Improvement key for Holt's senior season

Western Kentucky senior linebacker Nick Holt, who led the team in tackles last season, expects the defense to be a factor in the Hilltoppers reaching their team goals

Nick Holt's first season at Western Kentucky was a success, but also one that the senior hopes significantly change this fall.

In addition to leading the team in tackles in 2014, Holt helped the Hilltoppers surprised most, if not all, of their new league mates in Conference USA. Following a 3-5 start, WKU won four straight, including a thrilling win at C-USA Champion Marshall, to close the regular season and a bowl birth. The Tops capped their season with a win over Central Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl.

While the senior celebrates WKU's accomplishments of a season ago, he's aware of the improvements that are needed. The Hilltopper defense displayed signs of improvement during the team's season ending five game winning streak, but still finished 120th in the nation for total defense, giving up 509 yards per outing.

"Our offense is one of the best in the country statistically and we were one of the worst defenses statistically," said Holt. "We hear about it in the locker room. To be honest, we don't really listen to what the media says about us, but we listen to our offensive guys say how bad we were and how great they were. That's motivation."

After a summer of training, many on the defense entered fall camp with added weight. That, along with the valuable experience of a season ago, Holt says the focus is to improve as a group to help the team reach its goals.

“The goal is to win a conference championship,” he said. “I want to play real well, but I could care less about the personal accolades and things like that. I want to win football games. I want to be good on defense and win the right way, like coach said, it's the ultimate team sport. We want to win as a team and it's not about any one individual.”

Those goals of taking the Hilltopper program to match or even surpass the preseason predictions of a C-USA East Division title and climbing into the national rankings begins immediately. WKU travels to Nashville, Tenn., on Sept. 3 to face Vanderbilt on a Thursday night, season-opening contest.

“I think its great exposure for our school, our team and our conference,” Holt said. “Playing on a Thursday night, against an SEC opponent, national television and under the lights, that's kind of what when you growing up as a kid wanting to do.”

An All-State performer at Seattle (Wash.) Prep, Holt played two seasons at City College of San Francisco, where he ranked among the nation's top junior college linebacker prospects. Part of his decision to become a Hilltopper was for the opportunity to play for his father and defensive coordinator of the same name. This season the pair are joined by a younger brother, Ben, who was an All-State selection at Bowling Green High School.

“It's pretty surreal, to be honest,” he said. “I was standing out watching practice and seeing my brother out there kind of made me do a double-take. It's a cool feeling to be able to play for your father and have a brother playing on the team. It's a family ordeal now, I guess.”

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