Heading into Indiana football’s matchup with Western Kentucky this weekend, we had a lot of questions.
Luckily for us, our hard-working pals over at Underdog Dynasty were willing to answer those questions. If you too would like to know more about the Hilltoppers then look no further.
WKU lost the OC wunderkind in Zach Kittley and had to replace Bailey Zappe. How did they replace those two and how is that going so far?
So far, frankly it’s going pretty well. The Tops have three Co-OCs this year with Ben Arbuckle (QB coach), Josh Crawford (receivers), and Zack Lankford (O-Line). Arbuckle is probably the most important of the three at the moment. They’ve outscored opponents 87 to 44 through two games. I know it sounds weird to call Arbuckle Kittley’s protege when Kittley is so young himself, but that’s kind of what he is. Arbuckle worked under Kittley at Houston Baptist for 2018 and 2019 and then came with Kittley to WKU in 2021 where he was hired a quality control coach, working primarily with Zappe and the rest of the QB room. So, Arbuckle’s very familiar with what made the offense good in 2021.
Austin Reed, a transfer from D-II West Florida, beat out the NCAA’s active leader in passing touchdowns and passing yardage (Jarret Doege) for the starting job in training camp. Doege quickly transferred to Troy after that. Reed looked a tad bit shaky at points in his debut against FCS Austin Peay, but he still finished that game with 280 passing yards, four touchdowns and an interception. The next week against Hawaii he threw for 271 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. His style is a bit different than Zappe’s. Zappe was more of a pure pocket guy while Reed is a bit more mobile and likes to throw on the run.
With Indiana’s offense at the forefront of many Hoosier fans’ minds, what should they expect to see from the WKU defense?
This WKU secondary is talented and experienced. The Tops are second in FBS turnovers currently with ten (7 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries). They’re solid at defending the pass and have been for some time. While it’s weird to not see two-time C-USA DPOY DeAngelo Malone out there anymore (he’s on the Atlanta Falcons now), there are a few other effective guys on this roster. In particular, Juwuan Jones is a very good, very present guy on the edge. He had a pick six against Hawaii and he barely ever gets caught out of position.
Who are some players that should be circled on a WKU depth chart?
In addition to names like Jones and Reed, o-lineman Rusty Staats and Quantavious Leslie have gotten some looks for a potential jump to the next level. Receiver Daewood Davis is a legit deep threat with impressive speed. Joshua Simon is a tight end with fantastic measurements who has been held back by injuries the last couple years, but has had a handful of spectacular plays when healthy, which he is right now.
Defensively, AJ Braithwaite is a veteran safety who can come up and play in the box when they need him to. There was some preseason hype around defensive back Kahlef Hailassie and he is doing pretty well so far. Corner Upton Stout also has two picks so far this year.
Given your knowledge of the Hilltoppers, what’s the wildest thing that could happen in this game?
If the Tops get comfortable in their offensive flow, they’ve been known to get a little tricky. Keep an eye out for some double pass plays, some reverses, and just overall looking to make something happen downfield. This staff’s not afraid to risk it for the biscuit.
WKU is going to try and establish momentum early in the game, but in the event that doesn’t happen, look for them to start taking some frequent deep shots as Austin Reed lives up to his gunslinger persona.
And don’t let Big Red eat anything he’s not supposed to eat. It upsets his tummy.