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Opponent Breakdown: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Offense

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Western Kentucky returns key players on offense but a new Quarterback will be the key in 2020.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville went down to Nashville and handled a a solid Western Kentucky team last season. After that game the Hilltoppers seemed to really come together on offense and Tyson Helton finished his first season with nine wins. Helton will have a good amount of players back on offense but he will need his new Quarterback to be consistent, as that was a key to those nine wins last year.

Tyrell Pigrome transferred in from Maryland this year and he was announced as the starter recently. Pigrome didn’t light the world on fire from a statistical standpoint for the Terps but he showed flashes as a dynamic playmaker with his arm and his legs. At 5-10/210, Pigrome is obviously undersized and I wonder if his height has led to some of his interceptions. I know that he’s just made some bad decisions in the games I’ve watched him, but sometimes you take the good with the bad. The key factor when it comes to Louisville is how they contain him as a runner. We saw in the bowl game that even when they played well, the defense allowed too many rushing yards on scrambles.

In my opinion, Gaej Walker is the best player on the Tops’ offense. Walker ran for 1,208 yards last season and I think there’s a good chance he’ll show some improvement this year. Walker switched to Running Back from Defensive Back last year and they really found a diamond in the rough. I think that another full off season as well as a better understanding of the offensive scheme should lead to another big year for Walker.

Helton shied away from the running game when games were close or the Tops were behind. He has to do better with that this year as Walker is not only his best player but he’s the best way to take pressure off of Pigrome.

Helton lost a key player in Lucky Jackson to graduation but he has some options coming back this year. Jahcour Pearson returns after racking up 804 receiving yards last year and 7 touchdowns. Jacquez Sloan also returns after a solid season where he caught 34 passes. Both of those guys should be strong options in the slot but you have to wonder how Pigrome handles throws over the middle of the field. If Western puts him on the run and uses those guys on quick throws and out routes, it will limit them.

Part of the reason there has to be some concern is that Western doesn’t have a proven option on the outside. Jackson has been a key player for the offense for the last few years but they didn’t develop another option who has his type of size. Xavier Lane is a vetaran receiver on the roster but he only had one catch last year. Craig Burt Jr. is a JUCO player that they added this year who is a big target at 6-4. Outside of those two, I’m not sure who they utilize to stretch the field down the sideline. Terez Traynor is a guy to keep an eye out as a potential option for them. He was a pretty decent recruit who has been on campus for two years.

The Tight End position is strong for WKU. Joshua Simon had a huge play in the game last year and he became a consistent option for the offense after that game. Simon is 6-5/235 and he can run very well. The Tops will have to replace his backup after a transfer but they have some guys with good size who should be able to handle some of the blocking responsibilities in short yardage.

Western returns three of their five starters on the Offensive Line. One of the reasons they were good on offense last year was that they returned all five starters from the year before. Louisville was able to get penetration and make some stops behind the line of scrimmage but they only got to the Quarterback once. There could be some drop-off here but I’d expect for a group this veteran to have two guys who can step in and do a good job.