WKU football is back in full swing with the team wrapping up its first week of spring practice Sunday morning.
The Hilltoppers began practicing in full pads Friday afternoon and will have the week off until 5:45 a.m. Thursday morning.
Practice is open to the public for fans to come get a look at the team in transition under new coach Bobby Petrino.
Petrino said the team is adjusting well to his practice style, something that is completely new to them.
“After three days I’m fairly happy with what I’ve seen,” Petrino said. “There are a lot of things to clean up and our players have been eager. Our coaches are doing a nice job of teaching and that’s what it’s really all about – teaching our schemes, teaching our techniques, our fundamentals, and working hard to get better every day.”
Defensive line undergoing total overhaul
With all four of the defensive linemen from the 2012 Hilltopper squad departing, WKU will have to rely on an inexperienced group to fill in the shoes at the head of the defense.
First-year defensive coordinator Nick Holt they’re going to need every practice to define roles for each player on the defensive line.
“We have a lot of bodies there and some capable kids there,” Holt said. “We just have to figure it out and keep getting better. They’re being coached really well, we just have to find the right rotation and the right guys at the right positions.”
With a youthful defensive line, much is the opposite for the linebackers and secondary. The Toppers are returning seniors Andrew Jackson and Xavius Boyd to lead the linebackers.
The secondary will return all four of last year’s starters in senior cornerback Tyree Robinson, senior cornerback Arius Wright, senior safety Kiante Young, and junior safety Jonathan Dowling.
Holt said that experience will bode well for them in teaching them a new defensive system.
“We have to keep them a couple of new defenses and concepts,” Holt said. “I think those kids are picking it up pretty good.”
Toppers pick up the pace at practice
One of the many concepts that coach Petrino and the new coaching staff have brought to WKU is a fast-paced practice.
Senior defensive end Calvin Washington said there is a big difference in practices from last year and now.
“Practice last year was about two hours and 50 minutes, now we get everything done in two hours and five minutes,” Washington said. “There are no breaks, we’re just getting into business.”
Coach Petrino said he has been pleased with his team’s work ethic three days into spring practice.
“I have been impressed with our attitude and our work ethic and I think that starts in the weight room with our new strength staff,” Petrino said. “I think our players have done a nice job of understanding that we’re going to get bigger and stronger and work on our speed.”
New coaching staff making adjustments
Coach Petrino is back on the practice field since coaching at Arkansas for the 2011 season. The new coach said it’s great to finally get back to the field and put the offseason planning to work.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Petrino said. “It’s been a lot of fun not only out on the field in practice and seeing the players, but in the meeting room and watching video and working with the coaches.”
Along with Petrino, both coordinators and every position coach is in their first year with WKU.
Petrino said it’s great to finally get together and work on the field with his staff, but says it presents its challenges as well.
“It’s never an easy transition,” Petrino said. “It’s been a little different for some who have their families here and traveling back and forth.
“But it’s been a lot of fun putting the offense in, putting the defense in and getting recruiting over with and being able to concentrate on our players and getting to know them and watching them grow and mature.”