WKU football blog: Media Day

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Offensive progression

With a full season of offensive coordinator Kevin Wright’s spread offense now under Western Kentucky’s belt, the Hilltopper coaches seem optimistic about the offensive unit’s grasp of the system.

While last season was basically a crash course in the new approach, practice this year has been focused on fine-tuning and expanding the offense’s full potential.

“You can see the progression, they’re comfortable in the system,” Wright said at Tuesday’s WKU Football Media Day. “We’ve got three guys who’ve got good experience (at quarterback) and to be able to add some of the young guys and guys who redshirted last year is great. 

“We’ve definitely brought more speed to the mix and we’re excited about it. We’re still young, and it’s still about maturing and gaining confidence as we go, but we’ve definitely increased the speed and given ourselves more of a chance to make more big plays in the spread.”

Wright also called the Hilltoppers’ quarterback competition – with three veteran players (K.J. Black, David Wolke and Brandon Smith) all vying for playing time against a crop of freshman signal callers – a positive situation.

Elson maintained that he wants a single quarterback to step up, rather than use a two-headed system like last season. But, Elson cautioned, that is subject to change.

“We told those guys last season going into the spring that we wanted somebody to leave no doubt – that’s exactly how I put it – on who would be the No. 1 quarterback,” Elson said. “But when you’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-old men, and with college football being as physical as it is, we’ve been thrown a few curve balls – with David Wolke missing all of spring practice, which allowed Brandon Smith to step up and have a heck of a spring, and now this fall with K.J. nursing a bit of a hamstring (injury).

“We’re bound and determined to let it play out and have one guy be the guy, but I learned from last year, when I said that I was a one-quarterback guy, and then we used two and it worked for us. We’re going to have to manage this like we do with any other position on the team and do whatever’s best for the team.”

Extra points

WIth the loss of mainstay Chris James to graduation, the kicking battle was somewhat of a highlight during spring practice and continues to be this fall.

Special teams coordinator Mike Dietzel said it has essentially a two-horse race between senior Tanner Siewert and junior Zac Minturn.

The race might come down to a photo finish.

“We feel good about the competition,” Dietzel said. “They’re pretty much neck-and-neck right now. We’ve charted every kick they’ve made throughout spring ball and until now and both guys have kicked at about an 80 percent ratio, which is what you want.

“So they are both right there together, and we’ll continue to put them through pressure in situations and scrimmages and keep track of the plusses and minuses and see who wins the job.”

Wolke’s rebound

After missing virtually all of spring practice with what the team called a “weightlifting injury,” senior quarterback David Wolke has been at full strength this fall. 

And with the hamstring trouble of QB frontrunner K.J. Black, Wolke has taken all of the first-team snaps and appears to be finding his groove.

“I’m fine right now,” Wolke said. “It really didn’t change me at all this spring like the injuries did last fall.

“Right now I think the whole offense is doing great, we’re coming along and installing new stuff and really doing great things.”

Other injury developments of note on Tuesday were linebacker Alonzo Higgins, who was in only shorts and shoulder pads due to a nagging groin injury; receiver Ronnie Letcher, who was seen being carted off the field Tuesday with an ice bag around his right ankle; and running back Andrew McCloud, who was not in pads and had a wrap on his right calf. Black did not participate in practice at all on Tuesday. 

Position shakeups

As expected, the migration of some of WKU’s quarterbacks to other positions has begun.

Elson said freshman Dexter Haynes (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) has moved to wide receiver, where he could potentially prove to be an extremely tall target down the road.

The other quarterback switch was redshirt freshman Tyler Bruce, who will take his athleticism to the defensive backfield. Bruce was at free safety during Tuesday’s mini-scrimmage.

Wright said during Media Day that other changes will be made as the coaching staff sees fit.

“As opportunities come open at different positions, guys will look around to try and find a way onto the field,” Wright said. “I’ve been impressed with all of them so far, and with the guys we already had there, we’re in a very good situation.”

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