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2010 Western Kentucky Preview – Offense
WKU TE Jack Doyle
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Western Kentucky Hilltopper Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Willie Taggart knows how to get an offense moving and he knows how to get great play from his running backs. He has a star in Bobby Rainey to feed the ball to early and often, and there are enough good options to form a solid rotation for the ground game to work behind a big and experience line. However, the linemen have been abysmal in pass protection and need to be at least mediocre to allow the West Coast offense to function. Because the quarterbacks didn’t have any time, there weren’t any big pass plays and the passing attack was inefficient and ineffective. JUCO transfer Matt Pelesasa takes over the reins at quarterback and he should be a steadying factor, while the receivers, particularly the tight end tandem of Jack Doyle and Tristan Jones, should be more productive under the new staff.
Star of the offense: Junior RB Bobby Rainey
Passing: Kawaun Jakes
148-244, 1,516 yds, 9 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Bobby Rainey
144 carries, 939 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Jack Doyle
37 catches, 365 yds
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior QB Matt Pelesasa
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Willie McNeal
Best pro prospect: Rainey (as a kick returner)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Rainey, 2) TE Jack Doyle, 3) OT Wes Jeffries
Strength of the offense: Running Game, Veterans
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Scoring
Projected Starter: With the opportunity to take over the job, JUCO transfer Matt Pelesasa came up with the spring needed to be the main man to beat out for the starting job. After a few years at College of San Mateo, he stepped in this offseason and was poised, calm, and consistent running the West Coast offense. He has decent mobility and an accurate arm, and while he’s not going to bomb away all over the field, he should make the passing attack far more efficient.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Kawaun Jakes was one of the few bright spots last year finishing second on the team with 355 rushing yards and five scores, while completing 61% of his throws for 1,516 yards and nine touchdowns with nine interceptions. The 6-3, 190-pound former wide receiver prospect should’ve been all set to make the team his this offseason, but he injured his ankle playing pickup basketball and became the example set by the new coaching staff for how not to do things in regards to the team concept. He’ll have to be phenomenal to get back his starting job, but he’s too fast and too athletic to keep off the field. He could turn into a wideout if he’s not the No. 2 quarterback.
Junior Tyler Bruce emerged as the main backup coming out of spring ball, but he’ll have a hard time seeing the light of day. He threw one pass last year and it was picked off, but the 6-1, 189-pounder is mobile and has a live passing arm. A good, smart athlete, he’s a safe choice in an emergency, but he’ll have to be rock-steady in practices to overcome the upside of other options.
Where will Courtney Dalcourt play? The star of last year’s recruiting class, he hasn’t been able to get over a knee problem this offseason, and he didn’t exactly take the job by the horns when he got his chances. Now, after struggling, he might be the fourth man in the mix, or possible fifth after top recruit Brandon Doughty arrives. However, Dalcourt has talent. A finalist for the 2008 Kentucky Player of the Year, he was courted by several schools as a wide receiver or a defensive back, so there’s a chance he’ll move to a different spot once he’s healthy.
Watch Out For … Jakes to get back in the mix. Pelesasa looked the part of a No. 1 quarterback and a leader for the new attack, but Jakes is a playmaker with more skills and more explosion to his game. If nothing else, he could be a change of pace X factor in some tight games.
Strength: Options. There are five quarterbacks who can all step in and run the offense. While the short to midrange passing game has to be effective and efficient, the running game is going to carry things early on. As long as someone, likely Pelesasa, can keep the mistakes to a minimum, the offense should be better.
Weakness: Proven production. Even with Pelesasa’s JUCO experience and Jakes’ time spent running the attack last year, there are still miles to go before the passing game can be effective. WKU was 107th in the nation in passing efficiency and 110th in passing.
Outlook: The situation is far better than last year when the old coaching staff was hoping just to survive with a decent year from a quarterback. Now there are plenty of options, lots of young talents to work with, and a ready-made veteran in Pelesasa who can become just good enough to keep the chains moving. Quarterback, unlike 2009, could turn out to be one of the team’s biggest strengths.
