Four members of the Western Kentucky University football senior class will captain the Hilltoppers in Saturday's season opener at Tennessee. As is now tradition, WKU picks a different set of captains for each of its games throughout the season. Quarterback Brandon Smith, running back Tyrell Hayden, linebackers L.J. Harbison and Taurean Smith were selected as the first group for 2009.
Brandon Smith will start his first game under center for WKU on Saturday. The fifth-year senior from Danville, Ky., won the starting quarterback job early in fall camp, and has continued to establish himself as the starter as the opener has drawn near. Smith has played in 12 games during his career, completing 18 of 38 passes for 12 yards and a touchdown.
Hayden provides a familiar face in the Hilltopper backfield, and the Lexington, Ky., native is in his third year as a starter. Hayden is not far removed from a 1,000-yard season in 2007, and is WKU's active leader in rushing yards, rushing attempts and touchdowns on the ground.
Harbison and Taurean Smith will provide additional experience in the inside of a talented linebacking corp. Harbison - a product of Edmonton, Ky., finished with 49 total tackles in 2008 - the third-best total among returning players on defense. He also was credited with four tackles for loss and a sack.
Smith equalled Harbison with 49 stops a year ago in his first season on the Hill. A Perry, Ga., native, Smith played in all 12 games last year, and was credited with 19 solo tackles. He also recorded a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
WKU, the newest of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision Members, is eligible for a post-season bowl berth and the Sun Belt Conference championship for the first time in 2009. WKU's 511-337-30 all-time record in 90 seasons of football equates to a .600 winning percentage, ranking 26th among all 120 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision schools and tops in the Sun Belt Conference.