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2009 Western Kentucky Preview – Offense
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 13, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Western Kentucky Hilltopper Offense

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN WKU Preview | 2009 WKU Offense
- 2009 WKU Defense | 2009 WKU Depth Chart 


What you need to know: The offense sputtered and coughed all season long with no running game, not enough pop in the passing game, and eight games with 13 points or fewer. While there's some major rebuilding being done, helped mostly by a great recruiting class and a youth movement, the potential is there for far more production with the emergence of a line that gets four starters back. The key will be to get steady place from the quarterbacks with senior Brandon Smith getting the first look and three freshmen, redshirt freshmen Marcus Vasquez and Kawaun Jakes, and true freshman Courtney Dalcourt, all speedy options who'll get their chance. The 1-2 rushing punch of Tyrell Hayden and Marell Booker has the potential to be great if the line has a better year, while veteran receiver Jake Gaebler should steady a mediocre group of targets that needs help from the recruiting class.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Brandon Smith
12-25, 47 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Tyrell Hayden
92 carries, 388 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Jake Gaebler
54 catches, 588 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Jake Gaebler
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Brandon Smith
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE Tristan Jones
Best pro prospect: Sophomore WR Bobby Rainey (as a kick returner)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Gaebler, 2) RB Tyrell Hayden, 3) OT Wes Jeffries
Strength of the offense: Line Experience, Running Backs
Weakness of the offense: Quarterbacks, Proven Production

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: Senior Brandon Smith spent last year as a reserve and mop-up option completing 12-of-25 passes for 47 yards while running for 31 yards. The 6-0, 200-pounder is a smart player who has been waiting his turn for the last few years, and now he appears to be ready to lead the attack, or at least be the best early option, after completing 9-of-14 passes for 121 yards and running for 49 yards and two scores in the spring game. He doesn't have a big-time arm, but he's mobile, knows what he's doing, and won't make a slew of big mistakes. However, he has to be accurate and consistent.

Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman Marcus Vasquez was fantastic in the spring game missing on just one pass and throwing for a touchdown, and now he appears to be the clear No. 2 man in the equation and a threat to push Smith out of the top job come fall. Extremely athletic, the 6-2, 190-pounder is a great runner who brings even more speed to the position than the quick Smith.

6-3, 176-pound redshirt freshman Kawaun Jakes was a good wide receiver prospect when he came to WKU, but he was a high school quarterback who got his team to the Florida state championship. Other schools wanted to put him at other positions, but he has the basic tools, and the speed, to be a dangerous quarterback. The third man in the mix early on, he could get on the field as a pass catcher.

How long will it be before Courtney Dalcourt is ready? The team's top recruit threw for 1,818 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for 1,079 yards and 14 scores in a special senior year that earned him a finalist spot for the Kentucky Player of the Year honors. The 6-0, 195-pounder doesn't have the size or the arm to be an elite quarterback, and several schools wanted to convert him to wide receiver or defensive back right away, but he'll get his chances to earn the quarterback job right away. However, if he's not the main man right away, he could be a receiver until the job is open.

Watch Out For ... several looks at the various quarterbacks. Smith gets the starting job by default, but he's hardly expected to be a superstar. Vasquez, Jakes, and Dalcourt are all likely to get honest chances to take over the job. The coaching staff will go with whichever one gets the attack moving.
Strength: Athleticism. Smith is quick and mobile, while Vasquez and Jakes can move. The running game should take over from time to time just to try to add a spark. The quarterbacks will have to be accounted for at all times. If Dalcourt is under center, the offense could become explosive. 
Weakness
:
Throwing the football. The Hilltoppers only threw for 1,706 yards and nine touchdowns with 12 interceptions last year, and now the quarterbacks are starting from scratch. Any improvement from last year will be welcome, but this isn't exactly going to be Texas Tech throwing the ball early on.
Outlook: This is a stepping-stone season, so it'll be interesting to see if the coaching staff goes with the safe veteran, Smith, for the full year, or if it goes the development route to see who the main man is going to be for the next few years. Smith isn't going to be the quarterback when the team gets good, but Vasquez or Dalcourt might be.
Rating: 4


Running Backs


Projected Starter: Senior Tyrell Hayden was the team's leading rusher last season, but he only ran for 388 yards and three scores highlighted by a 117-yard day with a score against North Texas. Generously listed at 5-10 and 190 pounds, he's a speedster who has some of the best wheels in the Sun Belt. Can he regain his sophomore year form? He ripped off 1,134 yards and ten scores with a 144-yard day against Middle Tennessee and 151-yard game against Morehead State two years ago, and now he should be the team's main offensive weapon. 

