Western Kentucky preview

Our preview of  LSU’s 2011 football opponents and the rest of the Southeastern Conference continues with a look at Western Kentucky. We’re counting them down one a day through July 16.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7 p.m. Nov. 12, Tiger Stadium)

2010 Record: 2-10 (2-6 Sun Belt)

Bowl: None

Coach: Willie Taggart (2-10, 2nd year at WKU)

Starters returning: 7 offense, 8 defense

Top returners: Passing – QB Kawaun Jakes (149 of 291, 1,680 yards, 10 TDs, 6 INTs); Rushing – RB Bobby Rainey (340 carries, 1,649 yards, 15 TDs); Receiving – WR Marcus Vasquez (30 catches, 332 yards, 3 TDs); Tackles – SS Ryan Beard (71 total tackles)

Noteworthy: Growing pains abound for WKU, which is in just its third season in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). … The Hilltoppers were winless in 2009 and beat ULL 54-21 and Arkansas State 36-35 last season. … WKU’s offense will basically go through Rainey, an All-SBC tailback who led the conference in rushing in 2010. Jakes needs to continue to mature at quarterback. The Hilltoppers suffered a blow in the spring when top WR/KR Willie McNeal was lost for the season with torn knee ligaments. … The defense needs to mature after giving up 33.2 points and 380.2 yards per game last season. Beard and CB Tyree Robinson (7 PBUs, 2 INTs) anchor the secondary. … First-year WKU defensive coordinator Lance Guidry is from Welsh. He played and coached at McNeese State and is the father of former Tennessee FS Janzen Jackson. Guidry served as interim head coach for Miami (Ohio) in its GoDaddy.com Bowl win over Middle Tennessee when ex-LSU assistant Mike Haywood left for Pittsburgh. … This will be the first meeting between the Tigers and the Hilltoppers. LSU is a combined 34-0 against current members of the Sun Belt Conference.

Tuesday: Ole Miss