WKU football blog: Monday press conference

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Passing progression: 

The Hilltoppers break-out passing game on Saturday might have seemed like a long time coming, or a specialized game-plan designed to put points up on the board in a hurry — but according to coach David Elson on Monday, it was simply a game of give and take.

Elson said the decision to go to the air — especially in the deeper distance variety — was due to the fact that Murray State’s defensive philosophy was to take away the WKU run attack. 

And as time has progressed in WKU offensive coordinator Kevin Wright’s spread-option offense, there’s no secret any longer that the Hilltoppers are a run-first football team. So the opportunity to take to the skies might continue to be there, and if it is, Elson said the team will take advantage.

“There’s no question that we’ve got to continue to (pass), that’s got to be part of our arsenal and we’ve got to use the guys that can stretch those defenses,” Elson said. “That will help our running game, if we can continue to work on it and get the ball down the field like that it helps with momentum and energy as well.”

One thing Elson has preached all season long is balance, and by establishing some sort of decent down field threat, he hopes it will force defenses to play the Hilltoppers straight-up, rather than daring them to throw.

“The biggest thing it does is it makes them take a guy out of the box, potentially,” Elson said. “If they’re going to keep bringing a guy down in there, then throwing the ball over their heads or to the perimeter makes them not so aggressive when it comes to putting those people or committing those people as run-first defender.

“We want to be balanced, and I think Saturday night was a good example of if all we ever worked on was our run game, then we’d be in trouble. You’ve got to be able to do both.”

Recruiting chances: 

Elson touched on the point after Saturday’s win over Murray State that a good showing this week could do wonders for the Hilltoppers in the in-state recruiting battle.

On Monday, tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Mike Chism explained just how big of a deal a win against the Wildcats could be.

“We are now one of three Division 1-A schools in the state, and there are so many athletes in the state of Kentucky with that talent level,” Chism said. “So us going up to Lexington and knocking UK off would obviously help sway some of those guys to say, ‘hey, maybe I should take a look at the Hilltoppers a little bit.’

“Facility-wise we’re not lacking, game atmosphere is going to be excellent, education will be excellent — so a lot of things are comparable for us to be at the level that those guys want to be.”

Elson and Chism have made no bones about the fact that WKU’s first priority is to take care of recruiting in Kentucky before anything else. However, this past season’s recruiting class had no signings from the Commonwealth, as a great number of the state’s 1-A talent chose Louisville or UK (amongst schools outside of the state) over WKU. 

“There’s no question that it will help open doors or open phone lines or any of that stuff,” Chism said. “It will help us be in front of more people and get more people looking at us — whether it makes the difference between us getting a guy or not is hard to say, but our base is in Kentucky and we’ve got to do a good job in those battles with people like the University of Kentucky.”

As a former UK player and graduate, Chism took a few moments Monday to look back at what his perception of WKU was when he was in Lexington.

“To be honest with you when I was playing at Kentucky we were a 1-A team in the Southeastern Conference and Western was in the OVC and a 1-AA team, along the lines of Morehead State, Eastern and Murray,” Chism said. “I always kept up with the Eastern-Western game because it was a knock-down, drag out type game — but we just really considered it a 1-AA team that was a pretty solid program.”

When asked what he would have thought if his UK teams would have played WKU during his playing career, Chism said he would have no doubt been excited about it.

“I would’ve been excited about it,” Chism said. “Anytime football grows in the state of Kentucky, whether it be Eastern, Western or Morehead, it’s going to help football here top to bottom.

“And with University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville having success over the last couple of years, it’s doing nothing but helping football in Kentucky — and if we get this program where we want it to go, in bowl games and things, then it’s going to do nothing but help it all get better.”

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