WKU football entering brave new world under Petrino

Lucas Aulbach

The Topper team that will take the field at the start of spring training in March will have a totally different look than the one that played in the first FBS bowl game in school history last month.

A staff full of new assistant coaches and trainers, put together by new coach Bobby Petrino, and turnover from an experienced senior class should translate to some pretty immediate changes for the WKU football program.

Petrino, hired on Dec. 10 after former coach Willie Taggart accepted the same position at South Florida, is the man responsible for the sea of change around the team.

The new coach brought in an entirely new coaching staff over the past month to help him run the team. He said he looked for coaches that can adapt and serve the team under his new direction.

“When we looked at what we need to do to put a staff together, you look for guys that are great teachers, great motivators and have an understanding at what helps you win games,” Petrino said. “We certainly wanted to get guys familiar with the way I work and understand what I believe in helps you be successful.”

Turnover is a key word when discussing the new coaching staff — no members of Taggart’s assistant coaches were hired by Petrino for the upcoming season.

While several former WKU assistant coaches were rehired for Taggart’s coaching staff at South Florida, others, such as Lance Guidry, former defensive coordinator and interim head coach for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, are looking for spots on other coaching staffs.

Petrino said the changes to the coaching staff also means changes on the field for the Toppers.

“We’re going to do what we believe in offensively and what we believe in defensively,” he said. “The X’s and O’s will change a lot.”

Petrino, who is known for his offensive schemes after serving as an offensive coordinator for several schools in the late 1990’s and will handle most of the play-calling on offense during games, hired Jeff Brohm to serve as his offensive coordinator.

Brohm, who served as offensive coordinator at Alabama-Birmingham last year and was an assistant at Louisville while Petrino was coach, said his relationship with the coach should make it easier to adjust to the job.

“The timing of this and the ability to work once again with him is something that I can benefit from and learn a great deal from,” Brohm said. “We work very well together, and hopefully do a great job at Western Kentucky.”

Nick Holt will be the the man with the plan on the other side of the ball for the Toppers. Holt, WKU’s new defensive coordinator, was recruiting coordinator at Arkansas last season and served stints as defensive coordinator at Southern California and Washington before that.

The new assistant coach said he was impressed by what he saw when he watched film of the WKU defense this season and he’s excited to work older players into his schemes.

“What is important is that we do what is best for the kids that we have coming back and fit our schemes with what they do best,” Holt said. “I think that is really important.”

Petrino has turned his focus to recruiting now that his coaching staff is filled. WKU has received verbal commitments from 20 high school players and five junior college recruits as National Signing Day gets closer.

The coach will be on the road recruiting for much of the next three weeks to prepare for Signing Day on Feb. 6.

He said the 2013 recruiting class, along with the development of some of the younger players currently on the roster, will be crucial for the WKU football program to become a force in the Sun Belt Conference.

“We graduated guys and now we’ve got to get out and recruit, develop guys that are here and see how that’s all put together,” Petrino said.