Brohm hopes for “more improvement” as fall camp ends

Redshirt junior quarterback Mike White (14) passes the ball to redshirt senior running back Anthony Wales (20) during WKU’s scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 20, at Smith Stadium. WKU’s first game is against Rice on Sept. 1, at Smith Stadium. Jeff Brown/HERALD

Evan Heichelbech


There were several questions surrounding the WKU football program entering their preseason fall camp.

A quarterback had yet to be named starter, a defense was looking to embrace the challenge of losing 10 lettermen and a lot of experience on the defensive front, and some positions still needed filling in.

Saturday, Aug, 20’s scrimmage wrapped up fall camp for head coach Jeff Brohm’s squad, and after two-and-a half weeks the question as to who will be replacing former WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty as this year’s starting quarterback still remains.

“Well right now, it’s a close call,” Brohm said. “I think we have an idea of what we want to do. All three veteran quarterbacks are working hard. They all give us a different element. I think they all can play for us and they gotta be ready. That’s kind of how we’ll leave it for now. We’ll just keep working them as hard as we can and make sure they get enough reps.”

Whether it’s redshirt junior transfer Mike White, graduate transfer Tyler Ferguson or redshirt sophomore Drew Eckels leading the Hilltoppers onto the field for the home opener against Rice University on Sept. 1, redshirt senior running back Anthony Wales will be content.

“I’ve been saying, I really don’t know what coach is gonna do because I like all of them,” Wales said. “All of them look good and I wouldn’t want to be the head of that decision because I know it would be a very tough decision to make. Whoever they roll with, I’ll be happy.”

Wales will anchor a crowded backfield for the Hilltoppers this season along with redshirt sophomore back D’Andre Ferby and redshirt freshman Marquez Trigg.

A big part of the backfield’s success is dependent upon an experienced Topper offensive line which returns all five starters from last season.

“I’ve been running behind those guys since I got here,” Wales said. “We have a very deep o-line core and they have a lot of experience. I have a bunch of confidence in them and they have confidence in me so I can’t wait for the season to get here.”

On Saturday morning, the Toppers held a closed team scrimmage which helped the third-year head coach assess his team’s progress as it heads into the first week of regular season practice, starting the following Monday.

“I saw improvement,” Brohm said. “I thought the offense started fast, made a lot of big plays early and then that kind of slowed down. The defense did a good job. It’s gonna be a deal where I think our defense is gonna have to play at a high level. Our offense is gonna have to do the small things early on due to some of the inexperience we have in certain positions. Hopefully we can improve on the fly and make some plays early, gain some confidence and hopefully that’ll carry over and we’ll find a way to be good.”

The role of kick-starting the defense this season will rely on redshirt sophomore linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe.

“They’ve been telling us all camp that we need to lead this year and pick it up because we’re not the same team we were last year,” Iyiegbuniwe said. “I feel the defense is ready for the challenge.”

Iyiegbuniwe has been thrust into a starting position with the graduation of linebackers Nick Holt and Nick Newton.

“I think we’ve come a long way since we started, especially with knowing our keys and getting lined up,” Iyiegbuniwe said. “Those things are really important so I know coach Holt’s really made an emphasis on that. We’re ready for Rice.”

Saturday’s scrimmage left the team anxious to get the season underway, but Brohm still has a few positions to finalize and is waiting for different players to separate themselves.

“I think tight end is an important position for us,” he said. “Shaq Johnson’s gotta give us something and we got [Wake Forest transfer] Steve Donatell back. Desmond Maxwell and Deon Yelder have to continue to progress and play a role for us.

Brohm also mentioned that he “felt good” about the offensive line and running back positions.

However, Brohm urged that the team needs “more depth” at the receiver position and that junior wide receiver Nacarius Fant and redshirt freshman Lucky Jackson will need to “step up” this season.

Another position Brohm mentioned was kicker. With the departure of Garrett Schwettman, the Toppers are in need of someone to emerge from an amalgam of players. Skyler Simcox, a Division III transfer, joined the roster officially this week.

“Today our [kickers] struggled,” Brohm said. “It was a little bit windy and we didn’t have a whole lot of success kicking today, which is concerning. Garrett Schwettman bailed us out of a lot of things. He was extremely accurate and consistent. [Simcox] has played in a lot of football games in the past year and has done a good job kicking. He’s definitely right in the mix for it. Really he and Ryan Nuss are fighting hard for the placekicker position.”

Whether it’s Simcox at kicker, White at quarterback or Donatell at tight end, one thing is for sure; the season is quickly approaching and Brohm will need his team ready to go.

“We’ve been counting down since yesterday,” Wales said. “It’s less than two weeks now. Football season is what everyone is waiting on. We know that. We just want to come in every day and work hard.”