Monthly Archives: August 2009

12 in 12: Day 9 — Troy

Team: Troy
Play Western: Nov. 7, at Western
‘08 Record: 8-5
Coach: Larry Blakeney
Returning starters: eight offense, five defense
The Buzz: Troy is looking to make its reign of the Sun Belt Conference into a dynasty by returning a full coaching staff from last season, the starting quarterback , leading rusher and wide receiver in coach Larry Blakeney’s 19th season as head coach of the Trojans.
Troy earned a vote in the Preseason AP Top 25, and should they refrain from slipping up in conference and put on a respectable show at Florida in Week Two, the Trojans could enter the polls as soon as the halfway point of the season. Tennessee and South Florida are formidable, but Troy is comparable to Western’s first two non-conference opponents.
Outlook: Quarterback Levi Brown took over for injured starter Jamie Hampton six games into the 2008 season and finished with 2,030 yards passing, 15 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Brown is back for his senior season in 2009, and accompanying him at the offensive skill positions is the same group that won five of Troy’s last seven games to end the season on a high note.
Last season sophomore running back DuJuan Harris posted the first 1,000-yard performance from a Troy running back since 2004 despite Blakeney’s pass-friendly spread offense. At wideout the Trojans return their top player from last season in Jerrel Jernigan, completing the trifecta of skill position returns from 2008. Jernigan will move from the inside to outside receiver spot to garner more receptions
The defensive unit is more of the same. Troy’s front four is formidable and the defensive has a plethora of capable linebackers. Depth won’t be a problem, except for perhaps in the secondary. The Trojans will rely on at least one first-year starter at cornerback to supplement a pair of senior safeties, Chris Bowens and Courtland Fuller.
How Western can win: Troy has either won or shared a part of the Sun Belt Conference Championship each of the past three seasons and touts eight of its 15 returning starters as members of the Sun Belt All-conference team in 2008.
The Toppers’ best shot of winning against their most daunting in-conference foe is hope they go overlooked by the Trojans. Troy’s schedule isn’t as strong as 2008’s (included Ohio State, Oklahoma State and LSU), but an uncharacteristically late non-conference match-up looms against Arkansas following the Western game on Nov. 7.

Team: Troy

Play Western: Nov. 7, at Western

‘08 Record: 8-5

Coach: Larry Blakeney

Returning starters: eight offense, five defense

The Buzz: Troy is looking to make its reign of the Sun Belt Conference into a dynasty by returning a full coaching staff from last season, the starting quarterback , leading rusher and wide receiver in coach Larry Blakeney’s 19th season as head coach of the Trojans.

Troy earned a vote in the Preseason AP Top 25, and should they refrain from slipping up in conference and put on a respectable show at Florida in Week Two, the Trojans could enter the polls as soon as the halfway point of the season. Tennessee and South Florida are formidable, but Troy is comparable to Western’s first two non-conference opponents.

Outlook: Quarterback Levi Brown took over for injured starter Jamie Hampton six games into the 2008 season and finished with 2,030 yards passing, 15 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Brown is back for his senior season in 2009, and accompanying him at the offensive skill positions is the same group that won five of Troy’s last seven games to end the season on a high note.

Last season sophomore running back DuJuan Harris posted the first 1,000-yard performance from a Troy running back since 2004 despite Blakeney’s pass-friendly spread offense. At wideout the Trojans return their top player from last season in Jerrel Jernigan, completing the trifecta of skill position returns from 2008. Jernigan will move from the inside to outside receiver spot to garner more receptions

The defensive unit is more of the same. Troy’s front four is formidable and the defensive has a plethora of capable linebackers. Depth won’t be a problem, except for perhaps in the secondary. The Trojans will rely on at least one first-year starter at cornerback to supplement a pair of senior safeties, Chris Bowens and Courtland Fuller.

How Western can win: Troy has either won or shared a part of the Sun Belt Conference championship each of the past three seasons and touts eight of its 15 returning starters as members of the Sun Belt all-conference team in 2008.

The Toppers’ best shot of winning against their most daunting in-conference foe is to hope they go overlooked by the Trojans. Troy’s schedule isn’t as strong as 2008’s (included Ohio State, Oklahoma State and LSU), but an uncharacteristically late non-conference match-up looms against Arkansas following the Western game on Nov. 7.

