Still plenty of learning left to do for the Hilltopper offense

WKU football players do high-knee drills before going through their plays during practice on Tuesday at L.T. Smith Stadium. 

Sam Porter

In just two days, Hilltopper fans will get a glimpse of an offense not quite familiar to the one seen in recent years.

Fans can expect to see a more balanced offense instead of the up-tempo, high-scoring offense seen in recent years. Senior quarterback Mike White and junior quarterback Drew Eckel’s knowledge of Mike Sanford’s new offense will be put to the test on Saturday when the two lead their respective squads for the Red-White Spring game.

“There’s definitely some more learning left to do,” White said. “This is our 14th practice, and you can’t build an entire offense in 14 practices. We’re going to show people we have gelled as a group. We’re finding a lot of young guys to step up. You’ll definitely see a group that is hungry, wants to play and keep the winning tradition alive.”

Last season, White ranked third in the nation in passing efficiency. Although his yards and touchdowns may not reach last year’s totals in this more balanced offense, his overall efficiency should remain the same in year two of leading the offense.

White also factors into expected uptick in the running game. One of White’s bigger challenges this spring has been learning the zone read that Sanford has a history of success with. Most recently, Sanford coached former Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer, who is projected to be drafted in the early rounds of next week’s NFL Draft. Kizer broke several quarterback rushing records while leading the Fighting Irish offense,  including the single season rushing touchdown record.

Unlike last season, White will be asked to use his legs as well as his arm if this offense wants to reach its full potential.

“The cool thing about this offense is that we’re going to do multiple things,” offensive coordinator junior Adams said. “With the quarterback-driven run game, we’re making the defense, as we like to say, ‘defend 12.’ If we can add the zone read element to our offense and execute it a few times a game, we can keep any defense on their heels.”

As far as the running back position goes, neither redshirt junior D’Andre Ferby or redshirt senior Leon Allen will be playing on Saturday. Sophomore running backs Quinton Baker (White team) and Marquez Trigg (Red team) will both have opportunities to prove themselves as competition for the starting position starts to heat up.

Both Trigg and Baker have just one start a piece in their short careers. However, both made the most of those starts. Trigg ran for 98 yards in just the first half in his lone start while Baker ran for 103 yards on 20 carries in his.

With an inexperienced and banged up receiver core, the depth of the running back position may come in handy. All four backs could be used in a number of ways.

“I feel like we have good handle on it. We have potential to be explosive,” Baker said. “We have a lot of weapons and everything you need. We have speed, power and shift. It’s a brand new offense,  but it is coming along. We’re taking it day by day. As of now, things are going well. I feel like if you’re not out there Saturday  , you’re going to be missing something big.”

The Red-White spring game kicks off at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Smith Stadium.

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-799-8247and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.