Following a campaign that resulted in the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers claiming the C-USA East title and their second bowl win under Tyson Helton, a reload was needed.
Key names like Bailey Zappe, DeAngelo Malone, Jerreth Sterns and Mason Brooks have left for other opportunities or graduated. Fortunately for WKU fans, Tyson Helton’s staff managed to nab 25 total signees in the 2022 class, several of which will have an immediate impact. More still have the potential to develop into important pieces in the next two to three years.
Here are five names that Tops fans should quickly get familiar with. Find the full signing class at the bottom of this post.
Jarret Doege - Quarterback - 6’2” 210 lbs - West Virginia (Transfer)
The most noticeable departure from the 2021 WKU team will be quarterback Bailey Zappe, who broke the NCAA single-season record for passing touchdowns and passing yardage. With last year’s addition of offensive coordinator Zach Kittley, the Air Raid was mighty kind to WKU. Kittley may be at Texas Tech now, but Ben Arbuckle learned quite a bit from him that should translate fairly well.
Transfer to transfer for the TD! @WVUfootball QB Jarret Doege (@DoegeJarret) finds WR George Campbell (@GeorgeCampbell0) begins the defense to get on the board early!#WNSFilm pic.twitter.com/NkVSbkrz0x— Brandon Olsen (@WNS_Brandon) November 19, 2019
Making that transition even easier will be the addition of the active NCAA D1 leader in yards (10,494) and touchdowns (79) in former West Virginia and Bowling Green State quarterback Jarret Doege. This also marks is the second consecutive year that WKU has signed the D1 active leader in passing after Zappe transferred in from Houston Baptist in 2021.
Doege has played a lot of football...that’s how you get to 10,000 career passing yards. However, based on a few tough years with some mistakes in critical moments for West Virginia, Doege surely wants to end his college career by showing he is still capable of fulfilling the potential he showed in his first two seasons at BGSU.
Vinnie Murphy - Offensive Lineman - 6’2” 300 lbs - South Carolina (Transfer)
Murphy has experience playing every position along the offensive line, but will likely see time at center and guard based on his experience at South Carolina and what he has listed in his Twitter bio. The Fort Lauderdale native’s experience will be critical to a Tops’ offensive line that’s looking noticeably young at the moment.
While the above clip is from Murphy’s high school days at St. Thomas Aquinas, it shows a quality he still has and is great to see in a fast-paced offense. He can get down the field quickly and plays until the whistle. Even when he’s on the opposite side of the field as the ball, he wants to find a way to be a difference maker.
Michael Mathison - Wide Receiver - 5’10” 180 lbs - Akron (Transfer)
As a redshirt sophomore in 2021 at Akron, Michael Mathison caught 56 passes for 706 yards with three touchdowns. Mathis on has also demonstrated ability as a kick returner, so he may be an important piece in that phase as well.
Mathison rounds out a promising receiver corps that also includes Daewood Davis, Malachi Corley, and Western Michigan transfer Jaylin Hall. One of the keys to an effective Air Raid offense is giving the quarterback plenty of targets in the middle of the field and Mathison definitely brings that ability to Arbuckle’s offense.
Caden Veltkamp - Quarterback - 6’5” 215 lbs - Bowling Green, Kentucky
Plenty of folks in the Bluegrass State already know the name Caden Veltkamp. Veltkamp led Bowling Green’s South Warren High School to State Championships in 2018 and 2021.
Throwback to Aug. 24, 2019, after Caden Veltkamp made his first start at quarterback for South Warren in a 33-20 win over Butler at Houchens-Smith Stadium. His last game with the Spartans ends with a state championship. He’ll be heading to Western Kentucky next. https://t.co/INDoj9rFxI pic.twitter.com/WLAIngRQRV— Jared MacDonald (@JMacDonaldSport) December 5, 2021
Veltkamp staying home with the Tops is exciting for a few reasons. For one, while it isn’t necessary to be 6’5” to be an effective quarterback in FBS, it definitely helps. It’s definitely one reason why he had such strong downfield vision at the high school level.
