2013 Western Kentucky football's 10 things to know: Bobby Petrino's stocked toybox

Wesley Hitt

When you hire Bobby Petrino, you better have a backup plan in place (and WKU has at least 10 months to figure that one out), but he can still be a tremendous success in the short-term.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Hello, Coach Petrino.

This winter, watching the Bobby Petrino Sweepstakes, I learned something about myself. Granted, it was probably something I already knew to some degree, but it was very much affirmed: I treat major-conference teams and mid-majors completely differently.

When Petrino, who was fired from Arkansas after lying about the circumstances surrounding a motorcycle accident (to put it as blandly as possible), was being courted by any number of schools after sitting out the 2012 season, I felt very different about his candidacy at Auburn than I did at Arkansas State or, eventually, Western Kentucky. I felt he needed to pay his dues again at the mid-major level, as some sort of atonement process or something; getting hired by Auburn would be receiving a shortcut he didn't deserve, but taking a Sun Belt job, even if just for a year, was perfectly acceptable. It doesn't make a lot of sense, really -- his atonement already consisted of humiliation, a damaged marriage, loss of a mega-salary and a job at which he was nearly worshipped; but the brain is an odd place sometimes.

I'd have hated Auburn hiring him; I loved Western Kentucky hiring him.

Simply put, Bobby Petrino wins games. In his eight years as an FBS head coach, he has won at least eight games seven times, and he has won at least 10 four times. Despite his open, public flirtation with other schools, he continued to win games at Louisville (41 in four seasons), and while public goodwill may have eroded with the way he left both the Louisville and Atlanta Falcons jobs, Arkansas fans probably didn't care much about that when he went 8-5 in 2009, 10-3 in 2010 and 11-2 in 2011. The guy is a guru for college quarterbacks, and while defense has never been an extreme strong suit, a) his defense is typically good enough to get out of the offense's way, and b) he still maximizes talent like few coaches can. He never reeled in elite recruiting classes at Louisville or Arkansas, but he continuously produced high-level offensive talent.

Because of this, he really is a lovely hire for WKU, even if he leaves for the first SEC offer that comes his way (perhaps as soon as December). Even if he just stays for one year, he will probably win games and serve as a positive influence on WKU quarterbacks. When you hire Petrino, you better have a backup plan in place (and WKU has at least 10 months to figure that one out), but he can still be a tremendous success in the short-term.

2. Okay, one more time, and then we move on.

3. Arkansas Lite.

At WKU, Petrino inherits offensive personnel that, in terms of the eyeball test, should seem awfully familiar.

In towering quarterback James Mauro, he has what looks (physically) like a Ryan Mallett clone. In running back Antonio Andrews, he has a big, strong, exciting back not unlike pre-injury Knile Davis. And while his receiving corps is rather small in stature, its potential depth could bring to mind the absurdly deep 2011 Arkansas receiving corps that featured Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, Chris Gragg, Cobi Hamilton, Greg Childs and numerous good-hands running backs. Former head coach Willie Taggart was a run-first-then-throw-to-the-tight-ends kind of guy, but the transition from Taggart's system to Petrino's might actually go surprisingly well.

(Granted, I said the same thing when Mike Leach went to Washington State, so you probably shouldn't take this to the bank. But still.)

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 6-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 69
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep Austin Peay 49-10 W 36.0 - 20.7 W
8-Sep at Alabama 0-31 L 21.3 - 25.1 L
15-Sep at Kentucky 32-31 W 21.1 - 29.2 L
22-Sep Southern Miss 42-17 W 37.2 - 32.5 W
29-Sep at Arkansas State 26-13 W 36.1 - 13.9 W
11-Oct at Troy 31-26 W 27.1 - 23.5 W
20-Oct UL-Monroe 42-43 L 26.3 - 31.2 L
27-Oct at Florida International 14-6 W 22.8 - 23.6 L
1-Nov Middle Tennessee 29-34 L 36.2 - 26.4 W
10-Nov Florida Atlantic 28-37 L 18.8 - 27.7 L
17-Nov at UL-Lafayette 27-31 L 35.0 - 41.0 L
24-Nov North Texas 25-24 W 26.9 - 22.0 W
26-Dec vs. Central Michigan 21-24 L 24.8 - 27.5 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 28.2 70 25.5 51
Adj. Points Per Game 28.4 62 26.5 51

