Shephard expects another productive season

WKU junior defensive back Marcus Ward (L) and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kylen Towner (R) fight for position during a route running drill during the team’s open practice Wednesday April 1, 2015 at L.T. Smith Stadium. (Luke Franke/Herald)

Billy Rutledge

WKU will look to rising upperclassman within its receiving corps as it attempts to replicate the offensive success it achieved last season. After losing Willie McNeal and Joel German to graduation, redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty will have three veteran targets to look to in his final season on the Hill.

Rising seniors Jared Dangerfield, Antwane Grant and rising junior Taywan Taylor combined for 2,101 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2014. Last season, Dangerfield led the team with 825 yards and 11 touchdowns. These will be Doughty’s most experienced and tested targets in his upcoming campaign for a Conference USA title.

“We expect greatness. I’ll be honest with you. We expect, everyday, to have a significantly successful practice—better than the one before,” wide receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard said. “When your number is called, guys know they have to make the plays.

“For the most part, we are making those plays. There are a few mistakes out there, but that’s part of the learning process, and these guys are learning. Most of the veterans know the playbook very well, but it’s about fine tuning.”

One player who is beginning to hit his stride and could potentially see more action in 2015 is sophomore Nacarius Fant. 

Fant was named 2013 Kentucky Mr. Football after a record-setting career at Bowling Green High School, still holding every single-game, single-season, and career record at BGHS. 

“I’ve learned a lot from last year from Willie McNeal and Joel German and those seniors,” Fant said. “I actually learned a lot from them and this spring it is really helping me a lot. I’m trying to take the stuff from them and trying to use it to my advantage and trying to evolve my game.”

“Players have to make plays. When your number is called, you have to be ready to step in. We have a deep receiving core. We have a couple backups that can play right away when the starters are out and when we come in, same expectations as the ones and that’s what it’s about. Having a core that’s together.”

Fant attributes much of his success to position coach Shephard. 

Shephard was promoted to a full-time assistant in 2014 after spending three seasons on the WKU staff as a graduate assistant. He then went on to mentor one of the greatest receiving corps in WKU history, breaking a multitude of records in 2014.

Receivers Willie McNeal (Career Receptions) and Jared Dangerfield (Season Receptions and Touchdowns) broke or tied program records in 2014 including the team setting a new single-season passing yards mark.

“With coach Shephard, it’s something new every day,” Fant said. “I’m blessed to have a position coach like that. Every day I come into the office, you need to do this, you need to do this. He stays on me every day and that’s the type of coach you want that gets your greatest potential out of you, and I feel he’s doing a great job at that.”