WKU football reports Friday

The Western Kentucky football team is scheduled to report for the start of fall camp and the 2014 season Friday. The team is scheduled to practice at 3:30 p.m. Saturday after its media day at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The Hilltoppers’ first 14 scheduled practices – up to Aug. 15 – will be open to the public. The remaining practices will be closed.

“We’ve taken the first four opponents and put a gameplan together and have a general idea of what we think we’re going to see,” WKU coach Jeff Brohm said about the start of camp. “So the first part of camp we’ll focus on getting better and getting into the things we need to get into to be successful on both sides of the ball and special teams. As it gets closer then we’ll narrow it down again and re-gameplan and make sure we know exactly what we’re doing.”

Said WKU senior offensive lineman Cam Clemmons: “Every team is here is going to say their goal is to have the chance to compete for a championship. So everyday we’re just taking things one day at a time, going along with the process and doing what we got to do to give ourselves a chance to be a champion. Right now it’s Game One. Bowling Green, they’re a big-time football team. They’re really good. After that it’ll be Illinois and so forth and so forth. Just one game at a time.”

Said senior quarterback Brandon Doughty: “We had a good summer. I think as a unit, we’ve really gotten better – I think offensively and defensively, we really have, I truly believe that. The strength of our team is our offense, but I really think us pushing those defensive guys has made them step. I noticed that at the end of summer camp. I definitely think I got my confidence up. It’s at an all-time high this year and I’m definitely looking forward to leading this team and getting to know these guys a little bit more as camp goes by.”

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Checking in at Titans’ camp

I was able to get to Nashville on Thursday morning to check in with the Tennessee Titans. Former Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews is trying to make the team as a rookie and former WKU quarterback Jason Michael is the team’s new offensive coordinator. Comments from those two below, as well as Titans’ running backs coach Sylvester Croom.

Western Kentucky defensive coordinator Nick Holt and defensive ends coach Ken Delgado were also present at Thursday’s practice.

Antonio Andrews
  Fall camp thus far: “It’s been good so far, man. It’s a learning curve, but I’m just showing them what I retained from all the OTA’s (organized team activity) and minicamp. Just trying to fit in.”

   What do you have to do to make this team? “I definitely have to do some special teams. I’m just trying to show them how versatile I am, that I can play kickoff and punt, punt return, kick return – not just being a returner but also blocking.”

   Relationship with Jason Michael: “A few times I’ll have some Western talks with him, but it’s really all business.”

Jason Michael
Adjustment to the offensive coordinator role:  “It’s been a long process since coming here – it feels like a long time ago since moving here from San Diego. But it’s been good, having an opportunity to – going all the way back – put a staff together like we have, having a chance to continue to work with coach (Ken) Whisenhunt and going through the offseason to install the offense. Now in training camp doing it for a second and third time, it’s progress.”

    Still think about the WKU days? “I do all the time. Playing the game and having the opportunity to play there, and have the friends and the people you still stay in touch with, you always do (think about WKU). Then having to move back here closer to home, closer to Bowling Green, closer to Kentucky – you see more of those people and you have a chance to reflect on those things.
“Whether it’s coach (Jack) Harbaugh or talking to guys that you played with, it’s closer now, so it’s been fun to have a chance to be back here.”

  Still keep up with the Hilltoppers?  “I’ve always tried to. If they’ve played on Thursday night or if was a Saturday where I had a home game and they were on, I’ve had a chance to do that a few times. After being back here, I’ve been up to work Antonio (Andrews) out before the Draft, had a chance to go up there and see the coaches and visit with them.
“Then a couple coaches have come down and visited here. So it’s good to get back in contact. There’s people there that are still there that have been there since I left – and there’s some that have moved on. Those relationships are good and I try and keep those and hopefully I get a chance to get up there more.”

  WKU’s transition to FBS, Conference USA:  “It’s great. It’s a reflection of Dr. (Gary) Ransdell. It’s a reflection of what they’ve done there and how they’ve gone about it. The school, it’s changed. I’ve had the opportunity to go back two or three times and it changes every time – from an academic standpoint, from an athletic standpoint.
“It’s a reflection of a lot guys that were there when I was there and when we were playing and what we were able to do with Harbaugh, building that program the way it was then and then those guys taking it and running with it through Willie Taggart, on through coach (Bobby) Petrino and the with the new staff. It’s exciting for them.”

