In addition to several junior college and high school commitments, WKU expects to reload at the position with help from Class of 2013 linebacker Isaac Tanner.
A standout at Freedom (Fla.) HS, the former two-star signed with WKU last February, but used a "greyshirt" opportunity to rehab from surgery for a torn labrum injury, suffered during his senior season.
"At first, I thought I would still go ahead and enroll," Tanner said, upon learning his shoulder injury required surgery. "But I talked about it with the (WKU) coaches, I probably would have been rushed rehab and all that, I probably wouldn't have been 100 percent and would have hurt it again.
"So being able to stay home a few months allowed me to focus solely on rehab, getting back to full strength and not wasting any eligibility."
The 6-foot, 218-pound outside linebacker said he's spent his recovery time working out with two trainers, one for the weight room, the other for shoulder rehab.
"I've been able to maintain, gain back what I lost from the surgery," he said. "It was a long process, but slowly but surely over the last 3-4 months, I've gotten my strength back.
"I feel like I'm leaner since high school, I lost about 15 pounds but I'm just as strong."
It's been a roller-coaster 18 months for Tanner, who was originally recruited by former Topper head coach Willie Taggart's staff.
He drove 15+ hours from Tampa to Bowling Green for WKU's summer prospect camp, and after performing well, earned an offer and eventually committed to the program.
Then Taggart and most of his staff left for South Florida, right down the street from Tanner's childhood home--but new WKU head coach Bobby Petrino managed to retain his commitment.
"I spent a lot of time with Coach Petrino and Coach Holt before I signed," Tanner said. "They made in-home visits, I stayed in contact with them throughout this process.
"Then I came in for the last game of the season (against Arkansas State), got to spend a lot of time with Coach Holt then."
Besides the season finale against Arkansas State, the outside linebacker spent a lot of time watching WKU's other games throughout the season, learning as much as he could about his future teammates playing styles.
Now, he's finally ready for his chance.
"I'm ready to play," Tanner said. "I got to watch a lot of those guys all year, it feels like it's been a lot longer than it has been.
"I'm happy with the way the program is headed and excited to get started."
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