Football notebook: Offense still learning Petrino’s playbook

Lucas Aulbach

For some WKU upperclassmen, switching playbooks can be compared to changing majors — the Toppers are relearning how to run an entirely  offense under new coach Bobby Petrino after running former coach Willie Taggart’s offense for the past three seasons.

Some are starting to pick up the signals at practice, while others continue to struggle.

Sophomore wide receiver Austin Aikens said learning the new offense is a slow process.

“It’s a lot different than last years — a lot bigger playbook we’ve got a different coach who has been to the next level and now he is coaching us. It’s a lot different, but it has been a continuing process.”

Junior receiver Willie McNeal was on the field for two seasons under coach Taggart.

He said it’s been difficult picking up the new playbook in such a short amount of time but he thinks WKU will master the new offense in time for the start of the season.

“Coach told us that’s how it’s going to be,” McNeal said. “You’ve just got to keep working and keep grinding. It’s nothing we didn’t expect.”

Thomas building offense brick by brick

Wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas understands what goes in to learning a new offense.

He made a career out of figuring out offensive playbooks — first at the University of Miami, then in eight seasons in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins.

Thomas said spring practice is reserved for building the foundation of the offense before the Toppers perfect what they’ve learned over the summer before the season starts.

“It’s like building a house,” he said. “We practice the stance at start. We practice the small things that you would maybe see in little league or high school because we want to build that foundation to build this beautiful house that we think we’re going to build here.”

Thomas said he’s been pleased with what he’s seen from his end so far, citing wide receivers like McNeal, Aikens and junior Boe Brand as guys that have stuck out to him early.

He said he expects to see more improvement once that foundation is laid.

“Everything is going fast for them, but once the game slows down, they’re going to be fine,” Thomas said.

Quanterus Smith visiting NFL teams

Former WKU defensive end Quanterus Smith might not have hit the field on WKU’s pro day, but that’s not stopping him from getting looks from NFL teams.

Smith, a sack artist who recorded 12.5 sacks in 10 games last season, has been off the field since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in a Nov. 17 game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Smith was a force on the defensive line for WKU last season, with 28 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, and three forced fumbles.

The 6-foot-5 pass-rusher has visited with the Philadelphia Eagles and is scheduled to visit with the New York Giants this weekend, according to a report on

The NFL Draft will begin on April 25 and finish up on April 27.