU,” President of United Way of Southern Kentucky Doug Eberhart said. “Having this many people volunteering and giving back to the community really demonstrates the spirit of WKU. We are very grateful for the support and willingness of the people to volunteer.”

The WKU volleyball team volunteered to help with the PLARN project in Downing University Center from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., helping to create plastic yarn (PLARN) from grocery bags. The yarn was crocheted into mats and will be given to the homeless in the area to provide more comfortable sleeping conditions.

The WKU men’s basketball team volunteered on the grounds of Riverview at Hobson Grove where they helped to paint interior walls of a small home. The Cottage provides important storage for the historic house museum.

The WKU football team and WKU staff members helped with indoor and outdoor clean-up projects all day at the Houchens Center. They helped wash windows, polish silverware, clean light fixtures, paint porch benches, weed flower beds and improve the appearance of the wall on the side street of the center.

Hilltoppers with Heart is designed to give WKU student athletes, coaches and staff the unique opportunity to make an impact in our community by volunteering their time and talent with numerous organizations.  WKU Athletics has partnered with the United Way and participating in the 3rd Annual Day of Caring marked the first project as part of the Hilltoppers with Heart community service program.

Incorporated as a charitable non-profit entity in 1956, United Way of Southern Kentucky has long served a major role in the community by bringing people together to create opportunities that make a measurable difference in the quality of life for people where they live and work. As part of the United Way of Southern Kentucky’s 3rd Annual Day of Caring, hundreds of volunteers from throughout the community join local non-profit organizations and work to make real changes in people’s lives.

WKU head volleyball coach Travis Hudson:
“I don’t think there is any way that we could possibly get our kids out in the community enough. This is such a good group of kids, and having these opportunities is something that they really look forward to. This is a great day all around our community, and we are really glad to be doing our part. These kids come to college to get an education, and there is a lot more to an education than just what is going on in the classroom. For them to do things like this and see the different things that are going on in life only enriches them and helps them be a better person when they walk out the door.”

WKU volleyball senior Tiffany Elmore:
“When they were demonstrating what we would be doing today, it really gave me goosebumps. As a college athlete you are thinking about games and practices and everything, and coming to help with this is an eye-opener. Being able to do my part is something that I love doing and means a lot to me. Not only are we helping others, but we are also bonding more as a team.”

WKU men’s basketball junior Caden Dickerson:
“It feels great to be able to come out as a team and give back to the community. People in Bowling Green do so much to support us each season, so spending some time with people away from the court is a nice feeling. It is a lot of fun being out here with my teammates, too. This will be something that we remember for a while.”

WKU football junior Jack Doyle:
“It is always a positive experience whenever we can get out into the community. We always enjoy coming out here and doing things like this, and it gets us away from the grind in the stadium. Even though today is all about helping other people, working together on these projects also builds team chemistry. In football you have to be together on and off the field, and experiences like these make us care about each other even more. We are just happy to be able to do our part for the people of Bowling Green.”