Projected Top Reserves: 5-9, 215-pound senior Marell Booker ran for 285 yards and three scores last season and will combine forces with Hayden this year and be a part-time starter. he had a strong first year averaging 7.6 yards per carry, but he didn't make too much happen last season without much room to move. He's not the type of back who can make things happen on his own like Hayden can, but he's a stronger runner who can work inside or out.

While Bobby Rainey will make his biggest impact as a kickoff returner, he'll also see plenty of carries as a dangerous rushing option. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry with 259 yards and a score, and he caught two passes for eight yards, but he was next-level good on kickoff returns averaging 30.6 yards per try. He's coming off a shoulder injury, but when he's right, he's a weapon.

Watch Out For ... a return to form ... somewhat. The ground game won't be as strong as it was two years ago, and Hayden isn't likely to be a 1,000-yard rusher, but the backs will combine forces to try to carry the offense early on. The pressure is on their shoulders.
Strength: Experience. On a team that's undergoing a major youth movement, Hayden and Booker are veterans who know what they're doing and should be good enough to combine for 1,000 yards. They're very quick and they'll be great if they get help from the line.
Weakness
:
Power. Booker is a tough runner who isn't afraid to mix it up, but the backs need holes to run through. Yes, the backs should be the stars early on, but they're not going anywhere if defenses load up against the run.
Outlook: The running game was non-existent for stretches, but it had its moments with 314 yards and four scores against North Texas and 240 yards and two touchdowns against Florida Atlantic. The ground game will be better with more athleticism at quarterback and speedy veteran backs, but they can't do it alone.
Rating: 5.5

Receivers


Projected Starters: The team's most dangerous player is either Bobby Rainey or Tyrell Hayden, but senior Jake Gaebler is the best receiver and likely the team's most important player. He's trying to return healthy after suffering a bad back that limited him last year and throughout spring ball, but he still led the team with 54 catches for 588 yards and four scores with an 11-catch, 125-yard, one score day against Middle Tennessee and a ten-catch, 100-yard, one score day against Ball State. The 5-11 and 185 pound senior is extremely quick and a reliable route runner who'll bail out the quarterbacks time and again. There will be more explosive receivers in the mix this year, but Gaebler will be the one who gets the first look on every pass play.

Needing to be a home run hitter is Quinterrance Cooper, a 6-0, 185-pound junior who was third on the team with 20 catches for 235 yards and two scores while also averaging 21.2 yards per kickoff return. While he doesn't have elite speed, he can stretch the field averaging 11.8 yards per try while having good enough quickness on the move to make things happen after the catch.

Junior Seth Tamme only made a catch for eight yards, but he's expected to start on the other side of Gaebler and be used as an inside target. His brother, Jacob, was a star tight end for Kentucky and was good enough to get drafted by Indianapolis, and while Seth isn't the same playmaker, and isn't nearly as big at 6-0 and 185 pounds, he has great hands and should be ready to make a big impact.

6-3, 260-pound sophomore Tristan Jones will get the start at tight end after getting five starts and catching seven passes for 53 yards and three scores. Fast for his size and very physical, he'll fight for the ball and will be a willing blocker for the ground game. He has the tools, and now he needs to be used more in the attack as a go-to receiver on short to midrange plays. He was a great high school defensive end, but he's purely an offensive player now.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Derrius Brooks got plenty of work last year as a backup receiver, making 13 catches for 140 yards, and he has to be at the ready if Gaebler's back is a problem. Brooks was the Georgia state champion in the 100-meter dash at the 3A level and is a star sprinter for the WKU track team. The team's fastest player, he has to be utilized more to stretch the field and to get the ball on the move. He only got five carries for 45 yards with a score.

6-1, 190-pound junior Dustin Boyer saw time in every game making two catches for 21 yards and spent time on special teams. The former walk-on will play behind Cooper and will see action in three and four-wide sets and should see far more passes his way after a strong spring. He's not a starter, but he should be reliable.

Will Adams was a top recruit who could start right away. The Texan could be moved to defensive back if needed after making 61 tackles with two picks and ten broken up passes last year. He made 23 catches for 267 yard and a score as a receiver, and he should quickly grow into a top target with excellent speed and quickness. He's not huge at 5-11 and 185-pounds, but he's tough.

