Leon Allen will not practice this spring, not unexpected news from Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm.
The third-year coach did, however, update the status Monday of his star running back who suffered a devastating knee injury in September.
“(Allen’s) worked extremely hard,” Brohm said. “Things maybe haven’t gone exactly the way we wanted from the get-go. I think he understands what he has to do to get back, now it’s just gonna be a matter of finding a way to get there.
“It’s hard for me to predict how that will end. Will it be as fast and as speedy as we would’ve liked? Probably not. I think that he is starting to turn the corner a little bit. It’s gonna be hard to tell. I think he’s gonna work hard to do everything he can, we’re gonna do everything we can to assist him – but he still has plenty of work to do.”
Allen was lost for the 2015 season Sept. 10 against Louisiana Tech when leaping for a high pass and getting hit on the knee. That hit detoured what was supposed to be the finishing touches on an impressive career before the Bradenton, Fla., native was drafted this spring.
Instead, the 6-foot, 235-pound running back is stuck on 2,353 rushing yards, 746 receiving yards, and 26 total touchdowns after 37 games for WKU. He was granted by the NCAA a medical hardship waiver and is eligible to play this season if cleared.
Allen would provide a major boost to the Hilltoppers’ offense should he return.
“He’s gonna continue to rehab,” Brohm said. "I think by the end of spring, beginning of summer, we’ll have an idea of maybe when he would be able to come back. But I think it’s still too early to tell based on me talking to our trainer and our doctors.”
New kids on the staff
Western Kentucky has five new full-time coaches on staff this season. The adjustment period for everyone has already begun.
“Coach (Ricky Brumfield called me when he left for UTSA – I wanted him to stay because me and coach Brumfield had good chemistry together,” WKU senior safety Marcus Ward said. “I think we added – I’m slow on names – I know we got a new defensive ends coach. I knew him when he was at UAB.
“Other than that, I guess I’ll meet some of the new coaches on the offensive side when we start practice. But I’m liking it. They bring new energy and new ideas and that’s always good for the process and progress going forward.”
Ward’s defensive coordinator Nick Holt and secondary coach Mike Cassisty remained with the team. But on the offensive side of the ball, WKU brought in Brian Brohm to coach quarterbacks, moved Bryan Ellis from coaching the running backs to coaching the wide receivers, added Tony Levine to work with the tight ends, and hired Chris Barclay to coach the running backs.
It’s the first major shift in staff in the Brohm era.
“I love that we got coach Ellis,” WKU senior wide receiver Taywan Taylor said. “I was actually anxious to see who would we would get for receivers coach and then when I heard we promoted coach Ellis I felt good about that because he’s familiar with the whole group. He knows what to expect from everybody.
“I’m looking to come in and come through for him and do what he’s asking of me.”
Jeff Brohm also hired Reggie Johnson to coach his defensive ends and Dale Williams to coach his offensive line. Brohm spoke Monday about how he expects marked improvement in his team’s special teams under Levine and about how much he values the experience Williams brings to the table.
He also noted how his brother Brian Brohm and some of the younger staff members have helped in recruiting.
“With all the Twitter techniques and the ways that we gotta reach these guys, they’ve done a great job of it and spent a lot of time with it,” Jeff Brohm said. “That’s one area we wanna continue to do well in is getting the best players in here. I like the staff we have. I think they’ve meshed well to this point. All of ‘em like football. They’re eager and willing and hopefully we’ll have a great year.”
A new shade of red for Brown, Dawson-Brents
The Tops lost seven defensive starters from the 2015 squad. The quick fix? A duo of Louisville graduates the team hopes will make an immediate impact.
Linebacker Keith Brown and Nick Dawson-Brents, who will play defensive end, begin their first and only season with Western Kentucky on Monday. Brohm said he sees the duo playing a major role.
“The first thing you notice from our standpoint is when they walk into our room, those guys look the part,” the coach said. “We have some guys that look that way, but not a whole lot. They come into the room looking the part, they have experience, they’ve played, they have the size and the stature we want.
"And I think both of those guys, if we can keep ‘em healthy and continue to get ‘em to work hard, will be outstanding players for us and huge additions.”
Dawson-Brents played in 37 games for the Cardinals and in 13 last season as a backup linebacker. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder was an Army All-American at Berry Academy in North Carolina.
Brown, who Brohm said will play inside linebacker, made 33 tackles – two for loss – to go along with two pass breakups.
“Those transfers, I think they’ll be key,” Ward said. “I think they’ll be huge.”
Other Hilltoppers who will be limited this spring include: defensive linemen Dylan Ferguson, Sidney Hammond. Derik Overstreet, Tanner Reeves, and Evan Sayner, defensive backs Branden Leston and Martavius Mims, punter Joseph Occhipinti, and wide receiver Kylen Towner.
— Follow WBKO sportswriter Chad Bishop on Twitter @MrChadBishop