    Antonio Andrews: “It’s good to have him here. He’s done a good job so far. He’s working hard and working hard to find his role and where that is, whether that be offensively or special teams. He’s working hard to find a spot and that’s what everybody here is doing.
“It’s always good to have a Hilltopper around.”

Sylvester Croom
    Antonio Andrews: “He’s working extremely hard, but has a lot of work to do. We just look forward to getting him over these next couple of days to sharpen up on assignments and him getting used to the physicality of the national football league.”

    How can he improve? “We brought him in for a specific reason, to give us some power in the running game and he’s just getting acclimated. Again, it’s an adjustment period, getting used to the speed of the game and knowing how to practice and still being able to improve and work hard every day without getting overzealous in practice.
“Right now he’s feeling his way in some things, but that’s natural with a rookie. He’s shown signs of things we want him to do. If he’s able to not miss any practices, he’ll be able to do some things going forward.”

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July 29 is WKU Day in Louisville

The office of the mayor proclaimed July 29 as “Western Kentucky University Day” in Louisville during a ceremony Tuesday at Buffalo Wild Wings on Shelbyville Road.

Louisville mayor Greg Fischer was not present Tuesday, but members of his staff read a proclamation to WKU athletic director Todd Stewart declaring “WKU Day” official. Western Kentucky football coach Jeff Brohm, who received a custom baseball bat from Louisville Slugger, was also present.

Greg Brohm
  Your new role with WKU: “I’m so excited to be a part of Western Kentucky football. It’s a job I feel real comfortable with the duties, the responsibilities, but also with my familiarity with the staff, with Jeff, with the all the coaches that I’ve worked with before.
“I think one thing I bring to the table is that I’ve not always been in football. I’ve been outside football, so I bring an outside perspective sometimes to things. I think I can bring a little bit of marketing and things like that to the football program to help just widen our footprint.
“That’s what this is kind of about, just expanding our footprint a little bit, reaching out to our fans across the state. It’s a great foundation at Western, I think we can really build that now.”

  Importance of Louisville: “I think it’s real important for our future. It really is. There are a lot of alumni here. I think it’s important to let them know you care about them, that you’ll come to them and they don’t always have to come to you.
“We’ve had people come up to us the last couple days and say, ‘Thanks for coming up here thanks for bringing us into the program, making us feel part of everything.’
“I think with the unique background of our head coach, with the number of the players we have from the city, that we have a built-in support here to tap into. I think that people in the city of Louisville want to root for us – we just have to be out there, visible, get into the conversation and that can really add to the growth of our program.
“We have a great base in Bowling Green and in Western Kentucky. I think this just helps us as we move into a bigger league to become a bigger player.”

Jeff Brohm
  Importance of Louisville: “It’s very important. This is a great area, we have a lot of familiarity here with myself, the assistant coaches, a lot of the players. We think Louisville’s a market we can really tap into, but we understand that they’re Cardinal fans. At worst, we want to be their second-favorite team.
“We want them to come down and check out a game. If they do that, they’ll see something they like.”

  Support from Louisville: “I think we have great support in this area just because of all the ties here and the Western brand has increased due to the successful seasons they’ve had the last couple of years.
“You look at the leadership we have with our president and AD, the facilities that they built on campus for athletics. Going into Conference USA, that’s going to give us even more exposure and hopefully we can continue to, not only recruit good players from this area, but also fans to come down and check us out.”

Todd Stewart
   Importance of Louisville: “It’s vital. The two largest alumni bases we have are Louisville and Nashville and those are two areas we can’t get to enough.
“Having Jeff as our head coach, you can see here tonight, anywhere he goes, the amount of respect he has in Louisville and that can only help us.”

   Getting into bigger markets: “It’s an ongoing process. It’s certainly better than it was. We still have work to do. Bowling Green is the 185th-ranked market in the country, so ultimately, if we’re going to grow our fan base to the point where we have sellouts and capacity crowds, we have to do it by getting people outside of Bowling Green – and even outside of Warren County. That’s why Louisville’s such an important area for us.”

   WKU Day in Louisville: “I think it’s neat. We’re two hours away, but if you walked in here, you’d think it’s the Buffalo Wild Wings in Bowling Green. That’s nice to see.”

Running back Anthony Wales
    The response from Louisville: “This is amazing. I didn’t think there’d be this many people to show up. I love to see that we got the city of Louisville behind us, especially for me being from Louisville.
“It’s just a great experience for us and something we’ve never really seen growing up. We just want to have the city behind us.”

