Young receiving core looks to put mistakes behind them

Freshman wide receiver Nicholas Norris is picked up by junior offensive lineman Cameron Clemmons as they celebrate after scoring a touchdown against Tennessee on Sept. 7. 

Lucas Aulbach

Last Saturday against South Alabama, the WKU wide receivers showed their collective youth.

The Topper pass-catchers hauled in three total touchdowns, including two from freshman wide receiver Nicholas Norris, but also recorded several key drops on important drives. The drops contributed to junior quarterback Brandon Doughty’s 27-of-47 day from the field.

But the Topper receivers have another issue that may have contributed to their early struggles — youth.

None of the 13 wide receivers listed on WKU’s roster are seniors. The Toppers have four redshirt juniors listed, with Willie McNeal and Joel German being the only two that receiver consistent playing time, and the rest are sophomores or freshman.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm said it’s time for his receivers to grow up a little bit.

“The youngness has to rub off,” he said after practice Tuesday. “They’ve played three games, they’ve got to continue to get better — they’ve got to be playmakers for us.”

Coach Bobby Petrino said his receivers are a part of a passing game that is a “work in progress.”

“I was hoping we’d be ahead of where we are right now with it,” he said Monday. “When you come in and everything’s new to every single player — we’ve got a lot of new receivers out there, the schemes are new, the timing that we’re working on is new.

“We knew that we were going to have to continue to improve as the year went on. You’d like to do that as you’re winning games.”

Young receivers have been a major part of the WKU passing attack so far this year.

Norris has caught a team-high three of Doughty’s eight touchdown passes this year and leads WKU with 129 receiving yards on 10 catches. He caught seven passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars last Saturday.

Freshman Taywan Taylor inserted himself into the starting lineup in the first game of the season and has caught five passes for 24 yards this year, while fellow freshman Aaron Jackson saw his first regular season action Saturday, recoding a six-yard reception.

Norris said he’s already developed good chemistry with Doughty and every other quarterback on the roster in practice.

“I’m getting a different feel for every quarterback in practice everyday,” he said. “Whoever they can throw in at anytime in the game, I just know I have a great relationship at anytime.”

With the receivers playing such an important in the pass-happy WKU offense — through three games, the Toppers have already thrown the ball 37 more times than they had through three games last season — Brohm said he needs his receivers to step up and do their part to help the team snap its two-game losing streak.

“They’re out there all the time and we need big plays from those guys,” he said. “We need to distribute the ball and give them a chance to make the play but they definitely have to come through for us and make big plays.”