Quit Stahl-ing: Lack of draftees is indicative of Sanford’s failures

Matt Stahl

In this past weekend’s NFL Draft in Nashville, there were no players selected from WKU. Not even one.

That’s the first time a WKU player hasn’t been picked at any point in the draft since 2015. This is a clear sign Todd Stewart and the WKU administration made the right call in firing former head coach Mike Sanford.

Now, it might seem like kicking Sanford after he was already unceremoniously kicked to the curb by WKU is in poor taste, but we can get real here: It’s not as if WKU didn’t have any players with the talent to be picked this year.

Sanford just had no idea how to use the talent that was already on his roster. He took a team that had been recruited to play a high-flying, fast-paced offense and tried to play a run-first, tempo-controlling game.

Look at the players who graduated this year and then try to argue Sanford used most of them correctly. The only possible exception is tight end Mik’Quan Deane, who was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Seattle Seahawks following a season where he played extremely well, especially when Steven Duncan was at quarterback.

However, you’ll never convince me D’Andre Ferby didn’t have more to offer than what he showed this past season. Look at his freshman year — he was one of the best freshman running backs in the country, rushing for 611 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Ferby was absolutely snake-bitten by injuries from that point forward. However, the system the team was running by his senior year was not one that fit the strengths of players recruited in the Bobby Petrino-Jeff Brohm years. Where players like Anthony Wales were able to thrive due to the defenses they were facing having to constantly play on their heels to defend the explosive passing attack, under Sanford, they were looking for the run all of the time.

Ferby didn’t benefit at all from playing in the Sanford offense. When the defense was keying off of him and the thousand other running backs that were playing alongside him, Ferby was barely able to make it out of the backfield at times, often seeming automatic to gain 2 yards and not much more.

Ferby didn’t even get used when the team needed 2 yards or less. In one critical situation this past season, the Hilltoppers needed 1 yard against Maine and went to Marquez Trigg, who didn’t get the first down.

Mismanagement. It was everywhere on the Hill during the Sanford era.

Imagine walking into a program riding as high as the Hilltoppers were following the 2016 season and deciding the best thing for the team as a whole and the players individually was to take everything that had made them so successful and completely scrap it in favor of a game plan that didn’t fit any of their strengths.

WKU’s football program should be in a much better place than it is. Sanford should have stuck with what was working and not tried to force his own way onto players who were recruited to be in a specific system.

Maybe now that Tyson Helton is in place, someone who’s been on the Hill before and has an understanding of what worked and helped to recruit many of the players already on the roster, WKU will start seeing players get picked again.

Sports Editor Matt Stahl can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @mattstahl97.