WKU Football: Receivers Week — Receivers Should Thrive Under Mike Sanford in Year Two

The Towel Rack continues its 2018 football preview by taking a look at the the receiving corps the Hilltoppers will employ for the coming season, as we’ve hit Receivers Week in our countdown.

2017 was a year to forget for Western Kentucky Football. Neither hot nor cold, with a lackluster offense and a defense defense that had to bail the offense out more times than not. Frankly put, there wasn’t much to ponder about 2017.

A Cure Bowl beatdown to a program WKU annihilated in Sun Belt play under Bobby Petrino really compounded the forgettability factor.

But as we approach kickoff of the 2018 season, hope springs eternal. WKU has landed some significant talent, got lucky on an NCAA decision (Eli Brown) and looks to have enough talent to be pretty good if a few factors improve.

WKU’s defense was pretty good last year, especially considering working with an offense that could not run the ball. WKU’s passing game was very good, ranking near the top of the country despite an offensive line that gave up nearly four sacks a game. The line couldn’t help anyone on the team bust a 20 yard run the entire season. That is appalling.

WKU’s passing game was good for 335 yards per game. Heading into the 2018 season, WKU has to find a way to replace Nacarius Fant, Cam Echols-Luper and Deon Yelder, two of which have gotten opportunities in the pros. Although the three did not have gaudy numbers individually, WKU has to replace 49% of the receiving yards and 19 of 27 receiving touchdowns from 2017 due to the loss of four senior contributors (Kylen Towner).

One thing coming out of camp from WKU starting quarterback Drew Eckels and others on the team and coaching staff is how good the receivers are going to be this year. If we throw in tight ends Mik’Quan Deane (who was named to the preseason Mackey Watchlist) and Kyle Fourtenbary, WKU has a nice young receiving corps.

Coach Mike Sanford is going to love the size and speed this young group possesses. Most of all, he will love coaching his receivers to be physical. The Toppers are going to run more traditional, under center pro-style looks than the spread like under previous regimes.

In an offense like this, look for the tight ends to be featured much more than they were under Jeff Brohm. Deon Yelder nearly led the team in receiving last year as a tight end. Expect more of the same. WKU has a significant stable of talent at receiver and tight end from both Jeff Brohm’s and Sanford’s recruiting classes. Look for physicality and ferocity from some receivers this year.

One would think the main question with these receivers is maturity; can they handle the pressure of being “the man” or being somebody expected to produce instead of someone expected to learn the ropes? These are the main obstacles the Topper receivers face this year.

The Tops have been picked to finish in the bottom half of Conference USA this year. If the Tops are going to surprise some people, Lucky Jackson, Mik’Quan Deane, Xavier Lane and Quin Jerhnigan, among others, need to become impact players. If these players develop the way their talent says they should, they could take the WKU offense to the next level.

With a much more mobile quarterback, running backs with an extra year of experience and a (hopefully) improved offensive line, perhaps WKU’s passing attack will finally have some help. If WKU is having a good season, at least two receivers will be pushing 1,000 yards by year’s end.

The more we cover Topper football, the more I’m realizing the Tops could be better than I originally thought this year. WKU has A LOT of talent waiting to get in there and make a difference for the Tops.