2009 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Football Preview
2008 Record: (2-10, 0-0)
2008 Bowl: none
Coach: David Elson (39-32 at Western Kentucky, 39-32 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Walter Wells
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Dietzel
Other Key Returnees: RB Marell Booker, CB Trent Calhoun, WR Quinterrance Cooper, WR Wenquel Graves, G Cody Hughes, OT Wes Jeffries, OT Preston King, LB Darvis McBride, P Jeremy Moore, C Lloyd Pressley
Key Losses: DT Kyle Anderson, DE Jon Belcher, QB K.J. Black, DE Dan Cline, DE Robert Dark, LB Alonzo Higgins, CB Marcus Minor, G Greg Ryan, LB Ben Sowders, S Travis Watters, QB David Wolke
Well this is it for Western Kentucky. After dominating what is now the FCS during the early part of the decade, the Hilltoppers started playing some FBS competition over the last few years in preparation for the 2009 season. The team is officially a member of the Sun Belt conference and are now eligible for a bowl berth. However, eligible or not, a bowl berth is not going to happen in 2009.
Western Kentucky's Strengths:
The Hilltoppers lost all their games against FBS competition last year, but the defense is good and has plenty of potential to at least make some games interesting. It is the back seven where the most experienced players return. Linebacker Blake Boyd is a superb outside linebacker who fits into the team’s 3-4 scheme very well. He only tallied 3.5 sacks in 2008, but he did lead the team and could do so again. With fellow senior linebackers Darvis McBride, L.J. Harrison and Taurean Smith also returning, this is an extremely experienced group. The secondary is very young, but sophomores Trent Calhoun and Ryan Beard started last year and are only getting better. No starters return to the front line and it will be very important for the group of newcomers to get some pressure into the backfield.
Western Kentucky's Weaknesses:
The Hilltoppers offense was plain bad last year and now they lost quarterback David Wolke. Wolke was certainly not a great quarterback, but he could make plays with his feet and had a decent arm. K.J. Black would have been the next quarterback, but he opted to transfer. That leaves a huge question mark under center. Brandon Smith should be the guy, but his spring was average at best and a host of redshirt freshmen will try and take the job away from him in the fall. Whoever the quarterback is, they will have Jake Gaebler on their side. The 5-11 senior caught 54 passes for 588 yards and four touchdowns last year, but he will need time to adjust to his new quarterback. In the meantime, WKU will rely on Tyrell Hayden and the ground game. Hayden rarely got the opportunity to show his stuff last year as he only carried the ball 92 times for 388 yards, but with a majority of the offensive line returning, the ground attack should be better.
The Bottom Line for the Hilltoppers:
Western Kentucky might sound like one of the worst teams in the nation, and they probably will be this year, but the program is already on the rise. The recruiting has been great lately under Coach David Elson and the future is very, very bright. WKU may have lost all five games they played against Sun Belt opponents last year, but they should be able to eek out a win or two this time around…especially since North Texas has to come to Bowling Green.
By Joel Welser
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