Unit Rating: 4.5
Projected Starters: WKU has few legitimate FBS stars, and junior Bobby Rainey is one of them. The 5-8, 200-pound all-star ran for 939 yards and six scores averaging 6.5 yards per carry, highlighted by back-to-back 100-yard days late in the year against ULM and Florida Atlantic. A downhill runner with shifty cutting ability through the hole, he just needs a little room to make big plays. He’s a next-level talent as a kickoff returner and is the type of playmaker the new coaching staff will make sure has the ball in his hands at least 20 times per game. However, he has to stay healthy after having problems with a shoulder injury earlier in his career.
When the offense uses a fullback, senior Rod Johnson will be the thumper for the ground game. The 5-11, 258-pound veteran didn’t get any carries and only caught a pass for a 29-yard touchdown against Louisiana, but he’s a good blocker and could be used more in short yardage situations by the new coaching staff.
Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 205-pound junior Braxston Miller is a strong inside runner who can move the chains if given the chance. He only ran for eight yards on three carries, but the former linebacker emerged as the No. 2 back this offseason. He’s a physical player who could be used as a fullback if needed.
Adding even more power to the equation is 6-0, 230-pound redshirt freshman Keshawn Simpson , a tough runner who tore off over 2,400 yards and 27 touchdowns as a high school senior. 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.
Watch Out For … Miller and Simpson. Rainey is the star of the show, but the coaching staff isn’t going to run him into the ground early on. With good, physical backs in reserve, the workload will be split up more than last year.
Strength: Power and quickness. There’s a nice blend of talents and options among the three top tailbacks. Rainey could be the best back in the Sun Belt, while the inside runners are there to keep defensive interiors honest. Power was a problem going into last year. It won’t be this season.
Weakness: The defense. In a perfect world, the WKU offense can maintain a nice balance with the running game controlling the tempo. But the defense isn’t going to be a rock meaning the offense might have to get involved in a few shootouts. The offense will be taken out of its gameplan more often than not.
Outlook: Because of Rainey, there’s a chance this could be one of the Sun Belt’s best running back situations. Rainey is a legitimate talent who could’ve been a factor at a BCS level school, while Miller and Simpson are tremendous prospects about to shine. Willie Taggart helped make a superstar out of Toby Gerhart at Stanford, and he should work some magic with this group.
Unit Rating: 6.5
Projected Starters: The receiving corps needs some pop and a deep threat, and the hope if for Quinterrance Cooper to become the team’s most dangerous receiving playmaker. That was the plan going into last year for the 5-11, 194-pound senior, and while he finished third on the team with 20 catches for 151 yards, he didn’t score and he averaged a pathetic 7.6 yards per catch. While he doesn’t have elite speed, he has the athleticism and quickness to shine at the X if he gets steady quarterback play. It’s his job to become the No. 1 target; the spotlight is on.
Working at the Z is rising star Willie McNeal , a hiccup-quick redshirt freshman who had a great spring and should turn into a playmaker on the inside. While he’s not all that big at just 5-10 and 158 pounds, and he can be knocked over by a slight breeze, he’s not afraid to make the tough catch and he has the potential to take a short pass a long way.
Sophomore Jack Doyle became a key factor last year as a safety valve finishing second on the team with 37 catches for 365 yards and a score. At 6-6 and 248 pounds, he’s a tall, talented receiver who isn’t going to be the best blocking option, but he can get down the field and is great at working his way to get open. He’s a matchup problem who can outjump defenders when needed. While he only came up with one touchdown catch, he could do more around the goal line if used the right way.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Derrius Brooks has the lightning fast wheels to be the deep playmaker the offense so desperately needs, but he only averaged 9.8 yards per catch making 11 grabs for 198 yards and a score last year. The 5-10, 179-pound veteran was the Georgia state high school champion in the 100 meters and was a star sprinter for the WKU track team. Used at the Z, the coaching staff will invent ways to get him the ball in space where he can do something with it, and he’ll occasionally get the ball as a runner after making nine carries for 26 yards last year.
Sophomore Marques Vasquez came up with a strong first season in the rotation finishing fourth on the team with 19 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns. At 6-1 and 191 pounds he has decent size to go along with the quickness to get open, and now the former quarterback has the potential to do far more as a backup at the outside X. He has the deep speed and the home-run hitting potential to be a weapon.
A starter throughout last year as a big, tough tight end option, junior Tristan Jones made four catches for 61 yards and can do far more as a receiver as well as a blocker. While he’s not the pass catcher that Jack Doyle is, at 6-2 and 262 pounds he’s a much bigger factor for the ground game and has the tools to be used in a variety of ways. The former defensive end won’t just be in two tight end sets; he’ll be tough to get off the field because of his versatility.
Watch Out For … far more production. With the West Coast offense, the receivers will get the ball on the move and should be able to make things happen after the catch far more than they were last year. It’ll also help to have a steady passer in Matt Pelesasa getting them the ball.
Strength: The running game. The offense will work around Bobby Rainey and the ground attack, and while the passing game will be featured, the pressure isn’t there to carry things. There are enough good veterans, led by two nice receiving tight ends, to keep the chains moving and come up with some big plays here and there to balance out the offense.
Weakness: Proven deep production. The Hilltoppers averaged a pathetic 9.8 yards per catch with the longest play a mere 48 yards. There’s speed in the corps, led by the tremendous wheels of Brooks, to do far, far more to throw a scare into secondaries.
Outlook: The passing game was hardly consistent and was used mostly in comeback mode to bail out a defense that gave up points and yards in chunks. Now the receivers should be a bit more effective with a better offensive coaching staff in place and a quarterback in Pelesasa who can deliver the ball in places where they can do something with it. As long as someone can start stretching the field, the offense can finally start to get more through the air.
Unit Rating: 4
Projected Starters: The line didn’t produce any all stars last year, but if the pass protection can be better, a lot better, veteran Wes Jeffries could get some post-season mentions at left tackle. The 6-4, 301-pound junior is the anchor of the attack with good athleticism and decent toughness for the ground game. However, he has to be steadier against the speed rushers and he has to be more consistent.
Returning at left guard is senior Mychal Patterson , a strong run blocker who stepped into the starting mix last year and came up with a nice year. Able to play either guard spot, he could move over if needed, but the former defensive lineman has worked well next to Jeffries and should be a key part of the ground game in the same spot.
6-2, 308-pound senior Derrick Elder started the opener at left guard, got dinged up, and spent the season as a key reserve before finally getting the call late in the year against ULM at right guard. Now he’ll start in the middle and should be a mauler of a run blocker in places of Cody Hughes, who started eight times at center last season.
With Adam Smith likely to move over to tackle, sophomore Seth White will get a shot to take over at right guard. After coming to school as a 278-pound athletic option, he beefed up to 291 pounds on his 6-5 frame and now should be ready to hold down the job as good run blocker as well as a solid interior pass protector.
6-5, 295-pound senior Preston King is an athletic right tackle who started most of last year but missed three weeks hurt. A veteran who has been a staple at the position for a few years, he’s been solid against the mediocre ends but has had problems with his consistency against the better pass blockers. Around long enough to know what he’s doing, he’s a fixture on the outside and is good for the ground game.
Projected Top Reserves: If Preston King struggles in pass protection on a regular basis, sophomore Adam Smith could take over at right tackle. At 6-5 and 317 pounds he’s a much bigger option for the outside and could step in and see time at guard again after starting most of last year at right guard. He’s too good for the ground game to keep off the field.
In the eternal quest to stop someone’s pass rush, sophomore Ed Hazelett could become an option at left tackle. A superstar prospect for the program, he was recruited by several BCS schools but he chose WKU to play basketball as well as football. Other teams wouldn’t allow it, and their loss was the Hilltoppers’ gain. At 6-8 and 296 pounds, he’s a huge blocker who’s still growing into the job.
Watch Out For … right tackle. The team needs to start stopping someone from getting to the quarterback, and while King has been a decent blocker who knows what he’s doing, the bigger, younger Smith could end up being the better option.
Strength: Size and run blocking. Beef isn’t an issue all across the front five, and now the linemen will get to hammer away more to open up holes for the ground game. If all works perfectly, the offense will control games on the ground meaning the line will get its chances to step up and hit someone.
Weakness: Pass protection. Not that bad two years ago, it was abysmal last season allowing a whopping 40 sacks. Part of the problem was a mobile and often indecisive Kawaun Jakes at quarterback, but the line was also an issue. It couldn’t stop anyone at times from getting into the backfield.
Outlook: With four returning starters and solid options taking over at center and right guard, there’s no reason for the production to not be far better. It has taken a few years to build to this point, and after taking its lumps, the line should emerge as a positive with all the veteran talent and all the size.
Unit Rating: 5
- 2010 WKU Preview |
2010 WKU Defense |
WKU Depth Chart
- WKU Previews