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Opponent Breakdown: Western Kentucky Offense

Louisville’s run defense will face another test this weekend.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Florida Atlantic Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville will travel for the first time this season to take on Western Kentucky in Nashville. The Hilltoppers are coming off a close win against FIU after an embarrassing loss to Central Arkansas in week one. Tyson Helton took over this program after Mike Sanford failed to gain any traction but the early returns have been a mixed bag for him.

WKU started last year with questions at quarterback after their starter was injured early. They seemed to find their guy against Louisville with Davis Shanley but Steven Duncan finished the season as the starter and held off everyone this year to win the job. Duncan is a big quarterback with strong arm but he has a tendency to throw interceptions. Duncan enters the game tied for the second most interceptions in the country and they have all been on bad passes. He has a pretty quick delivery which has helped him in this new offense as they will look for quick screens pretty often. He can also use his size as a runner in short yardage situations.

The new staff did a good job of identifying Gaej Walker as a running back when they took over. Walker was recruited as a back but played defensive back last season. Walker scored on a 68 yard run on the first play of the season and he’s been a consistent option since. He is ranked 11th in the country in yards per game. The running game for the toppers is a little similar to Louisville’s as it works best with a speedy guy who can get through gaps in the line quickly. Walker has shown that ability and he doesn’t god down on arm tackles. Louisville definitely has to be sound in their gap discipline and guys have to run through the tackle. It will be a good challenge for the defense.

I was really impressed with the Hilltopper receivers last season and they brought just about everyone back. Lucky Jackson is the top receiver of the group and they use him in different ways. He’s made plays as an outside receiver and he’s even been used on a jet sweep. Jahcour Pearson and Jaquez Sloan are the other top options at wide receiver and both are very quick and elusive. Western hasn’t stretched the field as much as I expected but they have done well to get these guys into space on quick throws as well as intermediate throws like wheel routes and deep crossers. Tackling will be just as important as coverage this week.

The tight ends have been a big factor in the offense so far. Kyle Fourtenbary and Joshua Simon have combined for 9 catches so far with Fourtenbary being a good safety valve for Duncan. Simon is an interesting player as he’s a little smaller and quicker and could pick up some yards after the catch if he gets space.

The Hilltoppers have been impressive up front so far with their offensive line doing well to open holes for the running game. They have also looked really good in their pass sets. They have that ability to move as one unit which is so key when it comes to offensive line play. While the schedule has been fairly easy so far, the group still has taken care of business in their area. WKU does some zone blocking up front with their outside runs and the line has done well to get to their blocks but I think that’s an area that UofL’s speed could present a problem.