Football seeing improvements near spring finale

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

The final week of spring football is here and the annual Red vs White spring game is set for this Saturday at 1 p.m. 

The contest will offer Head Coach Jeff Brohm and his staff a chance to evaluate their team one final time before a break until the fall semester begins.

For the past four weeks, the Hilltoppers have practiced two to three times a week. The team has participated in two scrimmages so far this spring.

The second and final scrimmage of the spring took place last Saturday and Brohm saw a lot to like from his squad.

“I thought the defense had energy. They were playing with a little bit of an attitude, they were into it and trying hard to improve, and I think we did,” Brohm said. “I think we have a chance to be a little more physical in the run game. I think our secondary will be better. We have to try to limit the big play. We had a few today that we shouldn’t have given up, but other than that, I think they played well.”

Joel Iyiegbuniwe, a redshirt freshman, linebacker, emphasized the teams on-field communication as a key to the Hilltoppers’ success. 

“You could hear us,” Iyiegbuniwe said. “We were loud, yelling. I think that’s what we need to keep doing, is keep bringing that energy.”

Energy is what this Hilltopper team, especially the defense, will need this upcoming season. After a record-breaking offensive season, the defense struggled to keep up, ranking 120th in total defense in NCAA Division I football out of 128 teams.

Despite the departure of linebacker Terran Williams and cornerback Cam Thomas, WKU returns nine starters. The side has gained some extra depth in several positions. UAB transfers defensive tackle Jontavius Morris and linebacker T.J. McCollum are expected to make an impact in 2015.

“I liked our guys’ energy,” defensive coordinator Nick Holt said of last weekend’s scrimmage. “We made, I’m sure, a ton of mistakes, but we’ll get that corrected. I’m happy with our energy and attitude. I thought the guys had fun out there. We made some plays, and we have a lot of plays to grade off of.”

The defensive unit has echoed that going against one of the best offenses in the nation day in and day out has helped them improve. The offense finished sixth in the nation in scoring and was the second ranked passing attack. 

As Brohm enters his second season as Head Coach, the weapons that WKU returns already have proven experience. A marriage of the two sides will be what Brohm, the staff and the fans will be looking for on Saturday. 

“We’ve got to get all our guys to the dance,” Brohm said. “We feel like we have some good playmakers, but we have to make sure they’re healthy, ready to go full speed, confident, feeling good. We have to have all the bullets. As you guys know, our games are going to be nip and tuck to the very end every week, and we have to find a way to win the close ones.”