The safety position provided its share of highlight plays in 2014 and with both starters returning, even more should be in store for 2015.
With juniors Brandon Leston and and Marcus Ward are back for the much more experienced Hilltoppers defense. At 6-foot-3, both provide great length and with each registering 63 tackles last season they both display the ability to find the ball quickly.
Sophomore Leverick Johnson, who appeared in 11 games last season, along with redshirt freshman Martavius Mims help make up the two-deep at the position. Johnson was a standout for the Toppers special teams and was reserve safety in 2014, recording 20 tackles. Mims was a All-State performer as a high school senior at Muscle Shoals, Ala., in 2013.
Branden Leston, junior
A former walk-on who transferred to WKU after spending a season at Division II Presbyterian College, Leston became an impact performer in 2014. The Clearwater, Fla., native became the Hilltoppers starting free safety midway through the season, finishing with seven starts.
He quickly made his presence known, finishing as the team's leader with four interceptions and ranking tied for third with 63 tackles. By season's end, Leston was the only Hilltopper to record a statistic in at least seven categories.
It's hard to forget his impact in WKU's trilling win at Marshall in the regular season finale when he registered three interceptions, the second-highest one game total in program history. His efforts in that game earned him CFPA Defensive Player of the Week honors.
With an increased role in 2015, Leston appears poised for a breakout season.
Martavius Mims, r-freshman
While we expect that Ward and Leston will clock the majority of the minutes at the spot, there is a need for depth to develop at safety and after spending a year bulking up and learning the defensive schemes, redshirt freshman Martavius Mims has an opportunity to become a key addition.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound safety racked up a number of accolades following his senior season that helped Muscle Shoals (Ala.) reach the state 5A championship game. He was named All-State honorable mention, first team All-Area and second-team All-Tennessee Valley.
** Redshirt freshman DeAndre Farris converted from wide receiver to safety during the spring and will provide needed depth. Farris was a first-team All-State performer at Shelbyville (Ky.) Collins.
** WKU inked 6-foot, 195-pound Jason Johnson in the 2015 recruiting class. The Pahokee, Fla., product was the Defensive MVP in the 2014 Florida-Georgia All-Star game.
** Up next in our continuing position series will be a look at the Hilltopper running backs.