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Before Petrino takes over, WKU preparing for bowl

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Before Petrino takes over, WKU preparing for bowl

DETROIT (AP) Interim coach Lance Guidry says it best: ``There's a lot of stuff going on at Western Kentucky.''

The Hilltoppers are preparing for their first bowl game since joining college football's top tier in 2009. And then, after accepting a bid to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Western Kentucky lost coach Willie Taggart and made a huge splash by hiring Bobby Petrino to replace him.

Guidry, who was the team's defensive coordinator, will coach the bowl against Central Michigan. It's not the first time he's been asked to guide a team through the postseason on a temporary basis. Guidry was Miami of Ohio's interim coach for a win over Middle Tennessee in the 2011 GoDaddy.com Bowl.

Taggart left to take over the program at South Florida, and Western Kentucky moved quickly to hire Petrino less than a year after he was dismissed at Arkansas after it was learned he had hired his former mistress to work in the football department. His hiring has almost overshadowed the fact that the Hilltoppers still have another game to play.

``At least it's out of the way now. The younger guys know who their head coach is going to be next year,'' Guidry said Thursday at a media luncheon for his team's Detroit-based bowl. ``They know that they're mine right now, and they're good with that.''

For seniors like tight end Jack Doyle, the focus needs to be on the present - not what Petrino might do once he takes over in full after the bowl.

``I know a lot of the players are excited about at least knowing who their new coach is going to be,'' Doyle said. ``We're excited to get this bowl going.''

The Dec. 26 game isn't just a run-of-the-mill postseason trip for the Hilltoppers. This is only Western Kentucky's fourth season in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The team went 0-12 in 2009, but its ascent has been quick since then. The Hilltoppers were 7-1 in Sun Belt Conference play a season ago, but they didn't get to play in a bowl despite being eligible. They received a bid this year.

``I think they've got a chip on their shoulder. These seniors, they've been through so much,'' Guidry said. ``As freshmen, they went 0-12. Then the next year, I think we had a 26-game losing streak, and they finally broke it. Then the following year, we start off 0-4, then we won seven of our last eight games.''

Western Kentucky is led by junior Antonio Andrews, who has rushed for 1,609 yards and 11 touchdowns this year. He's also a receiving threat and returns kickoffs and punts. He has 2,977 all-purpose yards on the season, just 273 behind the record set by Barry Sanders.

Petrino met with Hilltoppers players Monday afternoon, and he's hopeful this month's bowl will be only the beginning.

``We need to consistently - every year - go to a bowl game. We need to win a conference championship, be in the run for a conference championship every single year,'' Petrino said. ``We need to get in a position where we're ranked in the top 25, and we need to get in a position where we can compete to be in a BCS bowl game. That's where we see our program going.''

Petrino wasn't part of Thursday's event. For now, Guidry is still in charge of preparing the team for its next challenge.

When Guidry was an interim coach at Miami, it was because Mike Haywood had left to take the job at Pittsburgh. But that move fell apart when Haywood was arrested on a domestic violence charge - before Miami even got around to playing its bowl that season.

Now Guidry's future is unclear again, and he's taking that in stride.

``We're kind of all in limbo, because we don't know if we're going to go with Coach Taggart to South Florida,'' Guidry said. ``My resumes are out there. ... It's a crazy profession. Only thing I can do is control the controllable.''

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chris Miller caught up with Michigan star Moe Wagner after his workout with the Wizards.

Chris and Chase Hughes also gave their impressions of the first prospects to come in for pre-draft workouts, including which guys are most likely to be Wizards. One of those prospects is a point guard and a likely first round pick. Chase and Chris explain why that's not a crazy idea, even considering the presence of John Wall on their roster.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

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Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.