While nobody’s expecting him to take the reins in 2022, the future looks very bright under center for the Tops with Veltkamp already enrolled at WKU.
Trent Zappe - Linebacker - 6’0” 215 lbs - Victoria, Texas
The younger brother of the record-setting quarterback, Zappe was offered by Tyson Helton right after the Tops’ victory in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Zappe led Victoria East with 148 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery last season. It seems unlikely that Zappe will play an immediate role as a freshman, but given a year to continue to develop and learn under defensive coordinator Maurice Crum and company, that will likely change in future seasons. Zappe was a huge contributor at Victoria East from his sophomore season on, which shows he’s a quick learner. He might have big shoes to fill thanks to his brother, but Zappe seems intent on making the most of his only FBS offer.
Full signing Class as of 2/6/22
WKU Football 2022 Signing Class
|Name||Position||Height||Weight||Year||Most Recent School||Hometown|
|Name||Position||Height||Weight||Year||Most Recent School||Hometown|
|Wyatt Anderson||OL||6'3"||290 LBS||Freshman||The Heritage School||Newman, GA|
|Desmyn Baker||LB||6'2"||230 LBS||Junior||Rice||Clinton, MS|
|Anthony Breckenridge||LB||6'2"||195 LBS||Freshman||Sandalwood High School||Jacksonville, FL|
|Jarret Doege||QB||6'2"||210 LBS||Graduate||West Virginia||Lubbock, TX|
|Tom Ellard||P||5'10"||190 LBS||Junior||Prokick Australia||Melbourne, Australia|
|Dareon Goodrum||DT||6'1"||290 LBS||Junior||East Central CC (MS)||Athens, GA|
|Kylan Guidry||DE||6'4"||230 LBS||Sophomore||Kilgore College||Opelusas, LA|
|Jaylen Hall||WR||6'4"||185 LBS||Graduate||Western Michigan||Macomb, MI|
|Turner Helton||QB||6'3"||175 LBS||Freshman||Palos Verdes HS||Palos Verdes, CA|
|Lorenzo Hernandez||DT||6'1"||270 LBS||Graduate||Monmouth||Cherry Hill, NJ|
|KD Hutchinson||WR||5'7"||175 LBS||Freshman||Harris County HS||Pine Mountain, GA|
|Keaton Law||DL||6'4"||235 LBS||Freshman||Saraland HS||Saraland, AL|
|Virgil Marshall||S||5'11"||180 LBS||Freshman||Cocoa HS||Rockledge, FL|
|Michael Mathison||WR||5'10"||180 LBS||Junior||Akron||Covington, GA|
|Easton Messer||WR||5'10"||180 LBS||Freshman||Christian Academy||Louisville, KY|
|Vincent Murphy||OL||6'2"||300 LBS||Redshirt Sophomore||South Carolina||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|Marcus Patterson||DE||6'4"||235 LBS||Freshman||Crestview HS||Crestview, FL|
|Luke Slusher||OL||6'5"||285 LBS||Freshman||Beechwood HS||Edgewood, KY|
|Amaari Smith||CB||6'1"||175 LBS||Freshman||MTI Preparatory||Pompano Beach, FL|
|Upton Stout||DB||5'9"||170 LBS||Redshirt Freshman||North Texas||Houston, TX|
|Darius Thomas||S||6'2"||190 LBS||Freshman||Miramar HS||Hollywood, FL|
|Caden Veltkamp||QB||6'5"||215 LBS||Freshman||South Warren HS||Bowling Green, KY|
|Rome Weber||S||5'11"||195 LBS||Redshirt Junior||Wyoming||San Bernardino, CA|
|Evan Wibberly||OL||6'5"||270 LBS||Freshman||Dixie Heights HS||Edgewood, KY|
|Trent Zappe||LB||6'0"||215 LBS||Freshman||Victoria East HS||Victoria, TX|