Football notebook: Toppers take part in first scrimmage

Elliott Pratt

Fans got a small preview of the early progress the WKU football team has made three weeks into spring practice with the first full scrimmage held at Smith Stadium on Saturday.

The players are still adjusting to a new playbook under Bobby Petrino, but the coach said Saturday was a time to evaluate the fundamentals of each player rather than review their schemes.

“I want to evaluate the players and see how they do their technique, how the run to the ball, how they block people and get off their blocks,” Petrino said. “It’s really a time to evaluate the team.”

The Toppers are past the halfway point in the spring football season, and the offense is already taking shape to the new high-powered system.

Quarterbacks air it out in scrimmage

The quarterback battle between junior Brandon Doughty, redshirt sophomore James Mauro and redshirt sophomore Damarcus Smith was the point of focus for many watching the scrimmage. The trio combined to throw eight touchdown passes, with Doughty heading the group with four.

Mauro led the air attack with 279 yards on 15-of-26 completions and three scores. Doughty followed with 214 yards on 21-of-34 attempts. Smith, who could provide a dual-threat presence from behind center, finished the scrimmage with 159 yards through the air and 36 rushing yards.

The defense had their way with the passers on two occasions with junior defensive back Cam Thomas and sophomore linebacker Zane Ramey each collecting a pick-six.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm said the offense will take some time to really gel to perform before it performs at the level expected.

“It’s a work in progress,” Brohm said. “I think our guys fought hard and battled for the most part. We had some moments where we definitely didn’t perform up to standard.

“We have to find ways to create big plays, find playmakers and see who they are and find ways to get them the ball because that helps you score points. That’s definitely a work in progress.”

Tight ends reeling in catches

WKU’s leading receiver last year, Jack Doyle, is graduating with hopes of a chance in the NFL. The next tight end that followed Doyle hauled in only 13 passes.

That was Mitchell Henry, who along with fellow tight end Tyler Higbee, highlighted the receiving core with 11 catches for 203 yards and four touchdowns. Higbee led all receivers with 11 catches for 139 yards and three scores.

Henry said after the scrimmage that there was evidence of a hope for the offense to potentially be explosive.

“Compared to what we did last year, the offense is, I think already, 10 times better,” Henry said. “Just making plays down the field at every position – tight ends, wide receivers, running backs – everybody is just stepping up and making plays.”

Early injuries mar practice

WKU had two key defensive starters go down to injuries during the scrimmage.

Senior linebacker Andrew Jackson left early with a left ankle injury and senior defensive back Kiante Young injured his wrist. Both players were taken to the locker room and did not return to practice.

Both are listed as day-to-day.