Spring practice to start for the Hilltoppers

Jonah Phillips

Monday will offer Hilltopper fans and critics their first opportunity to see what the WKU football team will look like in its third season under Head Coach Jeff Brohm.

Spring training will feature 15 practices open to the public over a five-week span culminating in the Red-White scrimmage Saturday, April 23, at 1 p.m.

The practices will reveal how a blend of veteran and new talent is meshing in a season that sees the Toppers return exactly 11 starters, seven on offense and four on defense, from the last campaign.

These returning starters, including senior leading receiver Taywan Taylor and all five starting offensive lineman, were part of the 2015 squad that won its first-ever FBS conference championship.

The team also claimed its second consecutive bowl victory and earned the program’s first national ranking.

Defensively the Toppers look poised to pick up where they left off last year.

Granted, the offseason did see the departure of senior linebacker Nick Holt, senior defensive back Wonderful Terry and other playmakers.

Redshirt junior linebacker T.J. McCollum, leading tackler, as well as senior safeties Marcus Ward and Branden Leston will come back refreshed.

Fans also anticipate the return of redshirt senior running back Leon Allen. As a senior last season, Allen was slated to lead the Topper running game until, in the second week, he was sidelined for the season against Louisiana Tech.

Like former quarterback Brandon Doughty’s return for an extra year of eligibility, Allen’s career was also granted an extra year of eligibility after major ligament damage sidelined him for virtually a full season.

Brohm has been previously quoted as saying that there have been “several hiccups” in Allen’s recovery, so Allen’s level of involvement in spring training isn’t entirely known at this time.

While including Allen in Brohm’s offensive plans next season certainly boosts the team’s outlook, the offensive’s overall complexion will look a little different without the talismanic leadership Doughty offered.

At this point, it is unclear who will emerge as the starter among redshirt senior Nelson Fishback, redshirt sophomore Drew Eckels and graduate student Tyler Ferguson.

Practices begin Monday, Mar. 21, from 4-6 p.m. and will be held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until the spring game on April 23. There will be no Friday practice on April 8 or April 22.