-Jonathan Lintner

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WKU Weekly Media Luncheon Wrap-Up

Just got back from the WKU football weekly media luncheon. Along with head coach David Elson, senior wide receiver Jake Gaebler and junior linebacker Thomas Majors gave a few words on the Toppers’ season-opening game at Tennessee on Saturday. A few key points from today’s festivities:

  • Gaebler said the older players are preaching to the younger, less experienced players that the key to playing in the 101,011-seat Neyland Stadium (and believe me, there WILL be more people in there than that come game day) is to maintain focus and keep the motivation up.
  • Part of that motivation has been the rankings that have been more than prevalent in the media. Most publications that rank all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams have WKU at the bottom of their respective lists. “We’re using the fact that most people are overlooking us as motivation,” Gaebler said.
  • Majors made a point that the defense feels that Tennessee doesn’t do anything different than any other FBS team, but what they do, they do well. He gave the Power-I, pro-style offense that Volunteer head coach Lane Kiffin will be keen on, as an example. It’s a major prepping point for the Topper defense.
  • Elson’s biggest selling point is to the players is that they must stay within their means going into the first game. “You must stay within your system and should just try to cover what other teams might do,” Elson said.
  • Elson said he is more comfortable going into this season than in any other season before due to the fact that his roster is stacked with more talent. He attributed that to the rise to the FBS and to the name of WKU football getting out there more.
  • He also said that along with preparing for the noise of Neyland Stadium with loud music and silent cadences, Elson added that the players must train their minds for the rigors of playing in that environment.
  • Despite being out for the Saturday night scrimmage, running backs Marell Booker and Bobby Rainey will be ready to play at Tennessee on Saturday.

-David Harten

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12 in 12: Day 8 — North Texas

Team: North Texas
Play Western: Oct. 31, at North Texas
‘08 Record: 1-11
Coach: Todd Dodge
Returning starters: eight offense, nine defense
The Buzz: After a back-and-forth shootout won by North Texas cemented Western’s spot as what would have been the worst of the Sun Belt Conference in 2008, the two meet again on Halloween and expect to fight for the same spot — this time on the Mean Green’s home field.
Outlook: North Texas’ quarterback battle was solved upon two-year starting quarterback Giovanni Vizza’s transfer to Texas A&M. In his place will be the heralded coach’s son, redshirt freshman Riley Dodge.
Dodge ran his father’s system throughout high school and gets the pleasure of going to work behind an offensive line that returns all five starters from a year ago. Assisting Dodge in the backfield is senior running back Cam Montgomery, who last season led the team rushing with 928 yards.
On the other side of the ball, North Texas returns nine players on the nation’s worst defense two years running. A trio of linebackers in Tobe Nwigwe, Craig Robertson and A.J. Penson anchor the middle and take a leadership role on a still young defensive unit. Topper fans will remember Nwigwe as the player that finished off last season’s Western-North Texas game with an interception returned for a touchdown late in the going.
How Western can win: Dodge won’t be shaken under center thanks to familiarity with his father’s spread offense system, but the Mean Green receiving corps isn’t as fortunate. Thanks to the graduation of record-setting wide receiver Casey Fitzgerald, North Texas is left with a handful of transfers and underclassmen at wideout.
Western will pit their inexperienced defensive backfield against North Texas’ youth down the sidelines, a match-up that could decide who stakes claim to the bottom of the Sun Belt in 2009.
-Jonathan Lintner

Team: North Texas

Play Western: Oct. 31, at North Texas

‘08 Record: 1-11

Coach: Todd Dodge

Returning starters: eight offense, nine defense

The Buzz: After a back-and-forth shootout won by North Texas cemented Western’s spot as what would have been the worst of the Sun Belt Conference in 2008, the two meet again on Halloween and expect to fight for the same spot — this time on the Mean Green’s home field.

Outlook: North Texas’ quarterback battle was solved upon two-year starting quarterback Giovanni Vizza’s transfer to Texas A&M. In his place will be the heralded coach’s son, redshirt freshman Riley Dodge.

Dodge ran his father’s system throughout high school and gets the pleasure of going to work behind an offensive line that returns all five starters from a year ago. Assisting Dodge in the backfield is senior running back Cam Montgomery, who last season led the team rushing with 928 yards.

On the other side of the ball, North Texas returns nine players on the nation’s worst defense two years running. A trio of linebackers in Tobe Nwigwe, Craig Robertson and A.J. Penson anchor the middle and take a leadership role on a still young defensive unit. Topper fans will remember Nwigwe as the player that finished off last season’s Western-North Texas game with an interception returned for a touchdown late in the going.

How Western can win: Dodge won’t be shaken under center thanks to familiarity with his father’s spread offense system, but the Mean Green receiving corps isn’t as fortunate. Thanks to the graduation of record-setting wide receiver Casey Fitzgerald, North Texas is left with a handful of transfers and underclassmen at wideout.

