2018 Western Kentucky projections on the Hour Glass
By Mitch Davis
The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky are coming off a disappointing season by the Hilltoppers standard. The Hilltoppers are used to competing for conference championships and winning bowl games, and those two did not happen this year, as the Hilltoppers dropped the Auto Cure Bowl to Georgia State and missed the conference championship game.
Western Kentucky will look to have a bounce-back year under second-year head coach Mike Sanford who is 6-7 overall at WKU and 0-1 in bowl games.
Last season on the hill, Western Kentucky was a very big pass first team- even leading Washington State at one point in the season. With that being said, the Hilltoppers lost a key part to last season’s team in the loss of quarterback Mike White. The 2018 outlook for the Hilltoppers on the offensive side of the ball looks to be one of interest for the fans in Bowling Green.
First look for the upcoming season in Bowling Green will be the massive quarterback battle taking place. Drew Eckels will battle it out with Steven Duncan, Eckels will likely have the upper hand having backed up Mike White for two years. Eckels comes into the battle having completed 15 of 24 passes over three years. Duncan is a sophomore QB who hasn’t seen any action in a Hilltopper uniform.
Western, with being a pass-first offense, lacked productivity on the running game in 2017. With four running backs returning for the 2018 season, it will be very interesting to see how Western Kentucky will adapt to the ever-changing ways of the C-USA. The Hilltoppers merely averaged a combined 3.5 yards per carry.
The Hilltoppers lost three starting guards from last seasons team including two all-conference players in Brandon Ray and Matt Nord. They leave behind Dennis Edwards and a few nonstarters from last season. That has been one of the highlighted points of emphasis for Hilltopper nation heading into next season.
On defense, the Hilltoppers return four key players from last season’s team. Devon Key, Ta’Corian Darden, Drell Greene, and DeAndre Farris all return in 2018 to make a very stacked WKU secondary. The Hilltopper secondary ranked within the top 40 in the country last season and will look to continue that push into 2018.
The defensive line is a little thinner and will likely cause problems for Western Kentucky heading into 2018. The Hilltoppers lost Lyiegbuniwe ( Declared for the NFL early), Johnson, and end Derik Overstreet which were huge losses for Western Kentucky. Those three were the driving force behind the stunt Hilltopper defense.
Special teams for Western Kentucky will be a huge upside to the Hilltoppers team in 2018. Punter Jake Collins returns for the Hilltoppers in 2018, Collins was huge for the special teams last season averaging 40 yards per punt. With a punter like that the Hilltoppers will look to be one one of the best special team units in the C-USA.
In conclusion, the Hilltoppers will look to make a push at the Conference USA crown and a birth in yet another bowl game. Coach Sanford will likely have his team ready to compete in 2018 and have Hilltopper nation on the edge of their seats heading into 2018.
HG analytics pick for 2018: 5-7
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 86th –OUTSIDE our College Football Playoff bust line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Mike Sanford on HG Scale: 80th (Sanford Stamp at 0) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning Western Kentucky Quarterback play rated 111th in the country in our Division One Rankings with a stamp of 1.1. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3.