Toppers playing with new faces on offense

Lucas Aulbach

The Topper offense that takes the field Saturday will feature many familiar faces from last season’s campaign as well as a few newcomers looking to make a difference under new offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm.

Former quarterback Kawaun Jakes graduated last season after throwing 22 touchdown passes, a WKU record. He will be replaced under center by junior Bran- don Doughty.

Doughty saw his first action for WKU in 2011 when he replaced Jakes as the start- er for a game against Indiana State. The quarterback tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the game and was sidelined for a year, but Doughty will be back at it when WKU opens the season against Kentucky Saturday at 6 p.m.

He said he’s been working hard on the field and in the film room to prove to the coaches that he deserves the starting role.

“Going through that injury and stuff, I was away from game planning as much as I wanted to,” Doughty said. “This year, I’ve really been studying that film and meeting with Petrino, meeting with coach Brohm, and really getting after it. I’m excited.”

The Toppers are replacing more than just a starting quarterback from last sea- son.

Former tight end Jack Doyle, currently competing for a spot on the Tennessee Titans’ roster, graduated last year and left a huge hole in the WKU roster.

Doyle is one of the most decorated pass-catchers in WKU history — his 162 career catches are the most by a WKU tight end ever and rank No. 2 by any play- er in program history. His 1,769 total receiving yards are also the most ever by a Topper tight end.

Junior Mitchell Henry and redshirt sophomore Tyler Higbee have replaced Doyle at the top of the depth chart. Henry had 195 receiving yards and three touch- downs last season, while Higbee sat out as a redshirt.

The Toppers are also replacing a couple of faces on the offensive line.
Adam Smith started every game at right guard for the Toppers last season, while Seth White was the starter all year at right tackle.

Redshirt freshman Forrest Lamp is taking over at right guard while senior Ed Ha- zelett, who started two games at left tackle last year, will start at right tackle during the opener.

A pair of freshmen from Louisville could see the field as well — Taywan Taylor, a wide receiver from Pleasure Ridge Park High School, has earned first-team reps throughout Fall Camp while Anthony Wales, a product of Central High School, sat out last season but could have a back-up role in the WKU offense in his first season of eligibility.

Taylor and Wales will back up two of the most important pieces of the Topper offense.

Junior wide receiver Willie McNeal was the top WKU receiver last year, with 556 yards and six touchdowns on 43 receptions. He is listed at the top of the depth chart and could be a big part of coach Bobby Petrino’s pass-happy offense.

Wales, meanwhile, will sit behind senior running back Antonio Andrews.

A lot of WKU’s lofty preseason expectations rest on Andrews’ shoulders. As a junior last season he racked up 3,161 all- purpose yards — 1,728 on the ground, 432 through the air, 767 on kickoff returns and 234 returning punts. The mark ranks No. 2 in NCAA history in all-purpose yards in a season, trailing only 1988 Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders.

Doughty said Andrews makes his job under center easier.

“Defenses key on Antonio, and he’s also a good safety valve for us,” he said. “Every time I get in trouble or our team is down, we just give the ball to ‘5’ and he runs for a bunch of yards. It’s awesome having a guy that can make plays out there for you and make you look good.”