2019 Conference USA QB Preview: WKU
From the 2013 season through the 2017 season, the Hilltoppers had an NFL quarterback under center. Those years consisted of Brandon Doughty and Mike White as quarterbacks. They both went on to be drafted in the NFL Draft. That is an impressive accomplishment for any school, regardless if it is in a Power 5 or Group of 5 conference. Last year was the first year since before Doughty took over that one of those guys was not under center for Western Kentucky. Western Kentucky started three different guys under center in 2018. The Hilltoppers never really found a groove at all during the 2018 season, but with new Head Coach Tyson Helton taking over, Western Kentucky is looking for the 2019 season to be different. One of Helton’s main objectives will be to figure out the starting quarterback situation as the competition heads into fall. There are several good candidates that will be competing for it. Regardless who wins the competition, I expect Helton to have them spinning the ball and playing well under center.
2018 QB Performance
- The Hilltoppers had three different guys start games for them under center in 2018. Drew Eckels (99 attempts), Davis Shanley (141 attempts), and Steven Duncan (187 attempts). The
- Those three combined for 2,722 yards, 15 passing touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
- Eckels CMP% was barely over 50, Shanley was at 68.1% and Duncan was at 57.8%.
2019 QB Preview
Eckels is out of eligibility, which makes Duncan and Shanley the only players returning on the Hilltoppers’ roster to complete a pass in a WKU uniform. While their experience will help in Western Kentucky’s quarterback competition, I expect this competition to play out well into camp and may even take the first few games of the season to solidify a guy moving forward. Ty Storey, the transfer from Arkansas, was able to practice most of the spring for the Hilltoppers and bring valuable experience from playing in the SEC. Kevaris Thomas is also a guy in the mix. He will be a redshirt freshman and was the highest rated high school recruit to sign at WKU at the time of his signing, according to the WKU athletic website. At the time of writing this article, all four guys are still enrolled at WKU and will have a shot at being the guy for the Hilltoppers this season. With such a crowded quarterback room and how often players are transferring lately, it would not be a surprise if one of these guys ended up transferring either before or after the 2019 season. Let’s take a quick look at what each guy does well and can bring to the table for the 2019 season.
If you don’t include Ty Storey’s numbers from Arkansas, Duncan is the leading returning passer for the Hilltoppers with 1,071 yards passing, 9 passing touchdowns, and 7 interceptions during the 2018 season. Duncan was the leading passer for the Hilltoppers in four different games last year, earning valuable experience as he heads into the quarterback competition in fall camp. He also led WKU to two of their three wins last year as they beat UTEP and La Tech to finish the season. Below is a clip of Duncan throwing a good deep ball and doing a good job standing in the pocket. He will be a redshirt junior.
Shanley got a similar amount of playing time last year as Duncan did. Shanley was the leading passer for the Hilltoppers in five games leading and helping lead WKU to one of their three wins last year. Shanley will be a redshirt sophomore going in this 2019 season. He was the most accurate passer for WKU last year as he had the higher CMP% with 68.1. Below is a clip of Shanley demonstrating a quick release and an accurate ball over the middle.
Storey is the graduate transfer from Arkansas, who was able to participate at WKU for the majority of spring practice. Storey appeared in 10 games for Arkansas last year throwing for 1,584yds, 11 passing touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Storey has a good arm and can move around in the pocket. He will fit in nicely with Helton’s style of offense and trying to push the ball down field. The SEC experience is nice to have, but doesn’t automatically make him the favorite to win the job. However, at some point this season, I expect him to have his shot. Below is a clip of Storey moving well in the pocket and delivering a good ball down the field against a top defense.
Thomas has the least amount of experience out of all the quarterbacks mentioned. He will be a redshirt freshman in the 2019 season. As stated earlier, at the time of his signing he was the highest rated high school recruit for the Hilltoppers to ever sign. He had multiple division 1 offers with at least one of those offers being from a Power 5 school. Thomas did not come to WKU to sit on the bench, he will have his opportunity at some point to prove he can be the starter.
I think Western Kentucky has several good options at quarterback that they can go with. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if any one of the four guys mentioned ended up taking the majority of snaps under center. Like previously mentioned, this could be a competition well into camp and even into the start of the season. With Helton directing things, I expect solid play from the quarterback position, regardless who it ends up being.