With WKU football's season opener against Bowling Green only three weeks away, here are the five major storylines from Week 1 of camp.
Dangerfield (No. 21) and Grant (No. 13) both look talented enough to start, but McNeal (No. 10) is a veteran senior, and Taylor (No. 2) and Norris (No. 15) were both valuable in 2013 as true freshmen. Fans attending Saturday's scrimmage should definitely keep an eye on who gets the most reps.
2) Talent, but inexperience at linebacker: It's a tall order for WKU to replace Andrew Jackson (drafted by the NFL's Indianapolis Colts,) Xavius Boyd (Sun Belt Defensive Player-of-the-Year,) and senior Chuck Franks at linebacker. What the Tops lost in experience at the position group, they're trying to make up with talent and depth.
Nick Holt (No. 10, junior college transfer,) and returner Daqual Randall (No. 9, junior,) have both looked impressive. Outside linebackers Devante Duclos (No. 6, sophomore,) and Dejon Brown (No. 17, junior college transfer,) chose WKU over combined offers from Tennessee, North Carolina State, Syracuse, Arizona, Iowa State and Marshall, among others. Terran Williams, at the remaining OLB spot, is a senior. It will still take time and game experience for the unit to gel, but linebacker could be the "most improved" position group as the season rolls on.
3) Offensive line depth: When asked for areas of concern after Thursday's practice, head coach Jeff Brohm said, "Right now we need to continue to develop the offensive line. We don’t have as much depth there as we would like."
Cam Clemmons and Max Halpin, both projected starters, were held out of practice on Thursday. Halpin's primary backup at center (according to the preseason depth chart,) Derrick Stark, also didn't practice.
Brohm said the injuries were minor, but those are players WKU absolutely needs back to get ready for Bowling Green.
"Those are guys that gotta get healthy," Brohm said. "Those are both--all three of them are starters for us, or at least right in the mix for it.
"We’d love to have them out here every day but right now they’re nursing a few things and hopefully we can get them back soon."
4) Cam Thomas--Shutdown corner?: The senior with the most NFL-hype on the roster entering this season, Thomas (No. 19) will be relied on to lead a secondary that lost safety Jonathan Dowling (drafted by the NFL's Oakland Raiders,) and other big contributors to graduation.
Having a shutdown corner on the roster gives a few nice advantages to the team defense. For example, many teams will throw less towards an elite corner, allowing WKU to rotate more defenders to the weaker (other) side.
Thomas has looked the part in camp, but Conference USA has much better talent across the board than many Sun Belt teams did. Will WKU be able to leave Thomas on an island occasionally against offenses like Marshall? Certainly a guy to keep an eye on.
The big question is, who takes over in 2015? True freshman Drew Eckels (No. 7) and Alabama transfer Parker McLeod (No. 16, redshirt freshman,) have both looked good throwing the ball in camp, and look to be the primary contenders.
Since neither are expected to play much this season (McLeod must sit out because of NCAA transfer rules,) these practice reps are even more vital to their development. Fans who get a chance to make Saturday's scrimmage, or another practice next week, should certainly watch the duo in drills.
Stay tuned with WKUInsider.com for the latest in WKU recruiting and team news.