Fall camp update: WKU coordinators share thoughts after first scrimmage

WKU+Hilltoppers+defensive+coordinator+Maurice+Crum+during+day+10+fall+camp+at+Houchens+Industries-L.T.+Smith+Stadium+on+August+13%2C+2021+in+Bowling+Green%2C+KY

Credit: Steve Roberts/WKU Athletics

WKU Hilltoppers defensive coordinator Maurice Crum during day 10 fall camp at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium on August 13, 2021 in Bowling Green, KY

Wyatt Sparkman, Football reporter

The WKU football team wrapped up its first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday morning just as a hard rain began to splatter the turf. 

Both offensive coordinator Zach Kittley and defensive coordinator Maurice Crum were satisfied with the performances of their respective units, but stressed that there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“I think it was good. A really good back and forth, it’s been kind of the same MO,” Crum said. “I think both sides are really competing hard – guys are fighting for jobs, so when that competition is on the line you see a lot of guys trying to make a lot of plays, so it’s been good. It’s been really good.”

Crum thought there would be more missed tackles in the team’s first live contact of the fall, but he was impressed with the tackling in today’s scrimmage. He wished some of the defensive players could have taken better advantage of turnover opportunities.

“I think for me the main thing I want to see us get back to, we’ll probably start over, get back to [basics], simple things,” Crum said. “[We’ve] got all the stuff in, got everything practiced, got everything repped, now I just want to get back to ABC balls to make sure our details are fine going into game prep.” 

Freshman defensive end Jaques Evans has been one of the younger standouts on Crum’s defense due to his “high motor.” Crum also mentioned Nebraska transfer Niko Cooper as another standout during camp. Cooper played the Cornhuskers’ final seven games of the 2020 season while racking up three tackles and filling a key special teams role.

“I think those are two younger players coming into their own,” Crum said. “With every practice, you’ve seen them get better with every rep. Technique is getting cleaned up, they have phenomenal effort, phenomenal physicality and traits, but it’s putting it all together. You’re starting to see the production come from them.” 

Crum is happy with the balance the offense has been giving him to practice run fits and defensive running schemes. He shared that Kittley’s offense has responded well to taking what the defense gives them and it has led to some productive practices.

“So, we’ve had really good periods of fitting the run,” Crum said. “We’ve had really good periods where they’ve had some runs that pop. I think it’s been phenomenal for them to give us that balance.”    

Kittley had confirmed earlier in August that Bailey Zappe will enter the Hilltoppers’ regular season as their starting quarterback and stated that the real competition throughout camp will be for the backup role. He touched on the work that the men in his QB room have put in over the first couple weeks of camp and laid out who he thinks the frontrunners to earn that spot are.

“Drew Zaubi and Carson Baker right now are kind of battling, as well with Darius Ocean and Chance McDonald,” Kittley said. “Grady Robison is doing a lot of different things for us right now as well, he’s helping out with special teams, getting a few snaps at quarterback, getting some snaps at wide receiver…the big thing is, we’ve got about four more days of actual fall camp until we get into mock game-week situations. We’ve really got to keep battling it out because that number two spot is still up for grabs.”

As for the scrimmage, Kittley touched on some positives and gave a few mentions to athletes that stood out during the day’s activities.

“I think we got points almost every time we went down there except for two [times] today, felt good about moving the ball down the field, good run-pass balance, pretty good day,” Kittley said. “…Malachi Corley today on a jet toss took one for 75 yards, Daewood Davis came up with some big plays today… Adam Coefield, awesome back, really running the ball well for us… you saw outside tight end freshman River Helms catch a touchdown on a two-minute drill right there at the end, so it was a good day.”

Football reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.