5 questions about Western Kentucky

Five good questions about the Hilltoppers

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 25, 2013 

1. Who will be Bobby Petrino's first WKU quarterback?

Departed senior Kawaun Jakes led Western to its upset of Kentucky in Commonwealth Stadium and its first bowl trip as a member of the FBS in 2012. His top backup last season, 6-foot-7 James Mauro, was beaten out for the job this spring and transferred. A traditional drop-back passer, junior Brandon Doughty (Davie, Fla.) came out of spring practice on top. He was being challenged by former Seneca High School star Damarcus Smith, a redshirt freshman who is a dual threat. Regardless of who wins the job, can either live up to Petrino's exacting QB standards?

2. What impact will the first two games, Kentucky and Tennessee, have on the WKU season?

Western beat Kentucky a season ago and the Cats have a new coaching staff in 2013. Tennessee is coming off three straight losing seasons and has its third new coaching staff in the past five seasons. Those are WKU's first two games. Win both, and it will launch Petrino and WKU into the national college football consciousness. Whatever happens, however, WKU must be careful not to "let down" after its two cracks at SEC schools are done.

3. Who will replace Quanterus Smith — and the rest of the WKU defensive line?

Pass-rushing specialist Smith, who recorded three sacks last year against mighty Alabama, is in camp with the Denver Broncos as a fifth-round draft choice. Western will essentially be breaking in a new starting defensive front in 2013. That might be especially good news for UK — in the past two seasons, Kentucky rushed for 41 yards (2012) and 93 yards (2011) against the old WKU defensive line. 4. Can Petrino immediately build an offense that short-circuits scoreboards?

In his Louisville days, Petrino's attacks made scoreboards light up like the Las Vegas strip. His 2004 Cardinals averaged a stunning 49.8 points a game. In 2005, it was 43.3 and in 2006 it was 37.3. Even the coach's first U of L team in 2003 put 34.6 points a game on the board. However, Petrino's first Arkansas team in 2008 scored only 21.8 points a contest and went 5-7.

5. How will WKU handle the likely (OK, inevitable) Petrino job-switch drama?

If the Western season is a boffo success, one can expect the rumors linking Petrino to more prominent jobs to fire up in a big way. At least until his Arkansas days, flirting with other jobs was Bobby P.'s M.O. For WKU, the question is whether such talk creates enough of a distraction that it negatively impacts the team late in the year.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.

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