2013 Western Kentucky Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Western Kentucky Hilltopper Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: New offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm is going to make sure the passing game gets moving, but first the Hilltoppers have to come up with a consistent quarterback to replace veteran Kawaun Jakes. Antonio Andrews is one of the nation's best all-around running backs, but he has some good backups to help take the heat off and keep him fresh. The line is thin in terms of depth, but the starting five will be solid, while the receiving corps has speed and upside with more of a commitment to pushing the ball deep.
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB James Mauro, junior QB Brandon Doughty, and/or sophomore QB DaMarcus Smith
Passing: James Mauro
12-18, 172 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Antonio Andrews
304 carries, 1,728 yds, 11 TD
Receiving: Willie McNeal
43 catches, 556 yds, 6 TD
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Willie McNeal
Best pro prospect: Andrews
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Andrews, 2) OT Cameron Clemmons, 3) C Sean Conway
Strength of the offense: Coaching Staff, Running Game
Weakness of the offense: Veteran Quarterback, Line Depth
Who wants to be the one to run the Bobby Petrino offense? With longtime starter Kawaun Jakes gone, it's going to be a battle for the starting job with good options to battle it out throughout the season. 6-7, 233-pound sophomore James Mauro is back and in the mix after seeing a little time last year completing 12-of-18 passes for 172 yards and two scores with a pick. Very big with a live arm, he can get the ball all over the field and make stretch defenses with a vertical passing attack. 6-3, 210-pound junior Brandon Doughty is a pure passer with a live, accurate arm and just enough athleticism to get by. He's not great on the move, but he's just consistent enough and just effective enough to potentially be a part of the equation. The Miami native could use a few live reps after suffering a knee injury a few years ago, but at the very least he's a ready-to-go No. 2. UCF transfer DaMarcus Smith is a 6-1, 209-pound sophomore from Louisville with dual-threat capabilities. While he's not all that big, he's an accurate passer and tough for his size.
Watch Out For … Smith. While Mauro and Doughty are slightly better fits for what Petrino is going to want, Smith is the most talented quarterback on the roster. He's not going to run wild, but he can move well and he's a smart, accurate passer who could thrive in the system.
Strength: Options. Smith is a talent, Mauro is huge with a big arm and Doughty can do a little of everything right. Jakes was good, but he wasn't irreplaceable.
Weakness: Experience. Jakes was a good veteran who knew what he was doing. Mauro and Doughty got in a little bit of work last year, but they're hardly seasoned and they'll need to some time.
Outlook: The passing game was ultra-efficient last season with Jakes running the show, but the offense didn't exactly bomb away. The production will come through the air, but all that matters is moving the offense. Petrino wants a playmaker, but it'll come down to who puts points on the board.
Unit Rating: 5
Senior Antonio Andrews came up with a special season, coming very, very close to breaking Barry Sanders' record for all-purpose yards in a season. The 6-0, 211-pounder did everything for the offense running for 1,728 yards and 11 scores, catching 37 passes for 432 yards and three scores, averaging 12.3 yards per punt return and a score and 27.4 yards per kickoff return. After not doing much on the ground in the opener against Austin Peay and struggling against Alabama, he ripped off ten 100-yard games in the next 11 only being held under 100 by Florida Atlantic in the stunning loss. The former Kentucky Mr. Football is extremely quick for his size with good speed and toughness up the middle. At his best in the open field, he's has straight line wheels along with his cutting ability through the traffic.
While Andrews is the unquestioned star of the offense and the main man for the running game, 6-0, 237-pound senior Keshawn Simpson is a capable No. 2 back who was the Opening Day starter but suffered a knee injury and only carried the ball 20 times on the year for 101 yards and a score. Not just a straight line runner, he has a little bit of shiftiness and could be the type of back who becomes a closer late in games against a worn down defense. 6-0, 235-pound sophomore Leon Allen has the look of the team's next great back, averaging 5.7 yards per carry finishing second on the team with 317 yards and two touchdowns. While he was used mostly at the start of the year before Andrews took over, he can handle the workload and can keep everyone fresh as a bigger part of the rotation. However, he's not the receiver that Andrews is.
The Hilltoppers will keep using a fullback, and they have two good ones in seniors Kadeem Jones and Nick Baisch. The 5-11, 260-pound Baisch is a big blocker who can bring a little bit of short yardage power, while the 5-11, 246-pound Jones does a little of everything right including score touchdowns, making 14 grabs for 180 yards and three touchdowns and running for three short scores last season. He pounded away for seven rushing touchdowns two years ago.
Watch Out For … Allen. Out of the mix over most of the second half of the season with just two carries over the final six games, he ran for 132 yards and a score on just 11 carries against Southern Miss and ran for 93 yards and a touchdown again Austin Peay. He needs the ball more.
Strength: Big, shifty backs. WKU always gets production from the ground game and whether it's Andrews, Simpson and Allen, the production will come. Even without a running quarterback, the ground game should come close to 2,500 yards.
