Hilltoppers eager to open fall camp

Western Kentucky University’s Brandon Doughty looks for a pass during their game at against Troy at WKU on Saturday, October 26, 2013.

Kyle Williams

Anticipation is in the air on The Hill as the WKU football program held its 2014 Media Day on Saturday inside the Jack and Jackie Harbaugh Stadium Club at Smith Stadium.

The team plans to hold 24 practice sessions and two scrimmages before the Toppers’ season opener on Aug. 29 against Bowling Green State. All practices from Aug. 2 to Aug. 15 are open to the public.

First-year head coach Jeff Brohm addressed members of the media at 9 a.m. to begin media day and remaining coaches and several players were available following the team photo opportunity.

“It’s an exciting time to be a Hilltopper,” Brohm said. “It’s our first day of practice. Our guys reported last night and we’re excited to take the field. We believe we had a great summer. Our strength coach worked hard with our guys and we’ve worked extremely hard to put in a lot of time and effort and we think we got a lot accomplished.”

With a new head coach and holes to fill on offense and defense, the Toppers face a lot of unanswered questions, but the biggest may be how WKU plans to fare in the Conference USA after 32 years and more than 80 league titles in the Sun Belt Conference.

“We understand that we’re a newcomer to the conference,” Brohm said. “We’re going to have to earn our respect. …There’s a lot of opportunity to succeed if we do well, so there’s a lot of motivation to win. We also understand that every week it’s going to be extremely tough. We have to take it one game at a time. I know you hear that a lot, but we have to focus on being the best players and team we can be. If we can do that, I think we’ll have a chance.”

Redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, who threw for a WKU FBS record 2,857 yards last season, said the team is eager for a chance to prove itself in the new league, but the Hilltoppers need to focus on short-term goals for the time being.

“I think the biggest thing for us is not looking at the big picture. …We don’t need to worry about our conference right now, we need to worry about Bowling Green State and worry about what’s going to happen that game,” Doughty said.

The Hilltoppers return 43 lettermen from last year’s team that tallied an 8-4 record and failed to capture a bowl bid, but lost 20 important pieces to the puzzle, which includes NFL Draft picks Andrew Jackson and Jonathan Dowling along with All-American Antonio Andrews.

Nevertheless, the Hilltopper coaching staff and team is optimistic that returning players have the potential to fill the voids, such as Leon Allen, who rushed for 357 yards and five touchdowns last season despite totaling 6.5 carries per game.

Allen said his experience has aided the process of becoming the feature player in the backfield and that he’s ready to prove his worth.

“Bobby came in and did his thing and Antonio came in right behind him,” Allen said. “So it’s only right if I come right behind him. It’s time to show everyone what I can do.”

As far as preparation goes, Brohm said the Toppers are working on conditioning as much as possible before the season-opener against Mid-American Conference champion BGSU.

“Right now, our guys are completely focused on getting better schematically on what we do on both sides of the ball,” Brohm said. “Getting in the best physical shape as they can, getting them ready to play and be in best physical condition. …We’ll get as many guys ready to play as we can because we want to play a lot of guys on both sides of the ball, keep guys fresh and have our best guys out there.”