Western Kentucky has had its starting quarterback decided since the team’s media day Aug. 3.
But while Bailey Zappe is set as the team’s No. 1 for its season opener against UT Martin, the Hilltoppers are still deciding on the backup.
“They’ve all been kind of battling it out,” offensive coordinator Zach Kittley said Saturday after the team’s first fall scrimmage. “Just trying to split the reps as evenly as I can – that was about the first few days – and now we’ve kind of shrunk back on a couple of those guys.”
WKU entered camp with six quarterbacks on the roster – Zappe, redshirt sophomores Carson Baker and Drew Zaubi, second-year freshmen Darius Ocean and Grady Robison and true freshman Chance McDonald.
Of the six, only Ocean has seen any game action in a Hilltopper uniform, playing in the team’s final possession in an Oct. 31 loss at BYU last season. The 6-foot, 190-pound Raleigh, N.C., native was a two-star recruit according to 247Sports. He and Robison each retained freshman status despite it being their second year at WKU with the NCAA’s waiver for an additional year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Robison, recruited as a dual-threat quarterback and a three-star prospect according to 247sports, has been seeing additional action at spots other than quarterback this fall.
“Grady Robison is kind of doing a lot of different things for us right now as well,” Kittley said. “He’s kind of helping out with some special teams, getting a few snaps at quarterback, getting some snaps at wide receiver. He’s kind of doing some different stuff.”
Zaubi is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound South Oldham graduate that came to WKU after spending time at Louisville and Reedley College. He didn’t see any action in 2018 with the Cardinals, but quarterbacked Reedley to the Northern California Football Association American Division championship in 2019. In 11 games at the junior college ranks, Zaubi threw for 1,162 yards and 12 touchdowns on 73 of 122 passing with four interceptions. The team did not compete in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baker is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound transfer from San Diego State that signed with the Hilltoppers in April shortly following the team’s spring session. He redshirted his first season in 2018 and appeared in eight games with five starts over the next two seasons, completing 78 of 128 passes for 789 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions.
McDonald is a 6-foot-1, 210-pound freshman out of Steilacoom (Wash.) High School, where he was rated as a three-star prospect by 247Sports.
Zappe was the frontrunner for the starting spot after his signing in December. He comes from Houston Baptist, where he played for Kittley and now enters the season as college football’s active career passing leader with 10,004 yards in four seasons.
“Drew Zaubi and Carson Baker right now are kind of battling, as well with Darius Ocean and Chance McDonald,” Kittley said. ” … The big thing is we’ve got about four more days of actual fall camp until we get into mock game week situations, so we’ve really got to keep battling it out because that No. 2 spot is still kind of up for grabs.”
WKU is scheduled to open the 2021 season Sept. 2 at Houchens-Smith Stadium against UT Martin. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.