   Getting players from Louisville: “Most of the guys we do have, I feel like I did help bring them in. Louisville and Kentucky are great programs, but just my experience, I didn’t feel the love like I did with WKU. With WKU, it’s family, you’re not just a player, you’re not just a guy wearing a jersey. I’m really happy with the decision I made.”

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WKU at Conference USA media day

Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm, senior offensive lineman Cam Clemmons and junior defensive end Gavin Rocker were present at Wednesday’s Conference USA media day in Dallas. Quotes from all three here.

Jeff Brohm
    Picked fourth in the East Division: “I think that’s to be expected. New team in the league, not many people know a whole lot about us and it is a step up, so to speak, in competition. We have to come in and prove ourselves and earn respect.
“There are some teams who have been in this league for awhile that have played a high level. It’s going to be very competitive week-in and week-out and we have to find ways to win games.”

First year as head coach: “Experience is valuable, so when it comes to being a head coach, it is my first year doing that here. The fact that I’ve coached for a long time, played for a long time, coached and played for a lot of great players and coaches.
“Even the fact that I was here this past year with our team I think is a huge benefit. Now it’s just about going out and doing it and getting the first game under your belt.
“Without question I’m going to have to prove myself, just like everyone else and prove I can help our team get it done.”

Expectations for the start of fall camp: “We want to make sure we have a hungry team, a driven team that works hard and plays the together. We’ll put the team first and all go about our business every day to become the very best on a daily basis and then I think we can be a very good football team.
“It’s going to be a challenge. I think the first game is extremely tough – the first four games are extremely tough. We’re going to have to be ready Day One.”

Looking at BGSU yet? “We’ve taken the first four opponents and put a gameplan together and have a general idea of what we think we’re going to see. So the first part of camp we’ll focus on getting better and getting into the things we need to get into to be successful on both sides of the ball and special teams.
“As it gets closer then we’ll narrow it down again and re-gameplan and make sure we know exactly what we’re doing.”

The Middle Tennessee game: “I’ve been in rivalries where it’s been the first and the last. Whenever it is I think it’s a great opportunity for our players, coaches and fans to play against people that are close, that we’re familiar with, that we know. It’s important to try and find a way to win that.”

  College Football Playoff: “I think it’ll be exciting. Any time you have the first time of something, I think it creates a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement. The fact that there’s going to be a playoff system that will help determine a true winner of the national championship, I think a lot of people will definitely look forward to that and they’ll be a huge following.
“The fact that there are five big bowl tie-ins and there is a slight chance for a team from our conference and some of the other conferences to get in that is always something that you shoot and strive for.”

    Can a CUSA team can get to the CFB Playoff? “I think it’s going to be tough – but it has happened in the past with Northern Illinois and those teams that have found a way to get into a big bowl game.
“You’re going to have to run the table or be pretty close to it. You’re going to, not only win your conference games, but have a good nonconference schedule and have some upsets. I think if you do that you definitely prove you can do that at a high level.”

  Recruiting: “I felt like we had a good recruiting class last year, we got a chance to get with them a little bit this summer and we feel good about it. We had a definite strategy going into this recruiting season with how to get the best players out there and so far we feel really good about where we’re at and, obviously, we’re continuing to build upon that and get guys from all over.
“Without question we’re going to evaluate closely guys within a two-to-three hour radius, whether it’s in Kentucky, in Tennessee, if it slides up to Ohio, to make sure with all our connections we don’t bypass someone that we think can play.”

Cam Clemmons
    Excitement for CUSA: “Any time you’re going into a season, there’s already an amount of excitement. Then going to a whole new league, Conference USA, it’s awesome.
“The thing that’s most-exciting to me is having the opportunity for a conference championship game. Just having the chance and you control your own destiny. That’s an awesome thing.”

    Team’s goal this season: “Every team is here is going to say their goal is to have the chance to compete for a championship. So everyday we’re just taking things one day at a time, going along with the process and doing what we got to do to give ourselves a chance to be a champion.”

Picked fourth: “If a team needs extra motivation like that, they’re not ready to play. We don’t really pay a lot of attention to things like that. Just doing things how they’re supposed to be done and everything else will take care of itself.”

   Game you’re most looking forward to: “Right now it’s Game One. Bowling Green, they’re a big-time football team. They’re really good. After that it’ll be Illinois and so forth and so forth. Just one game at a time.”

