Returning Starters – Offense: 8 Defense: 8
Preview: If you’re a fan of offense then Western Kentucky was must watch football last season. With 8 returning starters back on the offensive side of the ball the Hilltoppers will be raking up the points again in 2015. Even with the offensive surge in 2014 the team managed just an 8-5 record, but closed strong with wins coming against Marshall and Central Michigan. New head coach Jeff Brohm did a great job in his first season as the head man and there wasn’t any drop off after Petrino went back to Louisville.
Western Kentucky got a huge break in the offseason with their starting QB Brandon Doughty being granted a sixth season with a medical hardship waiver. Doughty was great entertainment as he went on to compile over 4,800 yards through the air along with 49 TDs. It hard to imagine these numbers could be surpassed, but don’t underestimate this veteran group. The O-line returns 3 starters to a unit that’ll remain steady as they fill in the gaps. The ground game is also in great shape with Leon Allen back after rushing for over 1.500 yards a season ago. The receiving corps is yet another bright spot with 3 returning starters back, including Doughty’s favorite target Jared Dangerfield, who’s been getting a lot of respect.
As great as the Hilltoppers were on the offensive side of the ball in 2014 they were nearly as bad on the defensive side of things. This unit is expected to gain ground with 8 starters back in the mix, but to be fair it would be tough for this unit to be much worse. The defense line should be stout against the run in conference play with 4 returning starters back and this unit is happy to get an instant impact player along the line with Jontavious Morris coming over from UAB. The LB corps also looks to be steady with top tacklers Holt and Brown back and ready to perform. The secondary returns 2 starters and this unit has to improve at limiting the big plays.
Prediction: Western Kentucky has the potential to be the number 1 rated offense in the country by season’s end. The team is hoping however that the defense will improve to the point where less stress and responsibility will be put on the shoulders of the offense to win games. QB Doughty and RB Allen broke the record for combined yards for a QB-RB tandem in 2014 and look for these guys to threaten their own record in 2015. Western Kentucky is looking to make a big step forward in conference play and there’s no reason to think this team can’t win the CUSA East division.
Projected Record: 10-2 (7-1)