Western will pit their inexperienced defensive backfield against North Texas’ youth down the sidelines, a match-up that could decide who stakes claim to the bottom of the Sun Belt in 2009.

-Jonathan Lintner

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12 in 12: Day 7 — Middle Tennessee

Team: Middle Tennessee
Play Western: Oct. 24, at Western
‘08 Record: 5-7
Coach: Rick Stockstill
Returning starters: 10 offense, seven defense
The Buzz: The Sun Belt Conference’s two most historically successful college football programs meet to continue a budding rivalry midway into the 2009 season, and to up until their Week Eight match-up, both will be battling to make this game mean something at all when the date finally arrives.
Middle Tennessee State has limped through two straight 5-7 seasons, but most experts speculate that this is the year the Blue Raiders return to the upper echelon of the Sun Belt thanks to 17 returning starters — 10 of them on offense.
Outlook: After a hiatus from coaching at the college level, offensive coordinator Tony Franklin ventured from Troy to Auburn and landed at MTSU for the 2009 season. At his disposal is an offense that has to replace only its signal caller, but after narrowly losing out on last season’s quarterback battle with Joe Craddock, junior Dwight Dasher doesn’t represent a downgrade in talent.
Close on Dasher’s heels is redshirt freshman quarterback Brent Burnette. Should Dasher not return to the same form that won him four games his freshman season, Franklin won’t hesitate to substitute a rookie for the veteran. Phillip Tanner is MTSU’s best threat on the ground and the Blue Raiders go five deep with veteran leadership at the wide receiver position.
And while the offense is full of returning stars, the defense is made up of few standouts. MTSU takes a hit a linebacker and will have to fill two spots with inexperienced replacements, but with safety Jeremy Kellem leading the defensive backfield, the rest of the Blue Raider defense should remain at last season’s level or better.
How Western can win: The Topper defense will need to step up and make MTSU’s attack one dimensional. Tanner is a sure thing running the ball, but Dasher’s arm is often questioned, especially after a 17-of-44 effort last season that included three interceptions in limited playing time.
Should the senior quarterback struggle early on, Western will have little trouble containing a predictable running game.
-Jonathan Lintner

Team: Middle Tennessee

Play Western: Oct. 24, at Western

‘08 Record: 5-7

Coach: Rick Stockstill

Returning starters: 10 offense, seven defense

The Buzz: The Sun Belt Conference’s two most historically successful college football programs meet to continue a budding rivalry midway into the 2009 season, and to up until their Week Eight match-up, both will be battling to make this game mean something at all when the date finally arrives.

Middle Tennessee State has limped through two straight 5-7 seasons, but most experts speculate that this is the year the Blue Raiders return to the upper echelon of the Sun Belt thanks to 17 returning starters, 10 of them on offense.

Outlook: After a hiatus from coaching at the college level, offensive coordinator Tony Franklin ventured from Troy to Auburn and landed at MTSU for the 2009 season. At his disposal is an offense that has to replace only its signal caller, but after narrowly losing out on last season’s quarterback battle with Joe Craddock, junior Dwight Dasher doesn’t represent a downgrade in talent.

Close on Dasher’s heels is redshirt freshman quarterback Brent Burnette. Should Dasher not return to the same form that won him four games his freshman season, Franklin won’t hesitate to substitute a rookie for the veteran. Phillip Tanner is MTSU’s best threat on the ground and the Blue Raiders go five deep with veteran leadership at the wide receiver position.

And while the offense is full of returning stars, the defense is made up of few standouts. MTSU takes a hit a linebacker and will have to fill two spots with inexperienced replacements, but with safety Jeremy Kellem leading the defensive backfield, the rest of the Blue Raider defense should remain at last season’s level or better.

How Western can win: The Topper defense will need to step up and make MTSU’s attack one-dimensional. Tanner is a sure thing running the ball, but Dasher’s arm is often questioned, especially after a 17-of-44 effort last season that included three interceptions in limited playing time.

Should the senior quarterback struggle early on, Western should have little trouble containing a predictable running game.

-Jonathan Lintner

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Injuries sideline Booker, Rainey for Saturday’s mock game

Western head coach David Elson said both senior running back Marell Booker and sophomore back Bobby Rainey are out with injuries and will not participate in Saturday night’s mock game at L.T. Smith Stadium.
After Thursday’s practice, Elson said Booker “had a little knee situation that’s popped up,” then clarified on Friday that the injury was a sprain. Rainey is out with a strained shoulder.
Neither is listed as out for next Saturday’s season opener at Tennessee, but should the Toppers lose two of their top backs, senior Tyrell Hayden will take the no. 1 spot on the depth chart and linebacker-turned running back Braxston Miller will look for a more integrated role in the offense.
— Jonathan Lintner

Coach David Elson said both senior running back Marell Booker and sophomore back Bobby Rainey are out with injuries and will not participate in Saturday night’s mock game at L.T. Smith Stadium.

