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September 15, 2009Sign-up for InsideHilltopperSports.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
For all the improvements that have been made heading into week three, there's still one area that's struggling to get going.
Though WKU's running game rolled up 200 yards against South Florida, the aerial attack has been nonexistent at times. After the Toppers had 49 yards passing at Tennessee, they finished with 84 against the Bulls.
There's not one answer that will cure WKU's passing ills.
"We looked at it and we've got a few wrinkles here and there that we're gonna try to make it help in the passing game," senior quarterback Brandon Smith said. "That's something that I need to work on, the receivers need to work on, just that chemistry. It's something that you have to build over time and at the same time, Saturday we kinda got on a roll running the ball and we kept going with it. It's things like that that contribute to it. I'm not deeply concerned about it right now, because I think it's there and I think we'll eventually show it."
Smith, who rushed for 105 yards on 21 carries Saturday, will be without the services of senior wide receiver Jake Gaebler, arguably the Toppers' top receiver. SEE TODAY"S PRACTICE NOTES.
Instead, it will fall on a few other receivers to pick up the slack.
"There's no question (Jake's) a starter for a reason and he has all the catches for a reason," coach David Elson said. "It affects us, but it is what it is. The next guy's gotta step up and play. Derrius Brooks and Anthony Sheppard have got a great opportunity and they've gotta come in and show that they can make big plays."
Even before Gaebler's injury, WKU was integrating a new player at wide receiver. Though he said he'd never played receiver before this season, redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Vasquez has been used on a number of plays at wide-out.
"We're just continuing to try to develop him as a receiver and just trying to do the same things that we've been trying to do, working on timing, work on protection, spacing, those things," Elson said. "He's an athlete, he's a deep threat and he can help us stretch the field. He's just gotta keep learning because right now, he's not there yet when it comes to being an every-down guy."
Vasquez is still the third-string quarterback, but his skills behind center have been what have helped him out the most in learning a new position.
"I already know the offense, basically because I've played quarterback," he said. "I know the routes and I'm just learning the wide receiver techniques, how to get off the ball, line up, adjustments and all that. The transition's not been as hard as I thought it would be.
"What I've been struggling with is reading the defense from a receiver's view than a quarterback. You see it at a whole different angle and it's kinda hard. As a receiver, you've still gotta read defenses, you've gotta know coverages."
Vasquez's new role hasn't quite paid off yet, with just two catches for 17 yards at Tennessee. But it'll be on the other receivers as well as Smith and the offensive line to piece everything together to make the whole passing game work.
"There's several things that need to be improved," Smith said. "It's something we're working on. The passing game's all about timing and rhythm and being on the same page. There's just a few kinks we still have to work out. We've got good plays, we're adding plays in there and we've got good receivers that run good routes. I think we'll be alright."
The Toppers need aerial improvement to get the whole offense clicking and likely at a faster rate than the improvement made from Tennessee to South Florida.
Check Out InsideHilltopperSports.com's insider's only look at WKU's Tuesday practice, including an injury report.
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