BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – As construction continues high above Houchens Industries-L.T.
Smith Stadium on new video boards, the action ramps up on the field on Tuesday as
WKU opens up spring practice for the 2018 season.
Under second-year head coach, the process has already begun to replace 11 starters,
including seven on offense, but is bolstered by 15 returning starters and 55
lettermen from last year’s Cure Bowl team.
The biggest question this fall will be who is taking the snaps from rising senior
center Dennis Edwards, a three-year starter. Since 2010, few teams in the nation
have been as fortunate as the Hilltoppers at the quarterback position. Only Troy has
had fewer opening day starters (two) than WKU’s three. Florida-born Kawaun Jakes
called the signals from 2010-12 before handing over the reins to Florida-born
Brandon Doughty from 2013-15. Then, in 2016, following’s Doughty’s graduation, in
stepped – you guessed it – Florida-born Mike White for the next two seasons.
This spring, Florida-born senior Drew Eckels will look to fend off competition from
non-Floridians in Steven Duncan, Davis Shanley, and Graydon Kulick, for the starting
job before Florida-born four-star quarterback Kevaris Thomas, the highest-ranked
high school recruit to sign with WKU, steps on campus this fall.
Defensively, despite the graduation of four-year starter Derik Overstreet at end,
Joe Brown at corner, Chris Johnson at tackle, and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe’s
early entrance to the NFL Draft, defensive coordinator Clayton White has to be happy
with what he has coming back on his side of the ball which also includes seven total
The Hilltoppers return two all-conference caliber safeties in Drell Greene and Devon
Key and will have pieces in place for one of the better defensive lines on The Hill
in the last five seasons as tackles Evan Sayner and Jalen Madden along with end
Carson Jordan return from injury. Rising sophomore DeAngelo Malone made an immediate
impact as a true freshman last season, and this spring will be crucial for his
growth into one of C-USA’s top rush ends. Factor in the addition of redshirt
freshmen C.J. Marria and Juwuan Jones and senior Julien Lewis, who closed the 2017
campaign strong, and the pieces are in place for a feisty defense in year two of
White’s 4-2-5 scheme.
There will also be a new look on the Hilltopper staff as various roles have been
added along with the addition of new offensive line coach TJ Woods. Sanford intends
to take a more hands-on approach to the quarterbacks this season and will be aided
with the addition of Matthew Mitchell as quarterbacks coach. Mitchell spent the 2017
campaign working with offensive coordinator Junior Adams and the wide receivers and
worked in the quarterbacks room with Sanford at Notre Dame.
Jami DeBerry and Maurice Crum have added special teams coordinating duties to their
roles this spring while Jimmy Lindsey has added the title of recruiting coordinator.