After a disappointing end to the year that included a loss in the Cure Bowl and finishing 6-7, Western Kentucky managed to enter the offseason with a bit of positive momentum thanks to the early signing period. The Tops announced 13 signees on the first day of said period. Two additional players signed NLIs as well, but they requested to be announced at a later date.
247 Sports currently lists WKU’s 2018 class as second in Conference USA behind FIU, who picked up two 4-star JUCO defensive lineman in their group of 16 signees.
Mike Sanford seems very optimistic about this class, calling it “one of the deepest classes in terms of upper-echelon talent that this program has had”. Some key needs were filled in these signings, particularly replacing depth on the defensive side of the ball. With that being said, let’s dive in and examine each of the new Hilltoppers and what they bring to the program.
Note: I’ve already covered many of these players when they originally made their verbal commitments to WKU, so forgive me if I’m retreading ground a bit here.
AJ Brathwaite - 3-Star Safety
A Miami Central product, Brathwaite is the #87 safety in the class of 2018. He had 15 offers on the table and was near the top of WKU’s list of targets for quite a while. At six feet tall and 180 pounds, this kid is a play maker. He played a bit of linebacker in his high school as well as safety. His senior season with Miami Central, he made 66 tackles (43 solo, 23 assisted).
Kevaris Thomas - 2-Star Quarterback
Thomas went 25-2 in two years as a starting quarterback, which is great however you look at it. He transferred to Lakeland High School for his senior season, where he showed some solid passing prowess as well as some good running ability for his size. A quarterback with ability to run really seems to be what Sanford wanted to go along with the other QBs in his stable. Thomas also had offers from Colorado State, FIU, FAU, Liberty, South Alabama, Temple, and USF.
Jayden Patterson - 2-Star Corner
The six foot tall, 182 pounder from Mountain View High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia broke up 14 passes with three interceptions and 34 tackles in his senior campaign, plus a fumble recovery. From watching film on him, he’s not afraid to jam receivers at the line and he’s got decent tackling form. Mike Sanford’s description of him as a “lockdown corner” seems pretty accurate. His offer list included The Citadel, Georgia Southern, Army, Ball State, and Elon.
Mario Wright - 3-Star Linebacker
The 6’2”, 205-pounder had 13 scholarship offers on the table. His top six also included Syracuse, Western Michigan, Wyoming, Northern Illinois, and Miami (OH). Wright’s high school seems to play a defensive style that’s similar to WKU’s in that it’s more pass defense first and requires the linebacker to cover a lot of ground. Wright’s filled that role nicely, so Tops fans can be optimistic about how his game will translate at the collegiate level.
Gino Appleberry - 2-Star Running Back
The Atlanta product rushed for over 1,100 yards as a junior with eight touchdowns. His senior season was cut a bit short, but he was still able to pick up over 400 yards with eight touchdowns. He had 17 other offers on the table including several P5 schools like Oregon State, Michigan State and Rutgers.
Spencer Gaddis - 3-Star Receiver
I'm officially committed to Western Kentucky University‼️ pic.twitter.com/ZyLDrOERRs— Spencer Gaddis (@spencergaddis) June 19, 2017
The Georgia wideout had 50 catches with 721 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in his senior season with Alpharetta High School. He also had offers on the table from Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, Tulane, and Utah. His high school team used him in a lot of different ways, including in the slot and gave hime a few handoffs as well. He also returned kicks. His highlight real shows he’s not a bad blocker either. The kid can do it all and could prove useful with the departures of Nacarius Fant and Cam Echols-Luper.
Trey Urquhart - 3-Star Linebacker
Linebackers coach Maurice Crum described Urquhart as a “do it all” kind of guy, which is essentially what WKU’s linebackers need to do in their system. He had a pretty productive with 86 tackles, three sacks, and an interception as a senior. Urquhart had eight others including Louisville, Tulane, Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State and Middle Tennessee.
Cardavion Myers - 3-Star Corner
According to WKU defensive coordinator Clayton White, Myers brings a good mix of “speed, toughness, and instinct” to the cornerback position. He seems like a natural leader being named the team captain as a senior at Piedmont High School. He played corner for his first three seasons in high school, but was actually his team’s quarterback as a senior, further showcasing his leadership and athletic ability. He had 14 other offers including Tulane, Appalachian State, Toledo, Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee.
Lichon Terrell - 3-Star Defensive End/Tackle
Terrell comes to Bowling Green from Callaway High School in Hogansville, Georgia. The athletic 6’2”, 260 pound defensive line hybrid was heavily sought after with 24 reported D1 offers. The #115 recruit in Georgia has great explosiveness and can shed most blocks fairly easily. He’s got all the physical tools to become something really impressive at the college level. He racked up 47 tackles, 5 for loss, and five sacks as a senior
Gunner Britton - 2-Star Offensive Tackle
Britton is the third offensive lineman committed to WKU for 2018. At 6’6” and 275 pounds, he’s certainly the right size for it. His high school offense functioned similarly to what WKU currently runs, so he already has a lot of the habits in terms of pass blocking that will help him to succeed at the next level. Britton also had offers from from Appalachian State, Eastern Michigan, Gardner-Webb, Stetson and Western Carolina. Britton will enroll early, which is great considering the improvement needed in the offensive line.
Russell Brown - 3-Star Wide Receiver
A 6’3”, 195-pound wideout from Lehigh Acres, Florida was a solid two way player in high school. A big body who’s not afraid of contact, which could prove lethal in the red zone. His other offers included Oregon, Maryland, South Carolina, USF, Florida Atlantic and Appalachian State.
Malik Occiur - 3-Star Safety
The safety/linebacker hybrid also had reported offers from FAU, Idaho, Appalachian State, Samford, and Kentucky. Occiur had previously verbally committed to Florida Atlantic back in the fall of 2016, but reopened his recruitment in February. Occiur will also enroll early, along with Connor Britton. Occiur measures just under six feet tall and weighs 189 currently. 247 Sports ranks Occiur as the #155 safety nationally and the #297 recruit in the state of Florida. He seems comfortable pretty much anywhere on the defense and exhibits some impressive acceleration when in pursuit.
Devin Bell - 3-Star Defensive End
The #78 defensive end in the nation, Bell was a team captain on his high school team that reached the state semifinals in his senior season. He had 61 tackles and 14 sacks in that campaign. He’s tall and he has long arms, which you usually see on effective edge rushers at the college and pro level. Bell also had offers from Tulane, Purdue, Southern Miss, Louisville, and Eastern Kentucky.
As far as the two signees who haven’t been announced, Sanford hinted that they are from the state of Kentucky. The only two WKU verbal commits left from the state of Kentucky are athlete Terez Traynor and cornerback Shannon Bishop. If I were a betting man, I’d say they were the ones who signed but aren’t announcing it just yet.
In other signing news related to WKU, former Tops kicker Skyler Simcox signed with West Virginia as a transfer.