With three weeks remaining until Western Kentucky’s highly-anticipated season-opener, the Hilltoppers will hit the field Saturday morning for their first full scrimmage of preseason camp.
First-year coach Mike Sanford wants to continue to polish his team from a game management standpoint, but is also excited to see them get after it wearing full pads.
“I love to play tackle – you guys who were at spring ball saw a lot of live snaps. And we’re doing as much as we can, but you also gotta be smart,” he said. “(Wednesday) was gonna be a live-tackle practice and that’s why you have a 41-year veteran (Mike Sanford Sr.) on your staff that has a great feel for making good decisions. Coach (Clayton) White and my father kind of talked me off a ledge and we went to more of a thud practice, no tackling to the ground and I liked our results.”
The Tops are scheduled to take the field at 9 a.m. (the practice is closed to the public) Saturday in what will be their 11th workout of the preseason. Sanford said to this point he’s seen ebbs and flows of progress on both sides of the ball, typical to most teams he’s been associated with.
Where the former Notre Dame offensive coordinator has been most-pleased lies in the defensive backfield were a veteran group of Marcus Ward, Drell Greene, Joe Brown and Leverick Johnson reside.
True freshman Roger Cray and redshirt-junior DeAndre Farris have filled in at cornerback for the injured De’Andre Simmons (ACL) and performed admirably to this point.
Offensively, Sanford lauded the play of his offensive line and his tight end group. The latter position is young and inexperienced and a man down after Justin Johnson decided Sunday to rejoin the basketball program.
Western also added a pair of weapons this week in Arkansas State graduate transfer Cameron Echols-Luper, a wide receiver, and senior running back Leon Allen, both of whom began to dip their toes into a practice routine with their teammates.
The Hilltoppers have seven more practices scheduled before WKU’s first day of school and the start of serious preparations for Eastern Kentucky.
“After five practices I felt like we were getting close to being game-ready. After eight practices I felt like we had a long way to go offensively and then after (Wednesday) I felt back that we’d gotten a good grasp of the new installation and we were able to go out and execute at a high level,” Sanford said. “What I was most pleased about was just their grasp and execution of the DNA of our offense. That’s what you really wanna see, because you want an identity. You wanna know who you are, what you’re good at and we saw that the first few days and now we’ve started to heap onto ‘em in terms of scheme.”
FAN FEST ALSO SCHEDULED FOR SATURDAY
Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday inside E.A. Diddle Arena, WKU will host a fan fest, an event which will include the revealing of new uniforms.
The team itself got to see its new threads Sunday during a team meeting – a team meeting which feature a video message from DJ Khaled. Sanford has also teased the new uniforms on his Twitter page.
The first 500 fans through the gates Saturday can receive free ice cream. Those bringing a piece of apparel from one of WKU’s opposing teams can have that shredded for one free ticket to a 2017 home game.
— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop