WKU Football wrapped up its sixth team practice on Tuesday at Houchens-Smith Stadium, where a consistent cloud cover provided the coolest morning of fall camp yet for theHilltoppers.
On the offensive side of the ball, WKU plans to turn up the temperature with wideouts like Jacquez Sloan, who returns healthy for his junior season after recovering from an injury that he suffered near the end of 2018. In his first two years on The Hill, the Atlanta, Ga., native played in 18 games, hauling in 43 receptions for 677 yards and two touchdowns.
“Camp is going great, I love the new coaches and the new system. We want to have everything working like a well-oiled machine,” he said. “We like throwing the deep ball and there’s a lot of motions to get players in the open field in this offense.”
Sure to be a key cog in that “machine” will be the tight ends group, led by position coach Zach Lankford.
In his ninth year of coaching, Lankford returns to The Hill for his fourth season with the Hilltoppers. From 2014-16, he served as offensive graduate assistant and quality control and worked closely with the offensive line, as WKU combined to go 31-10 with two Conference USA championships and three bowl victories.
“The guys are all doing a good job buying in, trying to learn and getting better every day,” he said. “We ask a lot of those guys but they have been up to the task so far. We’re going to continue to push those guys and strive to be the best unit we can be.”
Lankford continued: “We know the legacy of tight ends at this school. We know the guys who have come before us, so we’re trying our very hardest to live up to that and be the next great players. The opportunities are there as long as these guys learn what to do and continue to work, because they do have the talent.”
That “legacy” includes former tight ends such as Mik’Quan Deane, Deon Yelder, Tyler Higbee, Jack Doyle and Mitchell Henry – all of whom have suited up for the Hilltoppers in the past decade.
This season’s crop of tight ends is spearheaded by John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List member, junior Kyle Fourtenbary. But like many of the WKU groups, talent is deep at the position, featuring redshirtfreshmen Joey Beljan and Jay Gibson, true freshmen Joshua Simon and Dalvin Smith, along with junior Steven Witchoskey.
“This offense uses tight ends a lot and everyone has bought in, we’re just trying to learn more of the offense and get those mechanics down,” Witchoskey said. “The guys who have been through this program are legendary. Of course, we would like to carry on that legacy and we’re just going to keep grinding to try and win a championship.”
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Assistant Director of Media Relations
WKU Hilltopper Athletics