After Thursday’s practice, Elson said Booker “had a little knee situation that’s popped up,” then clarified on Friday that the injury was a sprain. Rainey is out with a strained shoulder.

Neither is listed as out for next Saturday’s season opener at Tennessee, but should the Toppers lose two of their top backs, senior Tyrell Hayden will take the no. 1 spot on the depth chart and linebacker-turned-running back Braxston Miller will look for a more integrated role in the offense.

— Jonathan Lintner

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Western releases depth chart for Tennessee game

This just came into us — it’s the depth chart for the Tennesee game.

Click here for the PDF

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12 in 12: Day 6 — Louisiana-Lafayette

Team: Louisiana-Lafayette
Play Western: Oct. 17, at Western
‘08 Record: 6-6
Coach: Rickey Bustle
Returning starters: six offense, eight defense
The Buzz: Louisiana Lafayette was an offensive juggernaut by Sun Belt Conference standards last season, yet the Ragin’ Cajuns amassed only six wins all season. Without the team’s big three yardage-gaining machines back for 2009, UL is expected to return to the bottom tier of the conference.
Their only hope? Offensive coordinator Ron Hudson will return and attempt to work some magic in his second year on the job.
As a note, the Ragin’ Cajuns will also host a big-name BCS-conference opponent. Kansas State heads to Lafayette on Sept. 12, the same day South Florida faces Western in Bowling Green.
Outlook: Depleted at the offensive skill positions, Louisiana Lafayette will rely heavily on the experience of its offensive line, which returns all five starters from a team that last season ranked seventh in the nation in rushing yards per game. Unfortunately for the Ragin’ Cajuns, 1,035 of those 3,164 rushing yards came from then-starting quarterback Michael Desormeaux, the 2008 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year.
Desormeaux is gone along with No. 1 running back Tyrell Fenroy and wide receiver Jason Cherry. Left in their wake is a quarterback battle that’s yet to be solved. Candidates include Brad McGuire and Chris Masson, both of which have experience and near-equal credentials.
On the defensive side of the ball, Louisiana Lafayette returns eight starters from last season, but playmakers are few and far between. Returning linebackers Antwyne Zanders and Daylon McCoy will anchor the defense after recording 69 tackles apiece last season.
How Western can win: The Toppers defensive line will key the tempo of this game. If they allow a veteran front five of Louisiana Lafayette to push them around, yards will pile up for the tandem of running backs senior Undrea Sails and freshman Draylon Booker, who look to run by committee this fall.
— Jonathan Lintner

Team: Louisiana-Lafayette

Play Western: Oct. 17, at Western

‘08 Record: 6-6

Coach: Rickey Bustle

Returning starters: six offense, eight defense

The Buzz: Louisiana-Lafayette was an offensive juggernaut by Sun Belt Conference standards last season, yet the Ragin’ Cajuns amassed only six wins all season. Without the team’s big three yardage-gaining machines back for 2009, UL is expected to return to the bottom tier of the conference.

Their only hope? Offensive coordinator Ron Hudson will return and attempt to work some magic in his second year on the job.

As a note, the Ragin’ Cajuns will also host a big-name BCS-conference opponent. Kansas State heads to Lafayette on Sept. 12, the same day South Florida faces Western in Bowling Green.

Outlook: Depleted at the offensive skill positions, Louisiana Lafayette will rely heavily on the experience of its offensive line, which returns all five starters from a team that last season ranked seventh in the nation in rushing yards per game. Unfortunately for the Ragin’ Cajuns, 1,035 of those 3,164 rushing yards came from then-starting quarterback Michael Desormeaux, the 2008 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year.

Desormeaux is gone, along with No. 1 running back Tyrell Fenroy and wide receiver Jason Cherry. Left in their wake is a quarterback battle that’s yet to be solved. Candidates include Brad McGuire and Chris Masson, both of which have experience and near-equal credentials.

On the defensive side of the ball, Louisiana Lafayette returns eight starters from last season, but playmakers are few and far between. Returning linebackers Antwyne Zanders and Daylon McCoy will anchor the defense after recording 69 tackles apiece last season.

How Western can win: The Toppers’ defensive line will key the tempo of this game. If they allow a veteran front five of Louisiana Lafayette to push them around, yards will pile up for the tandem of running backs senior Undrea Sails and freshman Draylon Booker, who look to run by committee this fall.

— Jonathan Lintner

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