As spring practice gets into full swing, there’s a big question facing the WKU football team: how will they replace record-setting quarterback Brandon Doughty?
Despite the loss of Doughty, the expectations for the WKU offense aren’t much different. Redshirt junior Mike White, redshirt senior Nelson Fishback, redshirt sophomore Drew Eckels and graduate senior Tyler Ferguson will all be competing to fill Doughty’s shoes at the quarterback position.
“Obviously the quarterback position is the biggest hole to fill. We lost a guy that had a tremendous career here,” Head Coach Jeff Brohm said in an interview posted on WKUsports.com. “We have a lot of guys that are eager to get out there and prove themselves. They’ve all worked hard, and I think it’s going to be a competitive battle. We’re going to try to give each quarterback a fair shot at the job, and I think each of them knows exactly what they have to do to get the job.”
If ever there was a good time to be replacing a quarterback like Doughty, the Hilltoppers offense has it now.
The Hilltoppers return their leading rushers from the 2014 and 2015 seasons in redshirt seniors Leon Allen and Anthony Wales.
It’s my last season, so I want to play a larger role, which means getting these young guys better and helping them develop.
The team also returns its leading receiver from last season in the form of Louisville senior Taywan Taylor.
Taylor caught 86 passes for 1,467 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2015 to lead WKU in both categories.
Also, all five starters on the offensive line return.
“We have our whole offensive line back, and that obviously makes all of our quarterbacks comfortable,” Taylor said in an interview posted on WKUsports.com. “The quarterback hole is the biggest hole we have to fill. I think all the candidates bring something different to the table. They all want to be out there, and that’s going to make the competition even better. I don’t want them to be pressured and feel like they have to live up to what Brandon did here. Brandon was Brandon. I want them to be them.”
Joining Taylor in the receiving corp is senior Nicholas Norris, senior Antwane Grant and junior Nacarius Fant.
As a junior, Norris started all but one game. The Miami native tallied 63 catches for 971 yards and six touchdowns. His 971 yards were the third most reciving yards in a single season in school history.
Grant, a Nassau Community College transfer, caught 41 passes for 509 yards and six touchdowns during his first season on the hill.
Fant, the 2014 Kentucky Mr. Football winner, caught 13 passes for 159 yards and also played key roles as punt returner and on trick plays on offense.
Fant threw two touchdown passes during his sophomore campaign and also ran for a touchdown in the Hilltoppers’ 45-35 victory over South Florida in the Miami Beach Bowl.
Grant and Antwane will both look to play bigger roles in 2016 as Jared Dangerfield and Tyler Higbee both will leave holes to fill in the receiving core.
“With our receivers, I’m just trying to be a leader. That’s how I’ve been approaching this spring,” Taylor said. “It’s my last season, so I want to play a larger role, which means getting these young guys better and helping them develop.”
The Hilltopper football team will practice roughly three times per week until the Red and White Spring game on April 23. All practices are open to the public inside Smith Stadium.