Weakness: Andrews wearing down. There's no excuse to blow out the star with good backs ready to show what they can do, but he's still going to be used over and over and over again because he's so great with the ball in his hands.
Outlook: WKU is one of just five programs in FBS history to have a player crank out three straight 1,500-yard rushing seasons, and it should be a fourth year if Andrews holds up. The backups are solid and the fullbacks are terrific. If the offense commits to the run like Petrino likes to do, it should be another huge season.
Unit Rating: 7.5
The wide receivers will start to do more. Junior Willie McNeal has hit the weights a bit to get up to 180 pounds on his 5-10 frame, and now it'll be his job to grow into the No. 1 target after finishing second on the team last year with 43 catches for 556 yards and six scores. Consistent, he became a better part of the offense over the second half of the season with 120 yards and a score against ULM and 119 yards and a touchdown against Middle Tennessee, and he was able to spread out his touchdowns over the course of the season. With good speed and quickness, he needs the ball in his hands on the move.
5-11, 185-pound junior Rico Brown can be used as both a runner and a receiver, able to work at any of the receiver positions with excellent speed and experience. He only caught 13 passes for 194 yards, but he came up with a 70-yard play against Central Michigan. Ready to break out is sophomore Austin Aikens, a 5-11, 180-pound speedster who can work at the outside X or at the Z, making his eight catches count with 217 yards and two touchdowns including a 35-yard play against Middle Tennessee. 6-0, 170-pound junior Boe Brand is a thin speedster on the X making 12 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown. However, he didn't catch a pass over the final five games of the year.
Losing leading receiver Jack Doyle at tight end would normally hurt, but WKU has a nice option returning. 6-4, 245-pound junior Mitchell Henry is a big blocker with decent hands catching 13 passes for 195 yards and three scores. Like a big receiver with nice hands, he scored twice against Arkansas State and was a decent all-around backup. Now the tight end job is his.
Watch Out For … Brand. With his speed and home run hitting potential, he needs to get involved more after serving as a reserve behind Vasquez. He has the potential to be a gamechanger.
Strength: The coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm and Bobby Petrino know how to get a passing game moving, and the Hilltoppers have the speed and quickness to stretch the field a little bit more.
Weakness: Big yardage receivers. McNeal had a few nice games, but the Hilltoppers don't have many 100-yard receiving threats and the speedsters have to start doing more. The potential is there, and now it has to be unleashed.
Outlook: As long as Henry can become a suitable tight end replacement for Doyle, the receiving corps should turn out to be fine. McNeal is a good target who should be a solid No. 1, and everything else will fill in around him.
Unit Rating: 5
The line was great for the ground game but mediocre in pass protection. Three starters are back led by left tackle Cameron Clemmons, a 6-6, 305-pound junior who started every game but two with good feet and tough run blocking ability. One of the team's best recruits last year and a major coup for the program, he's growing into the role. Also back as the quarterback of the line is senior center Sean Conway, a 6-3, 305-pound run blocker and one of the team's most consistent hitters over the last few years. A three year starter, he started every game last season and did a fantastic job paving the way for Antonio Andrews and the ground attack.
Back at his left guard job is Luis Polanco, a steady 6-2, 295-pound veteran run blocker who started 11 games last year. Strong and athletic for a guard, he's great on the move. Now the big question mark will be on the right side with guard Adam Smith and tackle Seth White gone. 6-3, 308-pound sophomore Delryn Wilson is ready to take over at tackle after seeing a little bit of time. Great in pass protection, he'll eventually be used on the left side. Massive 6-8, 318-pound veteran backup Ed Hazelett has seen starting time at tackle and could be just good enough to allow the coaching staff to juggle the line a bit. The former tight end can move.
The right guard job will be a bigger question mark with the top backups last year both seniors. 6-4, 286-pound sophomore Forrest Lamp is a strong interior presence who'll get a chance, while JUCO transfer Connor Popeck is a 6-4, 295-pounder who can play several positions and is ready made to step in and produce.
Watch Out For … the right guard job. If there's one spot a line can have issues, it's right guard. The other four spots appear to be set, but finding the fifth starter to replace Adam Smith could be one of the big keys to the running game.
Strength: A veteran nucleus. Clemmons, Polanco and Conway are rocks for the ground game who know what they're doing. The left side and the center are set; everything else will fall into place.
Weakness: Proven backups. Hazelett can work at either tackle spot, but losing the versatile Luke Stansfield is a problem for the interior. Finding a starting right guard will be big enough without coming up with the right backup.
Outlook: The line should be fantastic for the ground game, and the tackles have the potential to grow into some of the best in the Sun Belt. The reserves are going to be a bit of a concern and there will be a problem if injuries strike, but overall the line shouldn't be a problem.
Unit Rating: 5
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2013 WKU Offense
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