New Season, New Faces: Meet 5 players that will make an impact

5 Players to Watch Football

Billy Rutledge

One key to becoming and staying an elite college football program is the recruitment and production of new players. Whether they’re out of high school, transferring from different schools or returning from injury, the play of new faces in key roles goes a long way in determining the ultimate outcome. With the 2015 college football season almost upon us, meet five new or slightly used WKU players who will be making an impact on the field this season.

1. Jontavious Morris: 6’2″, 305 pounds, senior defensive line

Jontavious Morris joins the team with one year of eligibility after playing three seasons at UAB. While there, he recorded 54 tackles in 35 games, started 19 games and played a pivotal part in the Blazers defensive line. Morris, who joined the team after the demise of the UAB football program, has already started bonding with the Hilltoppers.

“I feel like I’m fitting in pretty good,” Morris said. “The guys are taking me under their wings, we have great captains, good leadership and I like the chemistry around here.”

In 2014, Morris started 11 of 12 games while recording 20 tackles, two for loss, and a blocked kick. He is expected to start on the defensive line immediately. The line, which is returning all six leading tacklers from a year ago, includes WKU’s top four sack leaders. 

“My favorite part of the team is the coaching staff,” Morris said. “These guys have taken me as their own when I had no place to go. They stepped in and have been a family towards me. Coach Brohm came to see me and has been a real genuine guy since I’ve been here.”

2. T.J. McCollum: 6’3″, 230 pounds, redshirt sophomore linebacker

The second player to transfer from the UAB program, T.J. McCollum, comes onto the Hill with three years of eligibility and brings depth and energy into the linebacker position. In 2014, McCollum appeared in 10 games. He recorded seven tackles and helped the Blazers in key stops against Troy, Mississippi State, North Texas and Louisiana Tech.

“I really want to do my part on  this team and make sure everything goes right,” McCollum said. “A conference championship is definitely a team goal. The year (WKU) had last year, made it to a bowl game, I feel like the defense has developed since then so I feel like we are going to win the whole thing.”

McCollum will play behind seniors Nick Holt and Dejon Brown and along with freshman Joel Iyiegbuniwe. With the news of Brown possibly missing extending time due to a knee injury, McCollum may face more playing time than expected.

3. Max Halpin: 6’3″, 295 pounds, redshirt junior center

Though not new to Saturday football games on the Hill, Max Halpin will be a key contributor to the WKU offensive line. Halpin started three games in 2014 at center before a season-ending back injury. While playing, he helped engineer over 1500 yards of offense against Bowling Green, Illinois and Middle Tennessee.

“Its good to be back on the offensive line,” Halpin said. “My goal is to stay healthy and play in all the games this year.”

Halpin entered the 2013 season as the backup center, but jumped into the starting lineup after an injury. His freshman season ended with him starting the final five games of the season, recording seven total starts as WKU went 6-1 with him at the helm. The Hilltoppers will look for him to rebound from injury to solidify an already beat-up offensive line.

4. Nacarius Fant: 5,9″, 185 pounds, sophomore wide receiver

Nacarius Fant enters 2015 with a real chance to see some extended playing time. Even though wide receiver seems to be the Hilltoppers deepest position, Fant has worked his way up the depth chart with his hard work and great attitude. After coming into the 2014 season fresh from winning Kentucky’s 2013 Mr. Football Award, Fant saw time in four games and caught his first pass for three yards at Middle Tennessee.

“He’s done really good,” Offensive Coordinator Tyson Helton said. “His first year he played a little bit, not a lot but was not really game ready. You see him take on more of a leadership role. He’s making a lot of plays out there. He’s a guy you can trust and you are going to see more and more of him.”

Fant will play alongside a deep core including 2014 standouts senior Jared Dangerfield, senior Antwane Grant, junior Nicholas Norris and sophomore Taywan Taylor.

5. George Fant: 6’6″, 270 pounds, redshirt senior tight end

George Fant is switching from Diddle Arena to Smith Stadium as the four-year letterwinnner for the Hilltopper basketball program. He will play one season for the WKU football team. Ranking 13 in career scoring and eighth in career rebounding for WKU, Fant will use his big frame to block and occasionally catch the ball from the tight end position. The last time Fant has played football was the eighth grade, but that doesn’t stop the senior from pushing on.

“I’m fitting in,” Fant said. “I’m trying to be as aggressive as possible and learning how to play fast. All the guys are willing to help …This is just a blessing, a great experience. I have a lot of support behind be and even though some people doubt me, I’ve been proving people wrong for years so why stop now.”