#83 Western Kentucky Football 2012 Preview

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

2012 Overall Rank: #83
#4 Sun Belt
Western Kentucky College Football 2012 Preview
Western Kentucky Team Page


Many will take one look at the absence of Bobby Rainey and write off Western Kentucky. And maybe they should. Rainey did rush for 1,695 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011. And that was after an even better 2010 campaign, so every defense that went up against the Hilltoppers tried to stop Rainey. Few did. Now WKU must move on without the services of their superstar running back.

2011 Record: (7-5, 7-1)
2011 Bowl: None
Coach: Willie Taggart (9-15 at Western Kentucky, 9-15 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Willie Taggart
Defensive Coordinator: Lance Guidry

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kawaun Jakes, QB, 161 yards
Passing: Kawaun Jakes, QB, 1,854 yards
Receiving: Jack Doyle, TE, 614 yards
Tackles: Andrew Jackson, LB, 109
Sacks: Quanterus Smith, DE, 7.5
Interceptions: Kareem Peterson, S, 3

Other Key Returnees: DT Jamarcus Allen, LB Xavius Boyd, WR Boe Brand, C Sean Conway, DT Kenny Martin, CB Tyree Robinson, RB Keshawn Simpson, G Adam Smith, OT Seth White, S Kiante Young

Key Losses: DE Bo Adebayo, S Ryan Beard, CB Derrius Brooks, DE Jared Clendenin, LB Ben Duvall, OT Wes Jeffries, RB Bobby Rainey

While Rainey was gaining all of the national attention, Western Kentucky was building up the rest of their team. It was the defense that really led the Hilltoppers to unprecedented success in 2011. Andrew Jackson came out of nowhere and turned into a great linebacker. On the year he tallied 109 tackles, 17.0 tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks and one interception. He was always around the ball and now, as an upperclassman, he will be a better leader too. The return of fellow linebacker and the team’s second leading tackler, Xavius Boyd, will only make the linebacker corps that much better. But it is not the linebackers that will make this one of the best defenses in the Sun Belt, it is the secondary. With Florida transfer Jonathan Dowling joining returning upperclassmen Tyree Robinson, Kiante Young and Kareem Peterson, the pass defense should be much improved. However, the defense does need to replace starting defensive ends Jared Clendenin and Bo Adebayo. Quanterus Smith, who led WKU with 7.5 sacks last season, will man one end spot while Cole Tisher and former linebacker T.J. Smith should be more than adequate on the other end. In the middle of the line Jamarcus Allen and Kenny Martin are both back to reclaim their starting spots.

So who does replace Rainey? Junior Keshawn Simpson is the simple answer, but Antonio Andrews and John Evans are in the mix as well. If one can emerge, Rainey will not be missed too much. Fortunately, Western Kentucky returns four offensive linemen, so that will help any running back. But this team will have to be more balanced on offense without Rainey. That puts the pressure on senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes. He did not have a great junior season, throwing ten touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but he did get better as the season progressed. He will need to play like he did in the last six games if WKU hopes to have another winning season. The return of receivers like Rico Brown and Boe Brand will help, but those two only caught 13 and 14 passes, respectively, during the 2011 campaign. Most of the completions went to Rainey out of the backfield or tight end Jack Doyle. Doyle is back and is a great safety outlet and red zone target, but WKU needs to find a way to stretch the field successfully every once in a while.

The Bottom Line:
This season may look a lot like last season due to the schedule. In 2011 the Hilltoppers lost their first four games before winning seven of their last eight, with the only loss coming to LSU. With trips to Alabama and Kentucky and a couple tough road games to open conference play, Western Kentucky could quickly slide down the standings, but by the middle of October the offense should be flowing and the Hilltoppers will be looking to become bowl eligible…but they could still be overlooked by the bowls yet again anyway.

Projected Bowl: None

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 181.58 (35th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 167.33 (102, 8)
Total Offense: 348.92 (89, 7)
Scoring Offense: 22.92 (89, 6)
Rushing Defense: 134.83 (44, 4)
Pass Defense: 238.92 (77, 6)
Total Defense: 373.75 (53, 4)
Scoring Defense: 24.83 (55, 3)
Turnover Margin: -.25 (82, 6)
Sacks: 2.25 (34, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.83 (58, 5)