    Date of the MTSU game matter: “It really doesn’t matter. It’ll be good to have some recent film on them and all that stuff, but it’s just very exciting to be to play them once again. I know it’s really good for the fans. It’s awesome, especially in basketball, being in Diddle when we play Middle is a special deal.”

  Jeff Brohm: “He’s going to be a superstar, I promise you. He’s prepared. Being under coach (Bobby) Petrino, he learned how to run things and I can already tell coach Brohm knows what he’s doing and we trust him 100 percent. He’s going to lead us.”

Gavin Rocker
   The defense: “I feel like we’ll be fine with the guys that we have. The people that are back from last year, they’ll pretty good and they showed themselves in the spring and that gave us confidence that we can be competitive and be good this year.”

    Picked fourth: “It’s a preseason thing. I understand it’s a new conference and they’re not familiar with us, so we’re not going to look into that or worry about that. What we care about is how the standings are going to look at the end of the season.”

Game you’re most looking forward to: “Just looking at Game One. We don’t want to look ahead, that’s how you end up losing. We want to stay focused on the task at hand.”

   Sense there are more doubters out there this year? “If anything I would say we have more support. We’re coming off the best record that we’ve had at the (FBS) level. I feel like fans are excited and we should be gaining more.”

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Aldwin Jackson commits to WKU

The Western Kentucky football program Monday received its ninth verbal commitment for the 2015 signing class when Aldwin Jackson verbally pledged to be a Hilltopper.

Jackson is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound defensive back from Seneca High in Louisville. An unrated prospect, Jackson reportedly holds scholarship offers from Ohio, Ball State, Austin Peay, Tennessee State and WKU.

As a junior, Jackson played in all 11 SHS games during a 2-9 season. He recorded seven interceptions and returned three of those for touchdowns.

All of Western Kentucky’s verbal commits for the 2015 class hail from the state of Kentucky. Jackson joins tight end Tyler Jefferson (Doss), linebacker DeVon Quincy (Lafayette), wide receiver Dontavion Jackson (Lafayette), running back Marquez Trigg (Glasgow), defensive linemen Bryant Pirtle (DeSales), Heath Wiggins (Graves County) and Nick Coffey (Russell County) and offensive lineman Cullen Reynolds (Madisonville-North Hopkins) as WKU commits for the 2015 class.

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C-USA media day primer

Excited about Conference USA football media day? Well of course you are.

I’ll be in Dallas this week as Western Kentucky football begins its maiden voyage into its new league. They’ll be plenty of updates on the blog here, the Twitter and, of course, bgdailynews.com.

The fun starts Tuesday night when the league will have a hospitality event for media at the DFW Marriot. While my industry comrades and I booze and schmooze at the hotel, players and sports information staff from each team will be dueling at Topgolf Dallas.

Wednesday is a day full of interviews, beginning with C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky at 8:30 a.m. and followed by Bill Hancock – the College Football Playoff executive director.

Players and coaches from West Division teams will meet with the media in the morning Wednesday while East Division players and coaches will do television interviews for Fox Sports on location at FS Southwest. The two divisions then switch in the afternoon.

Western Kentucky will be represented by coach Jeff Brohm, redshirt-senior offensive lineman Cameron Clemmons and redshirt-junior defensive end Gavin Rocker.

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Alabama QB to transfer to WKU

Quarterback Parker McLeod is transferring from Alabama to Western Kentucky and plans to join the team at the start of fall camp, the Daily News confirmed Thursday.

McLeod is a 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pounder who graduated from Walton (Ga.) High in 2012 and enrolled early at Alabama in 2013. He did not play for the Crimson Tide last season and opted to wear a redshirt his initial season. In the 2014 Alabama spring game McLeod threw one pass – which was intercepted.

Rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com as a high school senior, McLeod reportedly had scholarship offers from Boston College, Central Florida, East Carolina, Louisville, Maryland, Oklahoma State and Syracuse. He threw for 541 yards and four touchdowns during an injury-shortened senior season and threw for 1,619 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior when WHS finished 14-1 with its lone loss in Georgia’s Class 6A state title game. ESPN ranked him as the nation’s 31st-best pocket passer in 2012.

The addition of McLeod would give WKU six quarterbacks on the 2014 fall roster, joining redshirt-senior Brandon Doughty, juniors Nelson Fishback and Troy Jones, sophomore Todd Porter and freshman Drew Eckels. McLeod would not be eligible for the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Western Kentucky is scheduled to play at Alabama on Sept. 10, 2016.

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