WKU PREVIEW: Five Days and Counting

Bloomington - It's five days and counting until the Hoosiers open the 2008 season against Western Kentucky. There are a handful of interesting things to know about IU's opening foe, including a couple of familiar names on the coaching staff...

1 – year remaining for Western Kentucky football before it's officially a I-A program. In 2007, Coach Dave Elson's program began the first of a two-year "transitional" process of leaving the former I-AA ranks to go I-A. Beginning in 2009, the Hilltoppers will be a part of the Sun Belt Conference. WKU enjoyed a great deal of success recently at the I-AA level, advancing to the I-AA playoffs for five straight years (2000-04) and winning the 2002 I-AA national title. The 2008 campaign figures to be a challenging one for the Hilltoppers, who are technically an independent this season. Among the heavyweights on their schedule are Indiana (Aug. 30), Alabama (Sept. 13), Kentucky (Sept. 27) and Virginia Tech (Oct. 4).

2 – very familiar names on the Hilltoppers' coaching staff. The first is assistant head coach T.J. Weist, who was an assistant coach on Cam Cameron's IU staff from 1997-01 before departing to join the WKU staff. He's been with the Hilltoppers ever since, serving as an assistant from 2002-06 before adding the assistant head coaching title to his job description in 2007. The other familiar name is offensive coordinator Kevin Wright. The second-year WKU assistant was a very successful high school coach in Indiana and Oklahoma, highlighted by his six-year stint at Warren Central from 2000-05. He coached current Hoosiers Jerimy Finch, Jeff Boyd, Andrew McDonald and Chris Adkins all the way through their junior seasons and won state titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

247.2 – rushing yards/game last season for the Hilltoppers, who finished 7-5. Western Kentucky returns its three primary ball carriers from a year ago, including 5'10", 190-pound tailback Tyrell Hayden who rushed for 1,134 and touchdowns in 2007. Also back are 5'10", 200-pound senior Stephen Willis from Indianapolis' Warren Central H.S. (56 carries, 438 yards, 6 TDs in '07) and 5'9", 215-pound junior Marell Booker (50 carries, 381 yards, 5 TDs in '07). Western Kentucky ran for at least 200 yards in nine of its 12 games last season, including a season-high 380 in a 56-7 win over Indiana State.

2 – common foes for Indiana and Western Kentucky in 2007 – Ball State and Indiana State. Coach Bill Lynch's team whipped Indiana State in the season opener 55-7 and then came back in week 10 to top Ball State 38-20 for its sixth win of the regular season. The Hilltoppers also crushed Indiana State by a very similar 59-7 score, but were bounced by Ball State 35-12 despite totaling 411 yards of total offense and 222 on the ground.

14 – starters returning from last year's WKU squad, including seven on each side of the ball. One of the new offensive starters, though, is anything but unproven. Six-foot-four, 295-pound left tackle Greg Ryan will be back on the field this fall after sitting out the 2007 season as a redshirt. Arguably the best player on the team, the fifth-year senior redshirted last season at the request of his coach so that he could play in 2008 and help the team manage a challenging schedule as it transitions to the I-A level. He was an honorable mention I-AA All-American in 2006.

What's coming up:
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-Ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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