With just a little more than a week remaining until WKU begins defense of its Conference USA title, head coach Jeff Brohm continues to push his team through the final days of fall camp. The Hilltoppers will open the 2016 season at home on Thursday, Sept. 1, in a key league contest against Rice.
In the first ever meeting between the two programs, the Hilltoppers defeated the Owls 49-10 in Houston, Tex., last fall en route to its undefeated run through league play. As the only program's opening the season against a league foe, the winner will enjoy a quick start for what is expected to be a challenging C-USA season. In the preseason media poll, WKU was projected to finish second in the East Division, with Rice being the third choice in the West Division.
The game, which will be broadcast on CBSSN, will feature a new face at quarterback for the Hilltoppers. Led by Brandon Doughty for the past three seasons, WKU will be led by someone else this fall and the healthy competition that began in the spring continues into the final days of the preseason.
"We're going to let that play out a little bit longer," Brohm said following Thursday's practice.
Since spring practice and through fall camp scrimmages, the trio of veterans - Mike White, Tyler Ferguson and Drew Eckels - have all enjoyed outings that have left the offensive coaching staff impressed and possibly leaning in their direction, but have also struggled with lapses that has allowed the competition to remain tight.
In fall camp, it has become the development of each and their deepening understanding of the offense has fueled the length of the competition, but Brohm added that things are "starting to narrow down."
True freshman Steven Duncan has also provided stiff competition and has proven to be a quick study of the playbook.
Quarterback is one of two key spots on the offensive side of the ball that will feature a new face, as the search for the first team tight end also continues late into camp.
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"We really have no one with any experience that has caught any balls," said Brohm.
While competition for the two key spots remains late into fall camp, it hasn't deterred the team from prepping for the first game.
"We always try to have a 15 minute segment on Rice every day, so we'll continue with that," said Brohm.
However, the loss of All-Conference performers at those positions have cast some doubt from the nationally media about WKU's ability to maintain its recent success.
"There's a lot of people out there that don't think this team will be any good because those guys left," Brohm explained. "It's up to our guys on the team, and the coaches, to prove that they can somehow continue the success that we've had and build a little bit of consistency."