Football notes: WKU defense comfortable in second year under Guidry

Quanterus Smith/

Lucas Aulbach

Last season, playing with the schemes of first-year defensive coordinator Lance Guidry, WKU fielded one of the best defenses in the Sun Belt Conference.

Now, in his second year under Guidry, senior defensive end Quanterus Smith said he expects the defense this season to be even better.

“The first year you’re learning the scheme and stuff like that,” Smith said. “Coming into the second year, you’re not so much as learning as you’re actually kind of starting to pick up what the next guy’s doing, what could you do better to help the scheme out and stuff like that. It’s a big help.”

Fellow lineman Jamarcus Allen shares his teammate’s confidence. The defense was only putting the pieces together last season, Allen said.

“Last year was just a little milestone compared to what we’re going to do this year,” Allen said. “We expect great things from our defense. We have a lot of people coming back, playing more fast, faster than we did last year, more physical, and a lot of the defensive players are starting to understand our defensive scheme.”

The Toppers will also benefit from the experience the defense brings to the table. Much of the defense is stacked with upperclassmen, including Allen and Smith, both seniors.

The older members of the defense have practically grown up with each other on the field, Smith said.

“We all have a good vibe with each other,” he said. “We all know how each other plays, so we work well together.”

Coach Willie Taggart said he expects his defensive upperclassmen to play hard every game.

“We’re expecting big things from those guys,” he said. “They’ve played a lot of football around here and we expect for all of them to go out on a bang, and those guys expect the same thing.”

Offensive line looking ahead to life after Bobby Rainey

Junior center Sean Conway sounded tired when he answered a reporter’s question on how the offensive line was going to step up after the graduation of running back Bobby Rainey.

It’s safe to say Conway has heard the question before. Rainey, WKU’s all-time leading rusher, has been asked about so much this offseason one might think he’s still on the roster.

“Bobby was good, he’s a good running back, but we’ve got some of the best running backs in the league again this year,” Conway said.

While competition is still underway to see who’ll sit atop the depth chart at running back, Conway and senior guard Adam Smith both expressed confidence in their abilities to help the running game, sharing a goal with the defense to be a Top 10 line.

“We want to be Top 10 in the nation as well,” Conway said. “We want to be Top 10 in the nation in rushing, we want to be Top 10 in the nation on offense and there’s no reason we can’t.”

Taggart said the offensive line will be an important part of WKU’s success this season, likening them to ‘tunnel builders’ across the country.

“They’re the infrastructure of our program,” the coach said. “They don’t get any credit, but they’re building it. They laid the foundation.”

Brakefield key for special teams

After a year in which WKU made only five of 19 attempted field goals, junior punter Hendrix Brakefield thinks the Toppers can make strides in special teams this season.

The Toppers have a coach working with specialists on kicking this offseason, which Brakefield said has improved the kicking workouts and practices.

“There’s a lot less standing around with us now that we have someone to kind of direct us, direct our practices and things like that,” he said. “With that comes improvement from every aspect of it. Kicking, holding, punting, snapping, everything.”

The kickers on the team know they were a weakness for the team last season and have been working hard this offseason to improve, Brakefield said.

“The kickers have really been working hard,” he said. “They know people are watching them, they know what’s expected of them. They all want to do better than last year.”

While the starting kicking job has yet to be determined, Brakefield is expected to be WKU’s primary punter and said he has worked this offseason to improve his hang time and net yardage.

The punter said he expects himself to go out and perform like the best punter in the conference this year.

“You can’t really predict yourself any higher than number one, and that’s what I expect to be this year,” he said. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work, trying to get better, trying to improve on everything from last year.”

Red pants more than a fashion statement

Members of the WKU football team seen wearing red pants at practice this year are doing more than dressing up.

This season, defensive players starting at their position have worn red pants in practice, a move which visually displays them as the top players on the team at their position.

Senior defensive lineman Jamarcus Allen said on Wednesday that the competition keeps the defense working hard.

“We’re a competitive defense, so people want the red pants, because you’re a starter and everybody wants to be a starter,” he said. “It’s good because it keeps the fight going within the defense and just helps everybody get better.”

Defensive line coach Eric Mathies said the red pants are a reminder to everyone on the team of what they’re working toward, and that the competition to wear the pants is heating up.

“The kids are proud kids,” Mathies said. “They may not say ‘coach, I want those red pants,’ but in the back of their mind? ‘I want those red pants.’ They’re all competitors and I think that’s going to make our football team better.”