Even the most casual fan can see they've struggled.
After six losses, the defense has had trouble putting up much of a front to opponents. The defensive line in particular has been inept at creating much of any disturbance to opposing quarterbacks, with a nation-low two sacks. But WKU is not giving up.
Though it's been in small, baby steps, progress is still being made, particularly on that defensive front.
"We're nowhere where we need to be and I told them earlier, it's a day by day, rep by rep progression," defensive line coach Eric Mathies said. "We've just gotta get better rep by rep. It's not gonna happen overnight. They've gotta keep coming and keep working and I've gotta keep coming and working. As we get deeper into the season, we're gonna keep getting better and better. I still don't think this group is anywhere playing their best football by any means that they can play."
With the offensive line also struggling mightily, Mathies and offensive line coach Walter Wells have pitted their groups together in speed rush drills.
Both sides line up against each other and come off the ball, but the defense will have only one player continue to rush a dummy, used to simulate the quarterback. It began as an occasional drill in practice, but has turned into an every day drill.
"Anytime you can bang with good people, when it's good on good and you can be physical with each other, overall it's gonna help both your offense and defensive line be physical," Mathies said. "The more we do it, the more confident they're gonna get confident in being physical. When that happens, that's when you're gonna really start to see the maturity and the progression of us getting better, happen."
This weekend, WKU will face an elusive quarterback in junior Dwight Dasher.
"I'm pretty sure he's not gonna be that stand still dummy," sophomore defensive end Jared Clendenin said. "It's a good look as far as working your hands, staying in your pass rushing lane and things like that. As far as the quarterback goes, you've seen him on film, he moves around a lot. We've just gotta contain him."
With Dasher's ability to take to the outside and run, it'll be on the linebackers as defensive backs as well to help contain him. There's progress at those spots as well.
"I noticed our inside linebackers getting downhill a lot faster today," coach David Elson said. "That was a good sign. I heard Coach Mathies saying good job a lot about coming off the ball. Those are good signs, but we'll see the film and see if we were doing it the way we wanna do it."
That initial burst has been something that's been stressed all year, though it becomes more valuable against an athletic, mobile quarterback such as Dasher. WKU has also worked on getting players to be smart and stick to their assignments.
"In the past weeks where we went against quarterbacks that don't have the tendency to run much, we can get a little more aggressive, go here and there and maybe make a couple of pass rush lane mistakes and they won't be able to get it," Clendenin said. "Since he can run so well, we've gotta definitely stay in our lanes."
Because of their struggles, the defense has no where to go but up. It's almost become redundant, that progress is still being made. The hope is that almost finally becomes getting there. The mindset is definitely there.
"It's gotta get better, but I think they're understanding the concept of what we want," Mathies said. "With our guys, we're not the biggest cats in the world so we're gonna have to play more of an attacking, up the field style with our size. It's a consistency thing and these guys have gotta understand that there's gonna be some resistance out there. You've just gotta keep running your feet and being physical and playing with pad level."
Check Out InsideHilltopperSports.com's insider's only look at WKU's Tuesday practice, including a full, in-depth injury report.
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