TOPPER EXTRA: Offense flying under the radar heading into ODU

Senior wide receiver Taywan Taylor (2) runs downfield against Vanderbilt Saturday, Sept. 24, at Smith Stadium. Jeff Brown/HERALD

Evan Heichelbech

Seven games into the 2015 season, a Hilltopper offense led by all-time WKU passing leader Brandon Doughty had scored 308 points and piled up 3,748 total yards before going on to finish the season ranked fifth in the nation in total offense, according to 

Fast forward to this season, and despite a 4-3 overall record and a first-year starting quarterback in redshirt junior Mike White, WKU ranks 15th nationally in total offense with 263 total points and 3,271 total yards to show for it.

“We had a lot of really good players on offense, and when you return an offensive line like we did and enough weapons in the backfield, you think you have a chance,” wide receivers coach Bryan Ellis said. “I was fully expecting us to be this good.”


With the departure of Doughty, offensive coordinator Tyson Helton and a few playmaking receivers in Jared Dangerfield and Antwane Grant, a few question marks lingered around the direction of the offense moving forward.

But for as many playmakers that the Toppers lost on the perimeter, they were able to retain plenty of enough.

Senior wide receiver Taywan Taylor finished the 2015 season as the third best receiver in college football, statistically.

His 86 catches for 1,467 yards and 17 touchdowns ranked higher than current NFL rookie wide receivers Sterling Shepard, Will Fuller V and a slew of others.

Taylor is on pace to have six more catches for 24 more yards than he did a season ago. He is having the fourth-best statistical receiving year in the nation.

“A lot of people doubted us coming into this year just because we lost a lot of great, talented players, but we knew that we had a lot of great, talented players coming back; an experienced offensive line, experienced receivers, running backs with experience and a quarterback who can play quarterback,” junior wide receiver Nacarius Fant said.

Fant’s role this year in Head Coach Jeff Brohm’s offense is a lot similar to the role the other senior wide receiver, Nicholas Norris, played last season for the Tops.

Norris’ 2015 campaign was good enough for the 43rd best statistical season in college football, and like Taylor, he’s already projecting to finish with bigger numbers this season.

Norris has already accumulated approximately one third of the receiving yards that he finished with last year, and five of his eight touchdowns have come in the last three games.

“They are extremely competitive –– both of them,” Ellis said. “They both think every week they walk out –– including Alabama –– that every time they step on the field, they’re the best two players out there.”

While both Taylor and Norris on pace for well over 1,000 yards receiving, the man delivering them the ball is having an equally fruitful season.

White is the nation’s seventh leading passer through seven games and is a big reason as to why the Toppers are averaging just under 500 yards of total offense and 37.6 points per game.

“Mike’s doing a great job,” Fant said. “I feel like he’s doing exactly what we need him to do and he just keeps getting better. Everybody’s been building him up. With that experienced [offensive] line and experienced receivers, he knows that we have confidence in him and he has confidence in us.”

With playmakers on the outside like Taylor, Norris and Fant, the Brohm brothers are able to open up the playbook more and get creative, as they have done all season.

With redshirt senior running back Anthony “Ace” Wales coming off of a big day running the ball a week ago against MTSU, the running game allows for even more flexibility in the play calling.

“The playbook is wide open,” Brian Brohm said in a WKU press release. “We’re trying to distribute the ball to all of our weapons and really run anything that we can think of. We put a lot on these players’ plates with a lot of football to digest.

Reporter Evan Heichelbech can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @evanheich.