Training Days: WKU defensive line loaded with young options

WKU sophomore defensive lineman Bryan Shorter(94), sophomore defensive lineman Gavin Rocker (88), and senior linebacker Bar’ee Boyd wrap up Louisiana-Monroe sophomore quarterback Brayle Brownduring the second half of their game at Malone Stadium in Monroe, Louisiana. The defensive shut-out ULM in the second half.

Kyle Williams

WKU football wrapped up its fifth fall training camp practice on Wednesday inside Smith Stadium – the first practice in full pads.

Defensive tackles coach Don Dunn, junior defensive lineman Ge’Monee Brown and redshirt freshman defensive end Tanner Reeves were available for interviews following practice and according to Dunn, WKU’s defensive front is young and deep.

“They’re young,” Dunn said. “As you know, we lost some good kids last year, but they’ve all had a good summer. They’re working hard. They’re eager and they’re learning. The nice thing about it is I’ve got quite a few. I’ve have more than I’ve had in the last two years, so competition is good.”

Only five of the 19 Hilltopper defensive linemen are upperclassmen – however, Dunn said he wouldn’t hesitate playing any of his younger players if they proved their worth. 

“I’m not afraid to play a young guy,” Dunn said. “We’re going to play the best ones. Whoever does what they’re supposed to do and keeps working hard, they’ll be in there. I don’t care if they’re a senior or freshman because we have to play the best people.”

Dunn said the depth allows the coaching staff to rotate linemen in order to keep fresh legs on the field, something they’ll need to do against Bowling Green State on Aug. 29.

“We have to get the best 22 on defense,” Dunn said. “By that I mean we have to be able to roll. Especially that first game – they go fast. We have to know what we’re doing, keep it simple and keep fresh bodies in there.”

Dunn added that no player has particularly locked up a spot on the depth chart yet, but when two-a-days roll around he said the players should begin to show their grit.

Brown, a junior college transfer in his first year with the team, said competition is challenging with so many linemen battling for a spot on the depth chart.

“Oh, it’s crazy,” Brown said. “We have about four or five groups right now. It’s tough, it really is because guys are competing pretty hard. There are honestly no set starters. We’re all back and forth and the main thing is to be consistent.”

Although competition is thick, the Hilltoppers, along with Reeves, believe the depth can be beneficial for WKU in a new, faster conference.

 “I think the depth is really good,” Reeves said. “We’re first string, second string and even third string in depth. We all have the same effort – we all know the same stuff. There is no, ‘First team is better than third team’. We’re all equal.”

“Also as a D-line I think we’ve improved on being faster and more conditioned because this hurry-up offense stuff, that’s how it is in Conference USA.”