Experienced WKU offense set to turn heads in C-USA

WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty looks for an open receiver during Saturday’s game against Tennessee.

Kyle Williams

Like most teams entering fall training camp, the Hilltoppers have some questions that need answering – but the offense is not one of them.

WKU enters the 2014 season having lost 10 starters that helped the Toppers to an 8-4 record last season, but only two from the offense that set single-season program records for total yards (5,502), yards per play (6.3) and yards per game (458.5) last season.

Redshirt senior quarterback Brandon Doughty is among the nine returning starters from last season. The 6-foot 3-inch, 210-pound gunslinger set program records for passing yards, completion percentage, single-game completions and single-game passing yards last season and according to him, the WKU offense has unprecedented depth this year.

“We have one of the deepest offenses that we’ve ever had here,” Doughty said. “Our receivers, our running backs, our offensive line, tight ends – I think our confidence is really high right now.”

Brohm said that while Doughty saw time on the bench last season, his weaknesses were identified, which allowed him to improve his performance for the final four games. Brohm said the redshirt senior is aiming for a memorable final season this year.

“We think a lot of Brandon and we think he’ll be an outstanding leader,” Brohm said. “We think he’s a guy who throws the ball very accurately. He has a great handle on the offense. He manages things very well and he can process information. If things go extremely well and the play is open like it’s supposed to, he’s going to execute it as well as anybody.”

Brohm should be as familiar with Doughty’s play as nearly anyone. According to Doughty, him and his head coach go as far back as his sophomore year at North Broward Prep in Davie, Fla.

“I’ve known coach Brohm since sophomore year of high school when he went to my games,” Doughty said. “He recruited me at FAU and it was kind of crazy how God puts us back in that situation. Here I am in my senior year and he’s my head coach. I would have never thought that. Our relationship is really good. …We’ve studied some film and looked at x’s and o’s and things like that. I think our offense is ready for the challenge.”

Doughty has many familiar targets this season and some additions to the core that are expected to contribute right away. The Toppers return receivers Willie McNeal, Joel German, Taywan Taylor, Nicholas Norris and tight ends Mitchell Henry, Tim Gorski and Tyler Higbee, who combined to haul in a combined 184 receptions for 2,285 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.

The Toppers also welcome junior college transfers Jared Dangerfield and Antwane Grant, who will add needed size to the receiving core. Dangerfield and Grant are 6-foot 3-inches and 6-foot 1-inch, respectively.

“I’m really excited,” Doughty said. “Having guys like Jared Dangerfield and Antwane Grant, those guys make you look good. Our tight ends are one of the best tight end cores as a group in the country, I think, honestly. I’m excited to see all of us come together during this camp through this grind.”

Despite the loss of All-American running back Antonio Andrews, the Toppers have depth in the backfield as well – led by junior Leon Allen.

The 6-foot, 235-pound back totaled 357 yards and five touchdowns on just 6.5 carries a game last season. According to Allen, it’s only right he steps in and fills the void after he witnessed Andrews do the same for current Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey.

“Bobby came in and did his thing and Antonio came in right behind him,” Allen said. I don’t really have that much stress about going out there because I’ve been out there before. I don’t really have to think too much I can just do it because I had carries last year.”

WKU will be without the services of Luis Polanco, Sean Conway and Ed Hazelett off the offensive line this season, but will still be an experienced group with redshirt senior Cameron Clemmons and redshirt sophomore Forrest Lamp protecting the quarterback. The duo started each game last season at left and right guard, respectively.

The Toppers will hold 24 practice sessions, two scrimmages and a mock game before their Aug. 29 opener against Mid-American Conference champion Bowling Green State. All practices from Aug. 2 to Aug. 15 are open to the public.