BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Among the WKU Football first-timers to take the field last
Saturday vs. EKU were defensive coordinator Clayton White and defensive back Devon
Key. Although neither is in their first year on The Hill, the two talked about what
it was like to don the Red and White in their current roles.
Key redshirted in 2016 in preparation for this season, and he is playing about 15
pounds heavier than he did at Bryan Station High School as a senior. He began his
career with eight tackles from the secondary in his debut, good for second among all
Hilltoppers against the Colonels.
“It was an amazing experience really to get my first start,” he said. “I guess you
could say it will be easier just because I’ve seen that it’s faster than high
school, but it’s still going to be a grind facing a Big Ten school. And they’re
going to be a bit faster than EKU.”
Part of his preparation, comfort and improvement has been aided by graduate senior
Marcus Ward, who Key has been able to look up to and learn from, even though the two
compete for playing time between the lines.
“I’ve leaned on Marcus a lot, he’s a really big help,” Key said. “Going through fall
camp, it was a grind to compete for the starting spot. He has helped me a lot,
coaching me in practice about what he has seen and giving me tips.”
White, meanwhile, is in his 15th season of coaching – including 2010 in Bowling
Green as a co-special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach – but his first as
a defensive coordinator. The challenges are there, he admits, but he is taking
everything in stride to improve brick by brick.
“Every single day something comes up as a coordinator that didn’t come up as an
assistant coach,” White said. “It has been very gratifying and exciting. I’m loving
it and I really feel like this is what I want to keep doing for a long time, because
it’s fun and I’ve learned a lot.”
Behind White’s defensive calls from the sideline, the Hilltoppers shut out EKU in
the first half but allowed 17 second-half points. As WKU did against the Colonels –
when the team allowed only 25 yards on 22 carries – points of emphasis against the
Illini will be stopping the run and keying on the opposition’s playmakers.
“It’s a challenge going against anybody in the Big Ten, the size and speed those
guys bring out,” he said. “They’re excited to bring [wide receiver Mike] Dudek back
– and we would too. [Head coach Lovie] Smith and [offensive coordinator Garrick]
McGee are smart, they know how to get those guys the ball and showcase their
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