QUIT STAHL-ING: Spring game a mixed bag for Hilltoppers

WKU running back Jakairi Moses (3) celebrates his touchdown in the first quarter with wide receiver Lucky Jackson (11) and tight end Steven Witchoskey (48) during the Red vs White Spring game on April 13. The Red team came up short to the White team, losing 28-21. CHRIS KOHLEY/HERALD

Matt Stahl

There really was a lot for WKU football fans to get excited about following the annual Red vs. White Spring Game.

However, the team is still far away from being ready to take the field in August.

The thing players and coaches were most willing to talk about after the game was the new offensive system that first-year head coach Tyson Helton has put into place.

Following two years of former head coach Mike Sanford trying to force his own offensive mentality onto a roster that wasn’t built for it — especially in a league where the old way had been dominant — fans should be thrilled to see the ball in the air again.

Unfortunately, none of the quarterbacks on the roster looked like they had what it takes to have consistent success in that offense.

Sure, almost all of them had some good, even great, moments. But none of them looked all that impressive under pressure, and the bad throws were numerous.

Redshirt freshman Kevaris Thomas looked the worst out of the quarterback group. He had ample opportunity to show off the arm that made him such a highly touted recruit coming out of Lakeland, Florida, but instead, he constantly overthrew his receivers, including one pass that nearly hit the fence through the back of the south end zone.

Thomas also had a fumble that was recovered by the defense. However, Helton opted to call it a sack, so Thomas came away without a turnover on the stat sheet.

Turnovers were a major issue for newcomer Ty Storey, a graduate transfer from Arkansas. Storey threw two picks, one to Beanie Bishop and one to Antwon Kincade. Kincade should have had a pick-six off of Storey, as well, but didn’t secure the ball before taking off for the end zone.

Storey did have a few nice throws late, including one to freshman Manny Allen, who looked every bit as good as advertised, scoring a touchdown and making several nice catches, showing he’s exactly the type of receiver Helton is looking for.

Redshirt junior Steven Duncan looked solid, if unspectacular, for the Red team. To me, he seems like the clear frontrunner for the starting job, especially with the way Storey played.

However, Duncan did commit the worst intentional grounding penalty I’ve ever seen and had trouble with several snaps, but whether those were his fault or the center’s was up for debate.

By far the best quarterback of the day was redshirt sophomore Davis Shanley. I can’t see Shanley starting this season, but he looked better than ever on Saturday.

Shanley finished with 185 yards through the air as well as two touchdowns. He seems to have strengthened his arm this offseason and also made some nice escapes behind an offensive line that wasn’t playing its best.

Elsewhere on offense, the biggest surprise was wide receiver Xavier Lane. Before leaving the team in the middle of last season, Lane was dropping passes like Lil Nas X drops incredible country music. But he looked phenomenal on Saturday, catching about everything that came his way.

One encouraging sign for the future came on defense, where it turns out freshman defensive back and Bowling Green native Clayton Bush is really, really good. He had several pass breakups, a few nice tackles and an interception.

Do I think he’ll start this season? Absolutely not. Kincade and redshirt junior Devon Key will have a lock on the safety positions barring injury.

However, Bush’s future is bright, and he could certainly see the field at some point this year.
 A quick look through the Herald archives tells me we have several pictures of a young Bush — one where he’s 10 years old and looking at WKU football helmets. In another, he’s 2 years old, and Big Red is putting a strange-looking hat on his head.

If Bush lives up to his potential, maybe we’ll get to break those out again sometime soon.

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