WKU Football: Tops Ready For Title Defense
Western Kentucky football had quite the season in 2015 — its first FBS conference championship, consecutive bowl victories, finishing in the final AP Top 25 poll and collecting a school-record 12 wins, and that only begins to scratch the surface.
What third-year head coach Jeff Brohm has been able to do in his first two full seasons on the Hill has been nothing but mind-blowing. He had the daunting task of trying to continue the success from two previous head coaches, and has surpassed any and all expectations.
On Wednesday, the record-setting team held its annual media day inside the Jack and Jackie Harbaugh Club atop Houchens-Smith Stadium. With the Tops having last taken the field before Christmas, it should go without saying that Brohm, his staff and players are eager to get to playing football again.
“Well, it’s that time of the year again, so I think we’re all excited for this upcoming season,” Brohm said. “We’re excited to be back out here — this will be our first day of practice. I know our guys are looking forward to it.”
Being prepared for the season comes with a lot of hard work in the summer. Brohm says his guys has put forth the effort and are ready.
“There is a lot of hard work that goes into the summer,” Brohm said. “I remember when I played, I don’t remember working near that hard. I think our guys are far along. They’ve worked extremely hard this summer.”
Along with working hard, Brohm and his staff had to begin filling gaps left by players that have moved on to other things — most notably, quarterback Brandon Doughty.
“We have a few key pieces to the puzzle that need to be replaced,” Brohm noted. “Ever since the last season ended, we’ve worked extremely hard to prepare those guys for their opportunity when it comes. Hopefully they’re eager for their times to shine, as well.
“I like the nucleus of our team. We’ve got a lot of guys on our team — they work hard, they have a chip on their shoulders, they’re out to prove themselves, and really the ability to prove consistency and the fact that we can do it more than one year is gonna be important.”
Relating to back to Doughty, Brohm says that he’ll choose his team’s starting quarterback about a week or so into Fall Camp, which began Wednesday afternoon.
“I think in the first 7–10 days we’ll narrow it down and name a starter by then,” Brohm told the media. “I like the way our guys have been working and it’s gonna be competitive still. But, without question, I think by then we should have a guy that will start to get most of the reps and the others will be ready just in case their numbers get called.”
For senior offensive lineman Forrest Lamp, he says he wants to see leadership out the quarterbacks competing for the starting job these next few weeks in camp.
“Just be leaders — which they’ve done a great job of over the course of the spring,” Lamp stated. “Just come in and take control just like Brandon (Doughty) did. We’re confident in all of them, and just like Brohm said, we’ll pick the right one eventually.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Hilltoppers return just four starters - that unit knows it must work hard and show up to defend. Although safeties Marcus Ward and Brandon Leston, defensive end Derik Overstreet and linebacker T.J. McCollum return with 84 starts between them, other players will have to take on larger roles.
“I’ve been here four years, and this group right here, this is the one I look forward to getting the job done this year,” Ward, a senior, said. “We got some good work done in the spring with some new guys getting some work in, so I’m looking forward to guys stepping up and asserting themselves.”
Western’s roster includes 25 seniors this season, and Ward and Lamp will both be key leaders this year. They both say that they’re ready to lead.
“Letting each guy know what we expect out of them and what they need to be doing is a top-down job,” Ward said.
“Last year we had five other guys besides me who were also captains,” Lamp said. “They were seniors, so last year I was kind of on the back burner watching them, guys like Brandon Doughty and Tyler Higbee and guys on defense like Wonderful Terry. This season, if I do need to step up and say something, I’m more than happy to do it.
“Our whole team polices itself because we have natural leaders all over the field.”
Before the end of the press conference, Brohm stated that his team’s dominant 2015 season comes with a target this season, but they’re ready for it.
“Were excited about the season and we’re ready for the challenge,” Brohm stated.
Western Kentucky opens the 2016 season with a home game vs. Conference USA for Rice on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7:00 p.m. at Houchens-Smith Stadium.
What are you most looking forward to as fall camp begins? Who do you think will win the starting QB job? What position that hasn’t been talked much about will you be watching for before Sept. 1? Let us know in a comment below, or on twitter @TheTowelRackWKU.