Ready to see time in two tight end sets and as a key backup behind Tristan Jones is Jack Doyle, a 6-6, 240-pound redshirt freshman who should be the team's best receiving tight end, but he's not going to be the best blocker. he led the team with six catches in the spring game and he's a tough, willing blocker, but his strength is as a big pass catcher.

Watch Out For ... the freshmen. The Hilltoppers upgraded the overall athleticism with the latest recruiting class, but did they get wide receivers? QB Courtney Dalcourt and defensive backs Will Adams and Darryl Williams could all see action at some point in the passing game, even if they end up starring in other spots.
Strength: Gaebler. He's a good, reliable target who should shine now that he's healthy again and he should be a steady go-to target to ease the transition at quarterback. On a team that lacks veterans, having a playmaker like Gaebler, and a returning starter in Cooper, will be a big help. 
Weakness
: The quarterbacks. Gaebler might have been great, but he only came up with 588 yards last year. The quarterbacks this season aren't going to start pushing the ball down the field more and they aren't going to make the receivers better.
Outlook: There are reliable, good pass catchers at the Sun Belt level with Gaebler, Cooper, and the tight end, Jones, all able to make things happen. This might not be a dangerous corps that will explode, but it should be able to keep the chains moving. Even though there are some decent veterans, there's a job opening for a star field-stretcher to emerge.
Rating: 5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The anchor of the veteran offensive front will be Wes Jeffries, a 6-4, 285-pound sophomore who took over the starting job halfway through last year and showed enough to be the one the team can work around for the next three years. Athletic, he has good potential in pass protection, even though he struggled at times after he took over, and he's tough for the ground game.

Returning to his spot at left guard is Cody Hughes, a 6-1, 300-pound senior who has been a key part of the line for the last few years and has shown enough versatility to play center if needed. Not only is he experienced, but he's extremely strong. He was the strongest high school player in Florida setting a record with a lift of 820 pounds.

Senior Lloyd Pressley started ten games at center after starting out the year at right tackle and was one of the team's steadiest blockers. At 6-3 and 290 pounds he has good size and he doesn't make a lot of mistakes. While he's not the most athletic lineman, he's good in a phone booth and he's tough. He was originally considered a possible defensive lineman before settling in on the offensive side.

6-4, 280-pound junior Preston King is an athletic right tackle who started the final 11 games at right tackle and showed nice upside. While he struggled at times in pass protection, he was great against the mediocre teams and now he knows what he's doing. He'll be in the position for the next two seasons.

The new starter to the equation is Mychal Patterson at right guard. The 6-3, 310-pound junior sat out last season after seeing a little time two years ago, and now the former defensive lineman should be a nice fit. One of the team's biggest linemen, he'll be one of the most physical.

Projected Top Reserves: Bringing good size to the interior will be Shelley Anthony, a 6-1, 290-pound sophomore who'll work behind Hughes at left guard. He saw a little bit of time throughout his freshman season and was good for the running game, but he needs to show more against the quicker linemen to get more time
.

6-2, 290-pound junior Derrick Elder has had a hard time staying healthy, and he was dinged up this spring. but he's expected to be a big part of the rotation at right guard along with Paterson. He's a mauler of a blocker who has enough strength to do some shoving, but he's not going to do much on the move.

Is he a tight end? Is he a tackle? 6-8, 265-pound Ed Hazelett will get a long look as a pass catcher with his excellent athleticism for his size, but he might be more vital at tackle. A superstar prospect, he would've gone to a much bigger school, he was recruited by several BCS teams, but he wanted to play basketball. Western Kentucky said he could play hoops as well as football. Other teams wouldn't allow it. He'll end up being a blocker and a key pass blocker.

Watch Out For ... more production. Last year the line took its lumps, but the payoff should come this year with a decent group that should be among the best in the Sun Belt as the season goes on.
Strength: Experience. With four returning starters, the line knows what it's doing. It took half the season for things to start to come together, but there's enough returning talent, a decent group of backups, and a nice new starter in Patterson to expect a much tighter season.
Weakness
:
Run blocking. The pass protection wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. However, the front five did next to nothing for the ground game, outside of a few big games here and there. This isn't a massive line, but it's strong and it needs to do more to open holes.
Outlook: The line needed to be rebuilt last year and the ground game suffered. The pieces are in place for a much better season with the hope that enough of the decent backups improve to provide more hope going into 2010 when the line should be a mega-strength. At least that's the hope.
Rating: 5

   

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2009 Western Kentucky Preview – Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 13, 2009
2009 Western Kentucky Preview – Defense
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2009 Western Kentucky Preview
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