Replacing a quarterback who led the nation in passing yards and touchdown passes each of the last two seasons is not an easy task.
Brian Brohm knows this. The new quarterbacks coach at Western Kentucky, however, has four candidates with which to work as the Hilltoppers seek to fill the considerable vacancy left by Brandon Doughty, who led WKU to the C-USA championship last season.
“All four have a lot of ability and they have a lot of different experiences,” said Brohm, who threw for nearly 11,000 yards in his career at Louisville and was hired by his older brother and head coach Jeff in February. “Each guy will get an opportunity to show us what he can do. I think we have a good group and whoever comes out of this competition as a starter is going to be a very good player.”
With 26 pass attempts in three seasons Nelson Fishback is the only one among the quartet to have thrown more than one pass in a Hilltoppers uniform. The graduate student, who began his career at the junior college level with one season at Butte College in his native California, served as Doughty’s primary backup last year.
The last two of his three seasons at WKU have been in Jeff Brohm’s system and that experience is a major reason why the 6-2 signal caller took first-team reps when the curtain rose on spring drills March 21.
“I have been here four years now and I feel that I have the best knowledge of the offense,” said Fishback, who redshirted in 2014. “All four of us bring something to the table. It will come down to who is going to be the most consistent and who is going to perform in scrimmages and in the (April 23) spring game. I feel the competition will carry on to the fall because we are all talented.”
Redshirt sophomore Drew Eckles threw his only career pass last season. He is the youngest of the group, and like Fishback, has two years in the current system.
“He is a young prospect that we are really excited about and has a lot of ability,” said Brohm. “We will give him the opportunity to show us what he can do as well.”
Mike White and Tyler Ferguson transferred into the program last year.
White arrived in Bowling Green last spring after starting 15 games (11 TDs, 16 INTs) in two seasons at USF, which is coached by former Hilltoppers head coach and quarterback Willie Taggart. As a transfer the redshirt junior sat out last season.
Ferguson, who like Fishback is graduate student from California, is well traveled. He opened his career in his home state with a record-breaking JUCO season at the College of the Sequoias. He transferred to Penn State where in 2013 he competed for and lost out to Christian Hackenberg for the starting job. Ferguson threw 15 passes as the primary backup that year and has not seen action since.
He transferred to Louisville prompting him sit out the 2014 season, but left the Cardinals prior to the start of last season before enrolling at WKU in December.
“They are all excited for the opportunity,” said Brohm. “They understand what is at stake here. They all get along real well and they like each other. At the same time they are going to have to compete against each other and try to win this job.”
It is a job with which there is no hurry to fill. After all you do not simply flip a switch in replacing Doughty, who arrived at WKU in 2010 and started 39 games the past three seasons.
“We don’t have a timeframe set on when we will decide on who is going to be the guy,” said Brohm. “We are going to let it play out. If somebody steps up and stands out we will go ahead and make the decision. If it takes a little bit longer, then we will take all the time that we have to allow the competition to play out.”
Regardless of how the competition shakes out Brohm should be a good sounding board for the quarterbacks. He has a lot of playing experience, yet is only 30 years of age.
It was just nine years ago that he was a senior at Louisville. Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Brohm went on to serve as a backup wit the Buffalo Bills. He ultimately landed with Winnipeg of the Canadian Football League where he played the last two seasons before hanging up his cleats and joining his brother’s staff.
“I have been in the seat that these guys are in and I have been in different situations at the quarterback position,” he said. “I have been the No. 1 guy, I have been the backup and I have been third string. So I think I can relate to these guys and help them through this process because it is not that far back in my memory with respect to what it is like to be in their shoes.”
QUARTERBACKS TO WATCH
An early list of 10 ASN-affiliated quarterbacks to watch in 2016:
- Chase Litton, Marshall: Passed for 2,605 yards and 23 touchdowns last year as a freshman, completing 60% of his passes in the Thundering Herd’s last five games.
- Nick Mullens, Southern Miss: Conference USA’s top returning passer (4,476 yards and 38 touchdowns passing last season) makes the Golden Eagles C-USA’s team to beat.
- Cooper Rush, Central Michigan: The MAC’s top returning passer (3,848 yards, 25 TDs last season) led Chippewas to 6-2 record in West Division.
- Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee: Passed for 4,005 yards, 30 TDs last season and Set FBS record by a freshman with 327 completions last season.
- Zach Terrell, Western Michigan: Terrell (3,510 yards, 29 TDs lkast season) should battle Rush for MAC quarterback honors while their teams battle for the division championship.
- Dominique Allen, The Citadel: Triggered the Bulldogs’ triple-option attack that topped South Carolina, and he is one of three returning players who rushed for 750 yards or more last season.
- Steve Cluely, William & Mary: With four of his five offensive linemen, top running back (Kendell Anderson) and top receiver (DeVonte Dedmon) returning, CAA Football’s second-leading leading passer last season (2,768 yards, 16 TDs) is set up for a big season.
- KD Humphries, Murray State: Despite the Racers’ 3-8 record last season, he paced FCS with 3,778 yards passing. He also had 22 TDs with only seven interceptions and completed 62% of 532 attempts, also tops in FCS.
- Eli Jenkins, Jacksonville State: All-American led Gamecocks to FCS championship, but this year he’s without Troymaine Pope, who set the Ohio Valley’s single-season rushing record last season (1,788).
- Kyle Lauletta, Richmond: CAA Football’s top returning passer (3,598 yards, 19 TDs last season) finished No. 2 in FCS passing yards (3,598) as a sophomore last year and looks for more with top wide receiver Brian Brown returning.