4. What could have been.

The future could be awfully bright for WKU, especially if Petrino stays for a period longer than that of a Redbox rental, but there still have to be at least a few pangs of regret in Bowling Green about the way the 2012 season ended. Never mind that the Hilltoppers lost a tremendous head coach at season's end (former WKU quarterback Willie Taggart inherited a program that had lost 22 of 24 games and crafted back-to-back 7-5 seasons in 2011-12); before that even happened, WKU had already suffered through a crushing series of missed opportunities.

With road wins over Arkansas State and Troy, the Hilltoppers had become the slam-dunk Sun Belt favorite heading into mid-October. But a crushing home loss to UL-Monroe set the table for a late-season slide. WKU led ULM, 28-7, late in the second quarter, but the Warhawks scored a 30-yard touchdown with no time left in the first half, scored a 12-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in the second half, then went for two and the win, and got it, in the game's first overtime period to hand WKU a shocking 43-42 loss. WKU would end up losing five of seven to end the season.

Adj. Points Per Game (First 6 games): Western Kentucky 29.8, Opponent 24.2 (plus-5.6)
Adj. Points Per Game (Last 7 games): Opponent 28.5, Western Kentucky 27.3 (minus-1.2)

The offense regressed a little, the defense regressed a lot, and what looked like a potential 11-1 season turned into a disappointing 7-5.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 75 71 81 67
RUSHING 44 73 98 59
PASSING 92 67 60 70
Standard Downs 60 81 50
Passing Downs 92 79 97
Redzone 60 88 31
Q1 Rk 64 1st Down Rk 77
Q2 Rk 79 2nd Down Rk 59
Q3 Rk 64 3rd Down Rk 81
Q4 Rk 92

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Kawaun Jakes 200 312 2,488 64.1% 22 11 23 6.9% 7.0
James Mauro 6'7, 227 So. ** (5.2) 12 18 172 66.7% 2 1 0 0.0% 9.6
Brandon Doughty 6'3, 196 Jr. *** (5.5) 1 3 7 33.3% 0 0 0 0.0% 2.3
DaMarcus Smith 6'1, 180 RSFr. **** (5.8)








Todd Porter 6'3, 180 Fr. ** (5.4)








5. You're welcome, James Mauro.

I mean, of all the people excited about the Petrino hire, Mauro would have to be No. 1, right? Well, Mauro or whoever wins the starting job? (Three other quarterbacks, including one-time Louisville commit DaMarcus Smith, all came to town with a higher recruiting profile than Mauro.)

