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November 12, 2010

WKU's Defense Gelling

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WKU's new defensive coordinator Clint Bowen was born in Lawrence, Kansas; played his High School ball in Lawrence, Kansas; played his college ball for the Kansas Jayhawks; and for the next eleven years he was a staple member of the Jayhawk Coaching staff: From 1998 as a Graduate Assistant to 2008-2009 as the defensive coordinator.

But when Mark Mangino was ousted as head coach at Kansas, and the new coach brought in his own staff, Bowen and his wife were faced with the potential idea of life outside of Kansas for the first time.

Needless to say, it didn't take long for Bowen to find work, as WKU's head coach Willie Taggart quickly snatched him up to help remake one of the statistically worse defenses in the country in 2009. The idea of leaving Kansas for the first time was intriguing for Bowen. "It was difficult leaving parents, family, and friends but once we moved we had a chance to meet new people and so far it has been a pleasure."

Well the fruits have already bared its labor as the 2010 season has seen a drastically improved defense for the Hilltoppers. Last season, through the first 5 conference games, WKU's defense was given up 47.4 points per game, including given up 60 plus points twice.

This season, that number has drastically fallen to 26.8 points per game. Even more, the overall total defensive yards given up are down from last year by 100 yards. Last year, WKU's defense gave up a whopping 479 yards per game while this year they are down to 378.

And if those statistics aren't enough to impress you, consider in conference play alone, The Hilltopper defense ranks number one overall in the Sunbelt.

Many considered a defensive turn around a huge challenge this season considering the Hilltoppers were switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 which calls for a change in defensive philosophy.

"The 3-4 defense relies more on movement whereas the 4-3 focuses more on understanding gaps and knowing your role. The trust factor is very important," said Bowen.

The revamped defense is even more incredible considering the numerous freshmen who have seen the field this season. The Hilltoppers boast a young, but very talented secondary led by 2 true freshmen corners (Arius Wright from Norcross High School in Georgia & Tyree Robinson from Haines City High School in Florida) and a red shirt freshman safety (Kiante Young from East Hall High School in Georgia).

"Yeah it's pretty scary," said Bowen. "Two true freshmen cornerbacks. But both players are highly intelligent and very competitive. They have been tested quite a bit this season and they have won their fair share of those battles."

One of the main staples for the Hilltoppers defense for the past two seasons has been Middle Linebacker Thomas Majors from Maplewood High School in Nashville.

Last season, he totaled 111 tackles and an interception and this season he has 79 tackles including 12.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

"He's been the heart and soul of our defense, he runs the show, makes the calls," Bowen said. "The kid shows up every week. He's physical, plays with desire, he's just a very good player."

But even though the defense has dramatically improved from a year ago, Bowen still thinks there is a lot more to accomplish. "As a team and as a defensive unit, we just have to keep improving and finish out the season strong."




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