Keeping it in state: Brohm hits home state hard in first recruiting class

“We are happy to get these guys and we think they will be excellent players for us,” WKU football Head Coach Jeff Brohm said of the 2014 WKU football signing class during a press conference with media outlets on Wednesday, Feb. 5. WKU signed 15 players, 10 of which hailed from Kentucky. The new roster also featured Mr. Kentucky, Nacarius Fant, and Mr. Tennessee, D’Andre Ferby. (Jeff Brown/HERALD)

Lucas Aulbach

This time last season Jeff Brohm, current coach and former offensive coordinator of the WKU football team, said WKU was “going to take advantage” of the relationship the coaching staff had with the city of Louisville and the rest of the state.

One year later, the Toppers are one step closer to being Kentucky’s team — WKU signed 10 in-state players during National Signing Day on Wednesday.

Brohm, a Louisville native in his first season as WKU’s coach, is dealing with an strange predicament in recruiting battles within Kentucky.

It’s an unusual circumstance for Brohm to recruit alongside former Coach Bobby Petrino at WKU one year, and then recruit against Petrino — who accepted the same position at Louisville in January — the next season.

But Brohm never wavered in his pitch to the future Toppers. His message at the press conference announcing the class Wednesday was simple: any school trying to recruit the top high school players in Kentucky is going to have to go toe-to-toe with WKU.

“Our goal here is to compete for the best players in the state, and we think we have a lot to sell here,” Brohm said Wednesday. “We’re not going to back down from anybody and like I said before, this state has a lot to offer. We’re always going to continue to recruit hard in the state of Kentucky.”

Floridian students have dominated past recruiting classes under former coaches Willie Taggart and Petrino. Of the 33 high school and junior college players WKU signed last season, 14 were from the Sunshine State, while just four came from Kentucky.

This year, however, Brohm said he wanted to make it a point of emphasis to recruit from areas within a “three-hour radius” of Bowling Green.

The result is a class that makes up for its lack of nationally known recruits by looking a lot like a Kentucky high school all-star roster.

“We’re really on top of talent in this state,” Brohm said. “We were able to get a lot of guys on our campus in the summer, and we feel like we’ve got a great group of players from this state and we’re happy to have every one of them.”

WKU’s in-state recruits come from all parts of the commonwealth — the Toppers signed two players from Louisville, two from Paducah, two from Bowling Green, two from Shelbyville, one from Owensboro, and one from Fort Thomas.

One of those Bowling Green recruits, South Warren High School linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe, said a lot of the Kentucky recruits know each other and have been in contact throughout the recruiting process, which helped to convince them all to stay with WKU after Petrino left for Louisville.

“There’s a lot of guys when I went on my official (visit) I was familiar with,” he said. “I think it’s great for Western and great for Bowling Green and great for the players that the recruits are familiar with one another.”

While the familiarity of the recruits with each other helped the Toppers pull in several recruits, Brohm’s familiarity with high school football in Kentucky was also a big factor in WKU recruiting this year. Brohm, a former all-state quarterback at Louisville’s Trinity High School, spent six years (2003-08) as an assistant coach at Louisville before returning as WKU’s offensive coordinator.

He said the Kentucky players started to pile up thanks to the knowledge of in-state recruiting by the Topper coaching staff.

“There really wasn’t a plan to get so many,” Brohm said. “We have a lot of connections in this state. For a long time I was an assistant before I got the head job here so I was able to get into the homes and to recruit a lot of people in this state.”

With his first recruiting class as WKU’s coach under his belt, Brohm said his next priority is getting his guys in uniform and on the field before the Toppers open the season next year at home against Bowling Green State.

“Right now, our goal is to get these signees on campus this summer, get them ready to play, and get ready to open up on Aug. 28 against the MAC champions, Bowling Green,” the coach said. “In my opinion, things are happening right now on the Hill and people are seeking us out to be a part of it. We couldn’t be more excited.”