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Antonio Andrews RB 6'0, 211 Sr. *** (5.5) 304 1,733 5.7 5.3 11 +20.9
Leon Allen RB 6'0, 235 So. ** (5.4) 56 317 5.7 8.3 2 +4.1
Kawaun Jakes QB 43 211 4.9 3.7 3 +1.4
Keshawn Simpson RB 6'0, 237 Sr. ** (5.0) 20 101 5.1 6.3 1 -0.9
Kadeem Jones FB 5'11, 246 Sr. ** (5.3) 17 84 4.9 10.4 3 +0.0
Marquis Sumler RB 5'9, 175 So. *** (5.5) 16 59 3.7 1.6 0 -3.0
Ben Axon RB 6'2, 195 Sr. **** (5.8) 8 34 4.3 10.5 0 -1.0
Anthony Wales RB 5'9, 183 RSFr. *** (5.6)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Willie McNeal WR 5'10, 163 Jr. ** (4.9) 74 43 556 58.1% 7.5 23.4% 52.7% 7.5 76.8
Jack Doyle TE 73 53 566 72.6% 7.8 23.1% 54.8% 7.8 78.2
Antonio Andrews RB 6'0, 211 Sr. *** (5.5) 51 37 432 72.5% 8.5 16.1% 49.0% 9.1 59.7
Mitchell Henry TE 6'4, 245 Jr. *** (5.5) 23 13 195 56.5% 8.5 7.3% 60.9% 8.5 26.9
Kadeem Jones FB 5'11, 246 Sr. ** (5.3) 22 14 180 63.6% 8.2 7.0% 68.2% 8.3 24.9
Rico Brown WR 5'11, 185 Jr. ** (5.4) 20 13 194 65.0% 9.7 6.3% 40.0% 11.1 26.8
Austin Aikens WR 5'11, 180 So. *** (5.6) 13 8 217 61.5% 16.7 4.1% 92.3% 10.9 30.0
Boe Brand WR 6'0, 156 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 12 151 92.3% 11.6 4.1% 38.5% 12.0 20.9
Marcus Vasquez WR 13 12 102 92.3% 7.8 4.1% 61.5% 7.8 14.1
Tim Gorski TE 6'7, 253 So. ** (5.4) 4 1 15 25.0% 3.8 1.3% 75.0% 3.0 2.1
Ryan Wallace TE 2 1 8 50.0% 4.0 0.6% 0.0% 3.2 1.1
Nick Baisch FB 5'11, 251 Sr. NR 2 2 5 100.0% 2.5 0.6% 100.0% 1.5 0.7
Andrew Pettijohn WR 5'8, 188 Sr. NR 1 1 7 100.0% 7.0 0.3% 100.0% 4.2 1.0
Lonnie Turner WR 5'10, 175 Jr. ** (5.3)








Shaquille Johnson TE 6'4, 215 Fr. ** (5.4)








Nicholas Norris WR 5'10, 170 Fr. ** (5.4)








6. The toybox is stocked.

In the Taggart offense, young receivers Rico Brown, Austin Aikens and Boe Brand were luxuries. About three to four times per game, then-quarterback Kawaun Jakes would look downfield, probably after a steady dose of Antonio Andrews and a play-action fake, and find one of these players, probably Brown (14.9 yards per catch) or Aikens (27.1), for a lovely gain.

In a Petrino offense, these players will lose the surprise aspect but will probably see quite a few more targets in a given game. If they can still provide a decent downfield threat, then combined with Andrews, a host of interesting backup running backs, the steady Willie McNeal and tight end Mitchell Henry, WKU should have too many weapons for most opponents on the schedule.

And while all-conference right guard Adam Smith is gone, the Hilltoppers return four players with starting experience up front (82 career starts), including three-year starting center Sean Conway. There's a lot to like here.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 101.7 3.11 3.35 38.9% 77.8% 15.8% 63.0 8.2% 6.1%
Rank 65 39 54 65 12 15 114 113 54
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Adam Smith RG 47 career starts; 2012 1st All-Sun Belt
Sean Conway C 6'3, 305 Sr. ** (5.1) 37 career starts
Luis Polanco LG 6'2, 295 Sr. ** (5.2) 24 career starts
Cameron Clemmons LT 6'6, 305 Jr. *** (5.6) 19 career starts
Seth White RT 18 career starts
Luke Stansfield LG 5 career starts
Ed Hazelett LT 6'8, 318 Sr. *** (5.6) 2 career starts
Cliff Burns RG
Delryn Wilson RT 6'3, 308 So. ** (5.4)
Connor Popeck OL 6'4, 280 Jr. *** (5.5)
Johnny Delaney OL 6'6, 310 Jr. ** (5.3)
Joe Fennell OL 6'5, 320 Fr. *** (5.7)
Donald Rocker OL 6'4, 296 Fr. *** (5.5)
Kyle Jones OL 6'4, 290 Fr. ** (5.4)
Justin Martinez OL 6'3, 264 Fr. ** (5.4)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 75 53 50 59
RUSHING 44 49 42 52
PASSING 92 61 62 61
Standard Downs 64 58 71
Passing Downs 44 39 45
Redzone 77 30 110
Q1 Rk 82 1st Down Rk 54
Q2 Rk 62 2nd Down Rk 30
Q3 Rk 75 3rd Down Rk 94
Q4 Rk 16

