Starting quarterback job wide open heading into Saturday

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

WKU may see a new starting quarterback on the field Saturday night, coach Bobby Petrino announced after Thursday’s practice.

Petrino said all four quarterbacks on WKU’s roster have a chance to start against Morgan State.

The decision to open the starting quarterback job up for competition came on the heels of several starting lineup changes that were made before last Saturday’s game against South Alabama.

“What we’ve done is open it up like all the other positions that we go through the week, evaluate effort and how we do,” Petrino said Thursday. “We had a decent practice tonight and we’ll evaluate it just like we do every other position and then make a decision either tonight or probably tomorrow.”

Petrino said the decision to open the job back up came in part to WKU’s turnover troubles. The Toppers have given the ball up 12 times through three games this year.

“We’re turning the ball over too much and like I said before, any time you turn it over it is the entire offense’s responsibility,” he said. “But a week ago we made every position really available for competition except for the quarterback position so we decided to include them all.”

Junior Brandon Doughty started the first three games of the season for WKU. After completing 27-of-34 passes in a win over Kentucky in the season-opener, the quarterback threw an FBS-leading eight interceptions over the next two games, both losses.

Through three games, Doughty had completed 71-of-115 passes for 775 yards, with five touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Petrino said Doughty was disappointed but has responded well to his starting job being threatened.

“We had really good meetings today and he’s got a real positive attitude,” the coach said. “He’s a great teammate, his teammates voted him captain, and he’s been very positive. He’ll get his opportunity back, there’s no question about it in my mind.”

Freshman Todd Porter has taken reps with the first team in practice this week and could see the field for the first time Saturday night.

The freshman from O’Fallon, Ill., threw for 6,200 yards, including 3,009 in his senior season, and completed 61 percent of his passes in his three-year career at O’Fallon High School. He holds school records at the school for career touchdown passes (45), touchdown passes in a single season (22) and passing yards in a single game (405).

Petrino said Porter is a very talented passer.

“He can really throw it, make all the different throws that you need to make and he’s very athletic,” he said about the freshman. “He’s still learning — he’s still learning the pace of the game, the tempo of the game, the different looks that defenses can give you, but he’s improved a lot. He’s gotten a lot of reps in the last month and he’s improved a lot.”

Along with Porter and Doughty, WKU has two other quarterbacks on the roster in sophomores Nelson Fishback and Damarcus Smith.

Fishback has yet to see the field this season. Smith, a former four-star recruit who transferred to WKU from Central Florida, was widely considered the second-string quarterback until this week. He went 0-oft-2 against Tennessee in his only action so far this year.

Petrino said each of the WKU quarterbacks have been nervous in practice this week but all have performed well, and the offense is preparing packages for all four of them.

“Some of them have executed real well — they’ve been inconsistent, but there have been some really good things, too,” he said. “I think it’s helped our enthusiasm at practice and our receiving core is getting better and they’re going to continue to improve and that will help all of us.”

The Toppers will kick off against Morgan State at 6 p.m. Saturday at Smith Stadium.