Western Kentucky football practice ran a little long today – which means one thing:
Us media folks got to see a bit more than we usually do, as we’re generally only allowed in during the last 15-20 minutes.
In any event, plenty of notes from today’s on-field action.
Due to some scheduling conflicts with morning classes, a good number of true freshmen were able to take the field with the veterans this morning – and several of them looked impressive in doing so.
A few that caught my eye:
TE Mitchell Henry – the former Elizabethtown product looks the part at 6-4, 247, and he’s got the early makings of becoming a Jack Doyle clone.
Henry was quick enough to run by linebackers in coverage, and showed strong hands by making a few nice catches in traffic over the middle in front of defensive backs.
WR Tyler Higbee – Higbee was originally labeled as a tight end when he signed, but the 6-5, 219-pounder is now listed as a wide receiver.
There’s one obvious thing that sets Higbee apart from everyone else at wideout – he’s 6-5.
He got several reps in with the first-team unit today and made some nice in-traffic grabs from quarterback Kawaun Jakes. Freshmen receivers Cameron Brown and Boe Brand also got reps with the first unit today, but it was Higbee who seemed to take the most advantage of the situations.
OT Delryn Wilson and OG Cliff Burns – Wilson was lined up at tackle and Burns (who is actually a JUCO transfer junior) played inside at guard for most of the day. During individual one-on-one drills, both players were able to hold their own against returning defensive linemen.
Burns, meanwhile, got plenty of reps with the first-team unit inside at guard – and at 6-8, 335, appears to be in a good position to earn a spot.
Wilson is still growing into his frame (6-3, 289), and I’d almost bet that the staff takes advantage of his redshirt year – but he appeared to have some serious natural ability.
QB James Mauro – Mauro got the lion’s share of the No. 2 reps Monday because redshirt freshman Brandon Doughty was in class.
Mauro didn’t look outstanding, but didn’t look terribly lost either.
He seemed comfortable with almost all of the underneath throws, but seemed a bit more out of his element with more complex routes that took time to develop.
DT Jamichael Payne – Payne is obviously huge at 6-1, 350. And he did spend time working in with the first-team unit today. But he appears to have plenty of work to do – as defensive coordinator Lance Guidry commented after practice that he’s very impressive during the first half of practice, but not as much toward the end.
Meaning that he’s got to get in better shape. The same was said about freshman DT Bryan Shorter – who has the size to make an impact at 6-2, 272 – but just needs some refining.
RBs Quartterrio Morgan, Marquis Sumler and John Evans – All three of these guys ran very hard when given a chance.
And all three showed off solid hands during skeleton drills.
Morgan and Sumler are true tailbacks – and let’s be honest, they’ll have to wait for Bobby Rainey to graduate before competing for a starter’s share of carries.
But Evans is interesting. He spent time returning punts, ran a lot of routes from the slot and spent some time in the backfield. He’s not big at 5-11, 159, but has the makings of a very effective third-down scat back.
Linebackers taking shape
Guidry took some time to speak to the media following today’s workout and spoke a great deal about the linebacker competition.
As most of you know by now, WKU’s three linebacking spots are basically up for grabs this fall – as the club lost three starters from a season ago.
Junior Tye Golden emerged as the front-runner in the middle during the spring, but Guidry said today that he’ll have to push harder to keep sophomore Andrew Jackson from taking his spot.
Outside, it appears that sophomore Xavius Boyd is well entrenched at one spot – while senior Ben Duvall and junior Tyler Julian are shifting in and out on the other side.
Also getting plenty of reps at linebacker early this fall is senior Tenerio Davis and sophomore Mike Federspiel.
When WKU gathered for a full scrimmage drill toward the end of practice, the first-team unit consisted of defensive ends Quanterus Smith and Bo Adebayo, defensive tackles Jamichael Payne and Bryan Shorter, linebackers Golden, Boyd and Duvall, safeties Ricardo Singh and Kareem Peterson and corners Tyree Robinson and Arius Wright.