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 109.4 2.75 1.80 36.4% 58.5% 25.6% 135.7 4.8% 8.4%
Rank 27 36 3 39 11 6 16 58 32
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Quanterus Smith DE 10 33.0 4.8% 18.5 12.5 0 1 3 1
Jamarcus Allen DT 13 28.0 4.1% 7 2.5 0 0 2 1
Cole Tischer DE 13 25.0 3.6% 6 2 0 0 0 1
Rammell Lewis DT 13 18.0 2.6% 5 2 0 2 1 2
Kenny Martin DT 13 14.0 2.0% 2 0 0 0 0 0
Gavin Rocker DE 6'2, 230 So. ** (5.4) 12 11.5 1.7% 4 3 0 0 0 1
Calvin Washington DE 6'5, 264 Sr. *** (5.6) 8 7.5 1.1% 2 1 0 2 0 0
Bryan Shorter DT 6'2, 274 So. ** (5.3) 10 5.0 0.7% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Jamichael Payne DT 6'1, 336 Jr. ** (5.4) 6 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Raphael Cox DE 6'3, 270 Jr. ** (5.3)

Maurice Bennett DT 6'3, 290 Jr. ** (5.2)

DeMarcus Glover DE 6'5, 235 Fr. ** (5.4)






7. Olé!

WKU had one of the best mid-major front sevens in the country in 2012; hell, they had one of the better front sevens, period. End Quanterus Smith was a destructive force on passing downs, tackle Jamarcus Allen was disruptive on the interior, five other linemen logged at least two tackles for loss, and generally speaking, the line made life really easy for a fantastic set of linebackers. The defense faded as the year progressed (among other things, Smith missed the final two games of the season), but this was still a very, very high-quality unit.

Of the six primary members of the line rotation, however, five are now gone. Only two returning linemen logged more than 5.0 tackles, and while Gavin Rocker showed potential as a speed rusher (4.0 of his 11.5 tackles were behind the line, and 3.0 were sacks), the pressure is on Rocker and a bunch of newcomers to keep pressure off of a linebacking corps that does return mostly intact.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Andrew Jackson MIKE 6'1, 265 Sr. ** (5.3) 13 100.0 14.5% 17.5 2 0 1 4 0
Xavius Boyd MIKE 6'2, 235 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 60.5 8.8% 7.5 0.5 1 0 0 0
Bar'ee Boyd SAM 6'1, 227 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 23.0 3.3% 6.5 3.5 0 0 1 0
Terran Williams WILL 6'2, 222 Jr. *** (5.5) 12 14.5 2.1% 2 1 0 1 0 0
Daerius Washington LB 6'0, 202 So. *** (5.6) 10 8.5 1.2% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Tye Golden SAM 13 4.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
T.J. Smith LB 6'2, 239 Jr. *** (5.5) 11 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Daqual Randall MIKE 6'0, 245 So. *** (5.6) 11 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Chuck Franks LB 6'2, 231 Sr. ** (5.2) 13 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Julian Leslie LB 6'3, 228 RSFr. ** (5.4)
Isaac Tanner LB 6'1, 225 Fr. ** (5.4)
Devanta Ducios LB 6'0, 216 Fr. ** (5.4)






8. And what a linebacking corps this is.

That is not a typo: Andrew Jackson really is 265 pounds, and he really did log 100.0 tackles and nearly 20 tackles for loss from the middle linebacker position. Again, life was pretty easy for Jackson, Xavius Boyd, Bar'ee Boyd and company with the attention the line demanded, but this might be the most proven mid-major linebacking corps in the country. You rarely see this many former three-star prospects in a Sun Belt unit, and you rarely see this much production returning from one year to another.

