Mike Sanford Jr.’s Western Kentucky Hilltoppers began spring practice on Thursday afternoon for the first time under the new head coach. While the reigning back-to-back Conference USA champs have plenty to be optimistic about, there’s plenty of concerns to address in the coming weeks, namely replacing some key starters.
Here’s a friendly reminder that all of WKU’s spring practices are open to the public, so feel free to take it in and speculate for yourself what the new look Tops have in store for the Fall.
Mainly, the Tops need to restock on the O-Line with three open starting positions up for grabs and likely first-round pick Forrest Lamp preparing for the NFL. In the first couple of practices, the first team consisted of Matt Nord at RT, returning starter Dennis Edwards at RG, Seth Joest at center, returning starter Brandon Ray at LG, and Jimmie Sims at LT.
Another dilemma that WKU needs to figure out is who will step into Taywan Taylor’s massive shoes in the pass game. Speedy freshman Lucky Jackson has the chance to help with that in Sanford’s new pass heavy system.
Arguably the biggest news out of the first two spring practices was the return of redshirt senior running back Leon Allen after a significant knee injury all the way back in 2015. Allen finished the 2014 season with 1,542 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns, and a C-USA best 2,018 yards from scrimmage. Allen also broke the school and conference single-game record with 345 yards against Army in 2014.
While the team and coaching staff have reportedly been very impressed with his performance in offseason conditioning and weightlifting, Allen still needs to complete his undergraduate degree over the summer in order to be academically eligible to play in the fall.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe is beginning to step into a bigger role after being a supporting player the past two years. Chad Bishop of WBKO in Bowling Green had a great story on Friday on Iyiegbuniwe being ready for a new challenge.
The Tops are back at it on Tuesday, March 28th, to begin the second week of spring practice. Head on down and you might even get to meet a few players like these kiddos who threw up the W with Coach Sanford.