Western Kentucky's Brandon Doughty prepares for success; Pelini's fresh start
Brandon Doughty did a little preparation during a spring break trip to the Florida Keys to scout potential wedding venues. While his fiancé Sydney Sisler, his mother and his future mother-in-law talked color schemes and decorations, the Western Kentucky quarterback sought refuge in his playbook.
It was a scene Doughty could have never imagined four years ago. Back then, he hobbled on the sideline after suffering a season-ending torn ACL injury just three plays into his first collegiate start. Little did he know that would lead to love. During his rehab he met Sisler, a former Hilltoppers soccer player who was also recovering from a torn ACL. "It's just crazy how God does that," Doughty told The Inside Read. "How he puts things in perspective. It was kind of unbelievable how that worked out for me. I thank God for that every single chance I get."
Second-year Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm thanks the NCAA for the return of Doughty, who led the FBS last season in passing yards (4,830) and touchdown passes (49). He was granted a medical hardship waiver for a sixth year of eligibility in December because of his injuries stemming back to 2011-12. The 23-year-old Doughty's return comes with a new nickname: "Uncle Brandon." Jokes aside, though, the dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate decided to bypass the NFL draft to achieve something he has never done in his football career. "We want to win a championship," Doughty said.
Western Kentucky has yet to win a conference title since becoming a full FBS member in 2009. The high-flying Hilltoppers shattered 49 individual and school offensive records last season on the way to an 8-5 finish in Brohm's debut campaign, which included handing Conference USA champion Marshall its lone loss, in a 67-66 overtime thriller on Nov. 28. That triumph featured Doughty tossing a C-USA-record eight touchdown passes, as well as the game-winning two-point conversion. He followed up that performance with a 486-yard, five-touchdown showing in a 49-48 win over Central Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl.
Suddenly, Doughty's dream of playing in the NFL seemed realistic. He didn't think it was possible as recently as two years ago during a disappointing redshirt junior season in which he threw as many touchdowns as interceptions (14) under then-coach Bobby Petrino. But Doughty had already made his decision to stay at Western Kentucky two weeks prior to his team's bowl win after learning the NCAA granted him a medical hardship waiver. It was a choice that didn't take long once he thought about the championship he has never won. "That's the number one reason why I'm back," Doughty said.
Despite flying under the radar last season, Doughty believes he would have compared favorably to most of the quarterbacks selected in this spring's NFL draft. He specifically mentioned former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, a fourth-round pick by the New York Jets. This season, though, Doughty has a different mindset about where he ranks in college football's quarterback hierarchy. "I came back to be the number one guy on the list," said Doughty, C-USA's reigning MVP. "To be the face of the 2015 season."
In preparation, Doughty has addressed one of the biggest knocks against him among NFL scouts—his weight. He has packed 12 pounds on to his 6' 2" frame from to get up to 220 through a rigorous diet and intense one-on-one workouts with Western Kentucky assistant strength coach Domenic Reno, who previously worked with the NFL's New York Giants and Denver Broncos.
To gain the weight, Doughty had to be disciplined in eating more. He began consuming six to seven meals a day, sometimes three times more than normal. So he wouldn't forget to eat, Doughty set an alarm on his iPhone every four hours with a message: "Time to get better."
"I didn't realize how important that is," Doughty said of his diet.
He does now because he feels stronger and more mobile than ever. He also carries the same work ethic he had during last fall's breakout campaign, as evidenced by Doughty taking his playbook on the wedding planning trip. He still laughs at his fiancé's question when she found him packing it. "We're going to be gone three days and you've got to bring that stinking thing?" Doughty recalls her saying.
Doughty believes the extra studying has made him mentally sharper. "My progression has been unbelievable," he said. "I'm starting to pick up things of what we should start doing." That has led Doughty to keep a notepad next to his bed to jot down ideas. "I can't sleep," he said, "if I don't get it off my mind."
Doughty has been known to even scribble down thoughts in the middle of the night, and he later discusses them with Brohm and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton. "I'll wake up at 2 a.m. and think, 'Oh man, what about the double dig into Cover 2? Why can't we do that? Why don't we do that to the field rather than the boundary?" Doughty said. "It's crazy. Football's on my mind all the time."
Now if only Doughty's fiancé can get him to leave behind his playbook for one day next March—the couple's wedding.
Melina Vastola/USA Today Sports
Q&A with new Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini
The Inside Read: You chose to return to Youngstown over taking marquee assistant jobs in the FBS and the NFL. Why was it so important to you to come home?
Bo Pelini: It was all about making a decision where I thought it was best for my family and where I wanted to live. I just thought it made a lot of sense. I knew who I'd be working for and there's just a lot of things that add up to this being the right thing for me and my family.
IR: Youngstown State president and former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was also instrumental in your return. Have you given him a commitment as to how long you will stay?