It is difficult to imagine the WKU linebackers improving on last year's numbers considering the green front four, but Jackson, et al, should assure that the negative impact of the new line is minimized to some degree. A tremendous pair of safeties (Kiante Young and Florida transfer Jonathan Dowling) will help, too.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kiante Young SS 5'11, 220 Sr. ** (4.9) 13 71.0 10.3% 2.5 0 0 7 1 1
Jonathan Dowling FS 6'3, 198 Jr. **** (5.8) 12 54.0 7.8% 2.5 0 6 7 2 0
Tyree Robinson CB 5'10, 196 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 45.5 6.6% 2.5 0 0 3 0 0
Cam Thomas CB 6'1, 190 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 38.5 5.6% 2 0 3 7 0 1
Brett Harrington CB 6'0, 180 Sr. *** (5.5) 12 31.0 4.5% 2 0 2 2 0 0
Arius Wright CB 5'10, 189 Sr. ** (5.3) 13 30.5 4.4% 3 1 1 6 1 2
Kareem Peterson FS 12 17.5 2.5% 1 0 0 4 0 0
Vince Williams SS 5'9, 198 Sr. ** (5.2) 13 8.5 1.2% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Prince Charles Iworah DB 5'10, 176 So. NR 1 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Darryl Gilchrist DB 6'3, 190 Sr. NR 2 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Rashad Greene DB 6'1, 180 Jr. ** (5.2)
De'Andre Simmons DB 5'11, 180 Fr. ** (5.4)






Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Hendrix Brakefield 6'4, 235 Sr. 45 42.1 4 10 14 53.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Jesse Roy 6'0, 189 Jr. 56 58.2 3 5.4%
Hendrix Brakefield 6'4, 235 Sr. 13 57.8 2 15.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Garrett Schwettman 5'11, 160 So. 42-43 9-11 81.8% 1-2 50.0%
Jesse Roy 6'0, 189 Jr. 0-0 0-2 0.0% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Antonio Andrews KR 6'0, 211 Sr. 28 27.4 0
Rico Brown KR 5'11, 185 Jr. 6 24.0 0
Willie McNeal KR 5'10, 163 Jr. 5 18.2 0
Antonio Andrews PR 6'0, 211 Sr. 19 12.3 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 70
Net Punting 77
Net Kickoffs 114
Touchback Pct 121
Field Goal Pct 75
Kick Returns Avg 17
Punt Returns Avg 31

9. Learn the pop-up, love the pop-up.

Kickoffs just killed WKU in 2012. The rest of the special teams unit was solid -- Antonio Andrews is as good a return man as he is a running back, Garrett Schwettman is a steady place-kicker, and about half of Hendrix Brakefield's* punts were either fair-caught or downed inside the 20. But Brakefield and Jesse Roy combined to boot touchbacks on kickoffs just seven percent of the time, and a WKU kickoff was nearly guaranteed to result in quality field position for the opponent.

If Petrino and special teams coach Ricky Brumfield can figure out how to master the art of the pop-up kickoff -- where the goal is height and minimal returns instead of depth -- this unit, top to bottom, could be a strength instead of one of overall neutral impact.

* That's really his name.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug vs. Kentucky 90
7-Sep at Tennessee 44
28-Sep Navy 95
9-Nov at Army 103
? Arkansas State 64
? Georgia State 125
? South Alabama 119
? Texas State 107
? Troy 102
? UL-Lafayette 78
? UL-Monroe 86
? ? NR
Five-Year F/+ Rk 108
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 102
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -2 / +3.2
TO Luck/Game -2.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (6, 7)
Yds/Pt Margin** +0.1

10. WKU could be favored to win up to 10 games.

We don't know the home-road status of the Sun Belt schedule, and we don't know who WKU will schedule for its 12th game yet. But with seven known opponents projected 90th or worse, and only two projected better than 78th, the Hilltoppers could be expected to see quite a bit of success in Petrino's first year.

Whether WKU can live up to expectations will be determined by the magnitude of the drop-off in the Hilltoppers' defensive line and the speed with which the offense can learn and adapt to the new style and terminology. Petrino did go 5-7 in his first year at Arkansas, after all, so it's not an outright slam dunk that WKU will immediately thrive. But you have to like the mix of personnel and coaching acumen.

More in College Football:

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The Dos and Don'ts of making a recruiting highlight tape

What's a "lack of institutional control," anyway?

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