WKU football back to business as spring practice begins

Sophomore running back Darmontre Warr completes a running drill during the WKU football team’s first spring practice on March 22, 2013.

Elliott Pratt

The Toppers are back on the football field, wrapping up their first week of spring practice Sunday morning.

WKU began practicing on the field in full pads Friday afternoon after spending the winter training in the weight room and getting acquainted with a whole new coaching staff.  The team will practice three days a week building up to the spring game scheduled for April 20.

New coach Bobby Petrino said he’s impressed with how quickly his team and coaching staff as adapted to his system.

“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.”

Petrino, who hasn’t coach since his final season at Arkansas in 2011, said it’s great to finally get back to the field and implement the work he and his coaches have put together.

“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.”

Petrino brings a new level of energy to the field in his practices, something that comes as a new challenge for players to adapt to.

“It’s a big difference,” senior defensive end Calvin Washington said. “Practice last year was probably about two hours and 50 minutes. Now we’re taking care of business in two hours, five minutes. It’s boom-boom-boom, no breaks, we’re getting down to business.”

Washington, along with the rest of the defense, will have to fill the holes left by five departing seniors, including four defensive linemen.

Defensive coordinator Nick Holt said the personnel is available and that it’s up to the right guys to fill the vacant positions.

“We’re seeing a lot of kids at different positions at the ends and the tackles and noses,” Holt said. “We have some bodies, we just got to figure it out and we just have to keep practicing and hopefully by the time spring ends we’ll have a solid two-deep.”

While Holt looks to fill spaces on the defensive line, he can rest easier on the top level of the defense.

Seniors Andrew Jackson and Xavius Boyd will return as the leaders at linebacker — Jackson led WKU in tackles last season with 122 — and the secondary returns all four defensive backs in senior cornerback Tyree Robinson, senior cornerback Arius Wright, senior safety Kiante Young, and junior safety Jonathan Dowling.

“Defensively I’ve been happy with our back end. The linebackers are certainly experienced and tough and they’re a little bit of the bullies right now,” Petrino said. “Our secondary is doing a nice job, we got a lot of experience back there, guys that know what it’s like, guys that have been able to pick up the technique real well.”

Petrino said that, overall, the team and the coaching staff is still in the learning stage in learning how to use his fast-paced system and how to master their respective roles within that system.

“That’s been kind of a big theme for us, is the guys really understanding that the most important thing for spring football is to get better at doing your job,” Petrino said. “Stepping with the right foot, being in the right stance, getting your hands where they belong – the schemes will take care of themselves.”