Linebacker battle heating up early on at WKU football’s fall camp

Cole Claybourn

Monday’s practice marked the first day that the WKU football team wore shoulder pads and helmets during workouts.

That’s the point when Head Coach Willie Taggart said he can really start to seriously evaluate how his team is progressing.

“Those first two days don’t really do a lot for me,” Taggart said. “When we get in pads, you separate the men from the little guys. We had a lot of intensity. Guys came out fired up.

“We really got a chance to see guys go out and hit each other. They were fired up about it.”

The Toppers won’t be in full pads until Wednesday, but there was still plenty of action on the field.

One of the areas that may see the most action throughout fall camp is the linebacker spot, as eight players are competing for three starting spots.

After losing three starting linebackers from last year’s team  Thomas Majors, Orlando Misaalefua and Chris Bullard – defensive coordinator Lance Guidry and linebackers coach Karl Maslowski both seemed optimistic when talking about how they’ll replace those starters.

“It is what it is,” Guidry said. “You can’t cry about it. We’re just going to go ahead and move on. If we can’t find three backers, we’ll add another defensive back and go to 4-2-5 nickel package.”

Finding those replacements doesn’t look to be too tough of a task early on.

Maslowski said even though WKU is installing a new defense, he feels as if the players are much further along at this point of the season than they were last season.

“Part of it is because they’re more comfortable with me and I’m more comfortable with them,” Maslowski said. “Last year, we got into game four and we were finally on the same page. That’s when things started to click for us.

“This year, we’re a step faster, and with coach Guidry around, we’re not as caught up with what we’re doing but how we’re doing it.”

Guidry said coming out of spring camp, junior walk-on Tyler Julian, sophomore Xavius Boyd and junior Tye Golden seemed to be the front-runners for the spots.

While those three are still playing well early on in camp, Maslowski said sophomores Andrew Jackson, Mike Federspiel, and Bar’ee Boyd as well as seniors Tenerio Davis and Ben Duvall have made strives to prove that they deserve a starting spot as well.

“The list goes on-and-on,” Maslowski said. “The depth we have at linebacker is almost too much. We’ve got to figure out something to get all these guys on the field. Coach Guidry’s got a few tricks up his sleeve that will expose that for us.”

Guidry also said he likes what he’s seen out of freshman linebacker Terran Williams.

“It’s a really good battle right now,” Guidry said. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen. Competition is going to make us better.”

Both Golden and Boyd said they like the fact that there’s a competition going on.

“That’s extra motivation every time you work out and every time you step on the field, knowing there’s three spots open is great,” Golden said. “I’m not telling myself I’m a starter, second string, or third string. I’m just coming out here and playing day-by-day.”

Boyd, who earned a starting spot as a freshman last season, said he’s not coming in to the fall expecting that job to be handed to him. He said he still feels like he has to prove himself.

“When you know your spot’s on the line, you’re going to work hard and that’s what everyone’s doing,” he said. “Every day I’ve got to hustle and work hard and keep on going to get a starting spot.

“You’ve got to come out each day and show that you want to compete.”

Taggart said he’s seen players “flying around,” which is all he wants to see  that and being physical. He said that was lacking a lot of the time last season, but not so far this season.