First spring practice showcases willingness

Bailey Townsend

The WKU football team got a fresh start to the upcoming season as Head Coach Jeff Brohm and the Hilltoppers took to the field on Monday for their first practice, signifying the start of spring football.

Day one of practice featured competitive action from the Toppers, who have been out of action since the team’s victory over the University of South Florida in the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 21, 2015.

“I thought the first day went pretty good,” Brohm said. “I think we’ve got guys that want to do well, want to be good players, and want to find a way to help this team win.”

Despite losing quarterback Brandon Doughty, WKU has 11 starters returning from last year’s Conference-USA championship team.

These 11 include seven offensive players, five of whom are from WKU’s starting offensive line.

The Toppers will also be welcoming back four defensive starters in redshirt senior safety Branden Leston, senior safety Marcus Ward, junior defensive end Derik Overstreet and redshirt junior linebacker T.J. McCollum.

While a large focus has been placed on replacing star quarterback Doughty, the Toppers must also counteract their loss of kicker Garret Schwettman. He holds the record at WKU for most points scored in a single season. His 236 extra points were the sixth-most in FBS history.

Losing a consistent, record-setting kicker will be a difficult vacancy to overcome. In fact, replacing starting positions in general will be a challenge WKU is guaranteed to face this season. It is a challenge, however, that the Tops want to take on.

The team will also have to replace tight end Tyler Higbee, who is currently projected to go in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft, according to mock draft sites.

Despite the positive effort exhibited, the Toppers still have a long way to go.

“We’ve got some guys that need repetition and experience,” Brohm said. 

“We have to get better in certain positions as well: quarterback, tight end and some spots on defense. We have plenty of work to do, but I think our guys are willing.”

That the Toppers are exhibiting such willingness in their first spring practice is a great sign. Brohm does not want to see that trait go away any time soon.

“You can’t achieve great things unless you find a way to make it happen. I don’t want complacency,” Brohm said. “I want my players to believe in themselves and to push themselves. 

Along with filling positions on the field, the Toppers will also face a change in leadership this season. According to the Bowling Green Daily News, WKU has six coaches in new positions this spring.

Brian Brohm, who is new to the staff this year, will be in charge of the quarterbacks, and Chris Barclay will lead the running backs. Bryan Ellis, will now take over the receivers, and Tony Levine will lead the tight ends.

Another addition to the WKU coaching staff is Dale Williams, who will lead the offensive line, and Reggie Johnson, who will coach the defensive ends.

This change in leadership will be an adjustment for players and coaches, but Brohm is optimistic about their place on this team.

“I think they’ll do a good job,” Brohm said. “I want them to teach our guys their own personality, and [I] definitely want our guys to be pushed.”

After a few more weeks of practice, the team will compete in the Red and White Spring Game on Saturday, April 23.