Andrews, Simpson, Evans competing for starting job

Junior running back Keshawn Simpson stretches with WKU’s football team after practice Saturday at Smith Stadium. Simpson is one of three running backs competing for a starting spot.

Lucas Aulbach

Topper running backs are faced with the tall task of replacing Bobby Rainey this season.

Rainey finished his final season at WKU last fall by breaking school records for most rushing yards in a season and in a career and has spent the spring training for the NFL Draft later this month.

The stable of running backs Head Coach Willie Taggart has assembled to replace Rainey understand the tough job ahead of them.

“Bobby is Bobby. He’s hard to replace,” said junior running back Keshawn Simpson. “We’ve got a lot of work to do this summer, but we’ve all had a good spring so far just trying to work hard for a starting position.”

Simpson is one of several running backs at WKU expected to play a big role this season. The Toppers are planning on using several running backs rather than just one player, a practice referred to as “running-back-by-committee,” to pick up the hole in the offensive production left by Rainey.

Simpson is off to a good start. The junior had 11 carries for 68 yards in the first scrimmage of the season on March 31.

Junior Antonio Andrews is also making waves for WKU this spring. He had 154 rushing yards on 13 carries during the team’s most recent scrimmage on Saturday.

Andrews said the Toppers have some advantages at the running back position this season.

“We’ve all got different skill sets,” Andrews said. “Keshawn brings the power along with speed. Me and (sophomore) John (Evans) bring the quickness and speed. It’s all like a 1-2-3 punch.”

While the opening at the top of the depth chart has made room for some competition between the players, Andrews insisted the running backs are friends on and off the field.

“It’s all competition out here — we’re all trying to get the number one spot,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re all best friends, so we’re just all trying to up the competition, make each other better and see who comes out top dog.”

Taggart said he’s impressed with the way the trio have been competing, but he’s waiting on one of them to step up and take the starting job.

“I think the top three guys this spring have done a great job of running the football,” he said. “I’m excited about all three of them. You would like for someone to separate themselves, but I don’t think anybody has done that.”

There isn’t much time left this spring for the running backs to continue to compete. The Toppers have just one more practice this week before the annual spring game on Saturday at Smith Stadium.

The spring game will be WKU’s last official practice until fall camp.

The running game should be on full display on Saturday. Andrews is confident that the running backs on the team will be able to make a difference in the upcoming season.

“It’s not just a running back by committee,” he said. “The ‘Bobby Rainey Show’ is over — now it’s about Evans, Andrews and Simpson. We’re about to get it done.”