With a pair of WKU's leading receivers from the 2015 season having completed their eligibility, head coach Jeff Brohm is looking for a few new playmakers to step up into those roles. Jared Dangerfield and Antwane Grant combined for 137 receptions for 1,555 yards and 15 touchdowns during the Hilltoppers impressive campaign last fall, so there are plenty of opportunities for those hoping to make an impression on the coaching staff.
Among those competing for more time this fall is redshirt sophomore Will Bush. A product of Louisville Ballard, Bush didn't start his football career until his junior season. A state champion in the 100m, Bush became an immediate key figure for Ballard, where he garnered District Player of the Year and Second Team All-State honors as a senior.
His ability to stretch the field with his speed quickly drew the attention of Jeff Brohm, who was in his first year as the Hilltoppers offensive coordinator.
"I recruited him when I was an assistant here and he has track speed, he can run," said Brohm, now WKU's third-year head coach. "When you get a guy that can run like that you want to develop his skills, we've doing that for the past two and half years, so it's now time for him to step forward."
Bush displayed his progress during the program's Red-White Spring Game, proving he's capable of becoming a difference-maker for the Hilltoppers in 2016. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Bush led all receivers with eight catches for 169 yards. He scored on 66-yard and 38-yard touchdowns.
It capped off a spring that had its share of highlights, but also moments when a small lack of focus resulted in a dropped ball. It was also a spring that saw Bush continue to put in extra effort as he continues to learn his craft.
"He's been a little inconsistent, but he probably makes more big plays than some of our others," said Brohm. "He's got speed to go deep that is hard to teach. He works extremely hard. You can coach him hard. The great thing about him is that he's a competitor and wants to do it. We had scrimmages where I would get on him pretty hard and he would text me later and thank me because he feels like he's making progress."
Bush appeared in six games last fall, hauling in one reception for eight yards and rushing twice for 18 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers are certain to climb as the Hilltoppers defend their Conference USA crown this season.
"I just try to get better everyday," he said. "Coach Brohm pushes me and I thank him for that, but I just need to discipline myself to look the ball into the tuck."
Bush has had the opportunity to lean on some of the better receivers to ever wear a Hilltopper uniform, in Dangerfield and senior Taywan Taylor. Both established new standards for WKU receivers. Dangerfield, the only player in WKU history to enjoy back-to-back seasons with at least 60 receptions, ranks among the program's leaders in career receptions and receiving touchdowns. Taylor broke the single-season receiving touchdowns, receiving yards and receptions record at WKU last season.
"They are like my brothers," Bush said. "They push me. They know I'll be good."
Confidence is also key to success and following a spring that provided a glimpse into his potential, Bush believes it is just a matter of time until he becomes a big-play receiver for the Hilltoppers.
"I think I can make it," he said. "It's going to take some time, but I can make it."
The opportunity is there, and with his speed serving as a possible game-changer for WKU, Brohm's hope is that the time has arrived.
"He's a guy that we would love to make plays for us."