BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - The WKU football program welcomed eight early enrollees to the Hill during the first week of classes for the 2013 spring semester. The eight Hilltopper newcomers began class on Monday, January 21 at WKU, with six of the newcomers hailing from the junior college ranks, while two others graduated high school early and began collegiate classes.
Head coach Bobby Petrino and the Hilltopper football program welcomed defensive linemen Maurice Bennett (East Mississippi Community College) and Raphael Cox (Trinity Valley Community College), offensive linemen John Delaney (Ventura College) and Connor Popeck (Itawamba Community College), along with defensive back Dalton Patterson (Arkansas Baptist College) and wide receiver Lonnie Turner (Los Angeles Harbor College) from the junior college ranks. Offensive lineman Kyle Jones (Mulberry High School) and linebacker Devante Duclos (Miami Central High School) enrolled at WKU after graduating early from high school.
"It is always exciting to get signees on campus early and enrolled in classes for the spring semester," Petrino said. "Having all eight of these young men here for the spring is a great benefit to our program and will allow these student-athletes to get acclimated right away. I am really proud of the way all eight have come in right away and are looking to make an impact both on and off the field here at WKU. I can't wait to see all of them compete and continue to improve throughout this offseason."
Maurice Bennett, a 6-2, 300-pound defensive lineman from Olive Branch, Miss., comes to WKU after playing in nine games with East Mississippi Community College in 2012. Bennett posted 11 tackles, including a tackle for a loss and forced a fumble from his defensive tackle position in 2012. Bennett stayed in his home state of Mississippi following his prep career at Madison Central High School in Mississippi, racking up 30 tackles along the defensive line during his senior season in high school. Bennett was ranked in the top 100 in the nation for defensive tackles coming out of high school by Scout.com following the 2012 season and was originally committed to the University of California while in high school.
Raphael Cox, a 6-3, 270-pound defensive lineman from Athens, Texas played his junior college ball at Trinity Valley Community College, tallying 22 tackles in eight games in 2012. As a prep standout at Trinity Christian High School in Texas, Cox was named an all-district defensive lineman, along with an honorable mention all-district mention as an offensive lineman following his senior season in high school. During his final year in high school, Cox racked up 76 total tackles, to go along with a pair of sacks and forced two fumbles. The defensive lineman had two different games in which he posted double-digit tackles, while never finishing a game with less than five total tackles in any game during his senior season. Cox was originally committed to the University of New Mexico.
On the opposite side of the ball, offensive lineman John Delaney comes to WKU after signing with the Hilltoppers from Ventura College in California. The 6-6, 310-pound offensive lineman helped the Patriots average 346 yards per game offensively, including over 125 yards per game on the ground. The Ventura offense also averaged 30 points per game in 2012, as Delaney helped the Patriots to a 10-1 season in 2012 after going 7-4 in 2011 in Delaney's first season. Delaney played at Ventura College after playing his high school ball at Weatherford High School in Fort Worth, Texas.
Joining Delaney on the offensive front is Connor Popeck, a 6-4, 295-pound offensive lineman from Itawamba Community College in Mississippi. Popeck played at Itawamba after finishing a high school career at St. Georges High School in Tennessee that featured a state championship and a perfect season in 2008. Popeck earned all-state honors in both 2007 and 2008, and was named the defensive player of the year in 2008. At Itawamba, Popeck anchored an offensive front that guided the Indians to an average of over 130 yards per game on the ground, averaging nearly four yards per carry in 2012. The Itawamba offensive line powered the Indians to a pair of games of over 200 yards rushing, including a season-high 254 yards on the ground on October 11 against Coahoma Community College.
Defensive back Dalton Patterson comes to WKU by way of Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, Ark. The 6-3, 188-pound defensive back played in nine games at Arkansas Baptist in 2012, recording 25 total tackles in nine games. Patterson forced a fumble and recovered a fumble during the year, while also breaking up a pair of passes in the defensive backfield. The New Orleans, La., native played his high school ball at O. Perry High School in Louisiana, leading the team to a 9-4 record his senior season in 2010.
Wide receiver Lonnie Turner caught 25 passes for 485 yards in nine games with Los Angeles Harbor College in 2012, averaging over 50 yards per game receiving for the Seahawks. The 5-10, 170-pound wide receiver played two seasons with Los Angeles Harbor, leading the team in receiving yards in 2011, while finishing third on the team in receptions and receiving yards in 2012. Turner averaged over nine yards per reception in his final season with the Seahawks, while reeling in one touchdown. The California native played his high school ball at Serra High School, guiding the team to a 15-0 season during his junior campaign, and a 14-1 season in his senior season of 2010. Turner's high school squad won an impressive 29 consecutive games, losing its final game of the 2010 season to end the streak.
Aside from the six junior college enrollees, WKU also welcomed a pair of early high school enrollees. High school offensive lineman standout Kyle Jones makes his way to WKU after concluding his prep career at Mulberry High School in Florida. The 6-4, 300-pound offensive lineman led the Panthers to a five-win season in 2012, including ending the season with back-to-back wins. Jones anchored an offensive front that scored 84 combined points in its final two games of the season, outscoring the opposition 84-12 in those final two contests.
Linebacker Devante Duclos will join Kyle Jones as the pair of early enrollees from the high school ranks, as Duclos comes to WKU after a high school playing career at Miami Central High School in Florida. The Rockets were ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation entering the 2012 season by USA Today, finishing the 2012 campaign with a 12-2 record. Miami Central opened the season with a nationally televised game against Loganville Grayson High School out of Georgia. Duclos, a 6-0, 216-pound linebacker, helped Miami Central to a state title in 2012, which was the school's second state championship in the last three seasons.
The eight early enrollees have started classes at WKU and are eligible to participate with the WKU football team immediately. Additionally, quarterback Demarcus Smith is also officially eligible to join the WKU football program after sitting out the 2012 season. Smith is enrolled for classes for the 2013 spring semester. Smith was rated as a four-star quarterback by Rivals.com after finishing his high school career at Seneca High School in Louisville, Ky. Smith threw for over 2,600 yards and 26 touchdowns in his final season at Seneca, scoring 30 touchdowns, including 26 through the air.