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2013 Record: 8-4 Sun Belt Record: 4-3 2014 Returning Starters: 12: 7 Offense, 4 Defense, Kicker
Coach: Jeff Brohm – At Western Kentucky and overall: 1st year
Offensive Coordinators: Tyson Helton Defensive Coordinators: Nick Holt
2014 Western Kentucky Players to Watch: QB Brandon Doughty, RB Leon Allen, WR WIllie McNeal, TE Mitchell Henry, DE Gavin Rocker, LB Terran Williams, CB Cam Thomas
2014 Western Kentucky Strengths:
There should be no excuses for theWKU offense not to put up big-time numbers in 2014. A second year in the same system with Doughty and a host of experienced wide receivers gives WKU one of the premier offenses in Conference USA. If all stay healthy, the Tops should be able to score against anyone.
2014 Western Kentucky Weaknesses:
The Western Kentucky defense is untested and unknown. The Hilltoppers were the Sun Belt’s best defense two years running, but they enter a new league having lost all three linebackers, three defensive backs and two key defensive linemen.
2014 Western Kentucky Offense:
Western Kentucky’s main strength will be offense. It all starts with quarterback Brandon Doughty, a senior who set program records in 2013 for passing yards (2,857) and completion percentage (65.8). Doughty will enter his second season as a starter in first-year coach Jeff Brohm’s offense, who leads the program into Conference USA. Brohm was the offensive coordinator for the 2013 team that went 8-4 under now-Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. Brahm inherits an offensive group still strong on the line, in the backfield and at wide receiver. Leon Allen, a 6-0, 235-pound junior, will be looked at to replace Antonio Andrews at running back. Allen rushed for 357 yards on 72 carries last year behind the versatile Andrews, but now needs to be the go-to guy in the running game. Doughty will have his top four receivers from 2013 to throw to and will be protected by three returning starters on the line. Tight ends Mitchell Henry and Tyler Higbee are back as well.
2014 Western Kentucky Defense:
The Hilltoppers lost all three starting linebackers – including NFL hopefuls Andrew Jackson and Xavius Boyd – and three of four starters in the secondary. One of those was junior safety Jonathan Dowling, who opted to turn pro after his junior season. Western Kentucky also lost two starters on the defensive front, so even though coordinator Nick Holt returns for his second season to run the defense, the Tops have plenty of untested parts. Middle linebacker Terran Williams, who takes over for Jackson, had a standout spring. He’ll be flanked by Devante Duclos and Daqual Randall, two linebackers who had a limited role in 2013. The defensive front has more depth than experience. T.J. Smith and Gavin Rocker will anchor the ends, while Devante Terrell, Bryan Shorter, D’Von Isaac, Raphael Cox and DeMarcus Glover will rotate on the interior: The secondary is led by senior Cam Thomas, a 6-1, 190-pound cornerback and the program’s foremost NFL prospect. He intercepted five passes last season and broke up 10 others. Offseason shoulder surgery limited his play in the spring, but he should be 100 percent by the fall.
2014 Western Kentucky Special Teams:
Junior Garrett Schwettman joined the program as a walk-on in 2012 and has been a model of consistency ever since. Last season he made 13 of 16 field-goal attempts and 45 of his 47 PATs. The Tops replace punter Hendrix Brakefield with sophomore Joseph Occhipinti.
2014 Western Kentucky Football Predictions:
The Hilltoppers will be a team to be reckoned with in 2014, but whether they are ready to compete for a league championship in Conference USA remains to be seen. An untested defense and a coach with no prior experience leading a program remain the unanswered questions against a schedule that provides tough challenges before weakening toward the end of the year.
2014 Western Kentucky Football Betting Odds:
Western Kentucky Current odds to win a National Championship: OFF
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