Pelini: I think I'm on a four-year contract. I'll be honest with you, I'm not looking to go anywhere. You never say never, but that isn't why I took this job. I took it because I'm committed to YSU right now and I'm enjoying it. It's a good place for me. My goal is to get this program back into national championship contention and that's where my focus is. I think they know that. They know the type of person I am, why I came home, so I think it's a good fit. I'm really enjoying it.
IR: So, what's your relationship with Tressel like?
Pelini: I've known him for a long time, but I didn't know him real well. I know a lot about him. Our paths crossed a lot. We have a lot of mutual friends. He says what's on his mind. He's a good man. We've had a good relationship. He has a lot more on his plate right now in his job than football. It's just one facet of the university. We interact some. Obviously, I try to pick his brain here and there without wearing him out about, 'How did you do it when you were here?' He has a lot of experience at this level and it's a different job now than when he was here, but he's still got a really good perspective because he's sat in this seat before.
IR: One the biggest differences between major college football and the FCS is the bus rides. Are you ready to hit the open road?
Pelini: I think there's one or two. It doesn't bother me. To me, it's trying to make it as easy on the players as you possibly can. Obviously, we're on a much different budget than what I've been on. It's just part of the deal.
IR: You're generally a no-regrets type of guy. Do you have any regrets about your time at Nebraska?
Pelini: No, not at all. I think no matter what you do in anything, there are certain things you say, 'I wish I would've done this different or done that different.' But at the end of the day, you live and learn and you move forward. I've moved forward. I really haven't thought much about my time at Nebraska now. It's over and hopefully because of the different experiences you have, you become better at what you do.
IR: New Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley asked for your cell number this summer. You haven't talked yet, but if you did, what advice would you give him about your old job?
Pelini: I don't know him at all, but I've heard a lot of good things. I don't hold any ill will towards him. He's a smart guy. He's been around. He's going to do it his way. I'm not one to try to do that. It's not like he needs my advice.
IR: Speaking of coaches, your tight ends coach, Kyle Brey, is the son of Notre Dame men's basketball coach Mike Brey. Who is going to end up being the better coach?
Pelini: Well, I'll tell you, I think Kyle is going to be a star in this business. It's hard with what coach Brey has done at Notre Dame. I think Kyle is going to give him a run for his money, though. He's a talented young guy and a great person. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree on that one. Mike Brey is a tremendous guy and Kyle is following suit.
IR: The only subject you might know better than football is Italian food. Returning to Youngstown allows you to eat regularly at one your favorite restaurants, Cassese's MVR (Mahoning Valley Restaurant). What makes it so special?
Pelini: Phenomenal place. It's not just the food, but the people and the atmosphere. The Cassese family, they're the salt of the earth. That's the type of people that go in there. There's a lot of places like that in Youngstown. It's been nice to be back home with a lot of friends, family, that type of thing. Being around good people.
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UCLA's Scott White discovered new football world in Japan
As Scott White frantically screamed and tried to make hand gestures resembling a television on third-and-long, his defense stared at him in bewilderment. The first-year UCLA linebackers and special teams coach's attempts to alert his unit that a screen pass was coming was foreign to the mostly Japanese university players he coached in last month's New Era Bowl in Kobe, Japan.
"It was actually pretty funny," White told The Inside Read. "You couldn't help but laugh."
By then, White, the defensive coordinator for the Blue Stars team, had long abandoned using his headset because the coaches on the other end in the press box only spoke Japanese. Yet White's Blue Stars still ended up beating the White Stars 27-14 before a passionate crowd of 10,000 that waited in a downpour for blocks to get into the game.
White compared the level of combination to FCS and NCAA Division II football. But he maintains that one of his defensive backs, a 5' 10", 176-pound playmaker named Koike Choku Takashi, who had an interception, is capable of playing in the FBS.
"He's better than some of the guys I've seen in the Pac-12," White said. "That's no stretch or exaggeration. He's worthy of one of those 85 scholarships."
White was asked to coach in the game by UNLV defensive coordinator Kent Baer, who White played for at Washington when Baer was the Huskies' defensive coordinator. Since 1989, Baer has put together the annual all-star bowl, which also features a dozen former American players split between the two teams.
White was one of four American coaches who participated in the game, along with Vanderbilt linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson, UCLA director of player development DeShaun Foster and Colorado director of quality control Joe Bleymaier. The game is played at the end of a week of practice during which the American coaches use interpreters to communicate with their players.
It's also an opportunity for Japanese coaches to learn as much as they can from their American counterparts. At one of the dinners, White was approached by a Japanese coach who White ended up spending much of the rest of the night sketching the intricacies of Cover 4 defense on a napkin.
"It speaks to their appetite, desire and appreciation for American football," White said. "It was just incredible. At every turn, they were asking about different things. It may have been elementary in our world, but to them it was like splitting atoms because they're getting it for the first time."
White was also fascinated by football's cultural differences in Japan. Geishas escorted the coaches to the field and the coaches bowed to the game's organizing committee prior to kickoff.
"It was a different deal now," White said. "But it was really pretty cool."
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