Better with age: Doughty arises as undisputed leader of WKU offense

WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty prepares to pass the ball to wide receiver Nicholas Norris during the game against University of Kentucky at LP Field on Saturday, August 31.

Elliott Pratt

This time last year, Brandon Doughty was a completely different quarterback.

The 6-foot-3-inch redshirt senior from Davie, Fla., didn’t have the same confidence going into the annual Red and White Game as the Toppers’ starting quarterback as he does today — a year later — preparing for Saturday’s spring scrimmage.

“Last year, we were really trying to learn everything and this year it’s so much smoother,” Doughty said. “We’re going through the same offense and the same type of things. I think the game is slowing down for us. We’re not having to think about what we’re doing, we’re thinking about defenses and not where our own guys are going to be.”

Doughty earned the starting quarterback role for his quickness to learn a new offensive scheme under former coach Bobby Petrino. There were times throughout the season when his decision-making swung the momentum of the game.

After a solid start in the Toppers’ win over Kentucky, where Doughty completed 79.4 percent of his passes for 271 yards, he followed up with eight interceptions combined at Tennessee and South Alabama.

In WKU’s official home opener against Morgan State, he didn’t even receive the starting nod — instead all four quarterbacks saw action while Petrino used the game to work out kinks in the offense.

“For sure,” Doughty said when he was asked if he ever lost confidence. “It comes in the game. You have ups and downs in every game, every week. I always believed in myself. God has a plan for me and He’s set these things up for a reason. I was a little shaky in the middle of the season. We bounced back and had a pretty good run in those last four games.”

The Toppers won their last four games of the season as Doughty showed to develop into the quarterback the coaches envisioned him to be.

He threw six touchdowns against only two interceptions in the last four games with game-winning touchdown drives at Army and in the home finale against Arkansas State.

But now Doughty is a new quarterback in a new season under a new coach. It’s the same offense, same scheme, but now with more simplistic understanding.

“It’s more of a confidence thing with me personally,” Doughty said. “I’m more confident in throwing it deep this year in having a mold for the offense. Having an understanding for coverages and understanding where people are going to be.

“I think our receivers are more confident — not just me,” he added. “We’ve kind of simplified things in the offensive line protection wise. We probably had about 15-to-20 protections last year, we’ve now cut it down to seven or eight this year just because we’ve made things a lot more simpler. It lets us do more playing and not thinking.”

Doughty’s newfound grasp of the offense has put him as the unquestioned leader of the WKU offense this spring. New offensive coordinator Tyson Helton said in the first week of spring practice that Doughty’s leadership and understanding is what separates him as front-runner for the starting job in August.

“He has full control of the offense,” Helton said. “He understands what he’s doing. He protects the ball. I know that was a point of emphasis for them last year. I think he’s done a good job there. He’s playing with a lot of confidence.

“The team responds to him, they know he is a very good leader and I’m excited about this season coming up with him. I think he’ll do a great job for us and have an excellent year.”

Doughty’s relationship with Head Coach Jeff Brohm as last year’s offensive coordinator may be the biggest difference for the quarterback this fall. When Brohm succeeded Petrino in January, Doughty knew the transition would be seamless.

“The big difference was with coach Petrino, you didn’t see him every day,” Doughty said. “With coach Brohm – I was with him and he was in meetings every single day. You knew exactly what he wants, and knew exactly what he was doing and we knew exactly why he was calling certain things just because we had that interaction all last year.

“Now that he’s the head-man, he almost has like an open door where we can go in there and say, ‘Hey, this looks good, let’s do this,'” Doughty said. “It’s unbelievable.”

The results after Saturday’s annual spring game will probably be similar to that of a year ago. The Red Team – the starters – will probably roll over the White Team like last year’s 42-3 win. Doughty could very well have similar results from last year’s outing – completing 23-of-35 passes for 314 yards and five touchdowns.

But Doughty is a different quarterback who sees the spring game as a springboard into his final season with the Toppers – a year he hopes to make meaningful both on and off the field.

“I want to solidify myself as a captain, as a leader, as someone that any teammate, defense or any side of the ball, can come talk to me about anything,” Doughty said. “…I think we established a core this spring and saw some guys prove themselves. I’m excited.”