WKU FB: Offensive Coordinator Zach Kittley Named a 2021 Broyles Award Nominee

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — WKU Football offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zach Kittley was listed as 1-of-59 nominees for the 2021 Broyles Award, it was announced Tuesday. The honor recognizes the top assistant coach out of approximately 13,000 in 130 FBS programs across the country.

Kittley is only 1-of-19 offensive coordinators, 1-of-27 non-Power Five coaches and 1-of-6 from Conference USA.

Working under head coach Tyson Helton, the rest of the full-time offensive coaching staff at WKU consists of: Bryan Ellis (co-offensive coordinator/inside wide receivers), Josh Crawford (outside wide receivers), Stephen Hamby (offensive line) and Carlos Locklyn (running backs).

Quite simply, no FBS coordinator has meant more to his team this season than Kittley has meant to WKU. In his first year with the Hilltoppers – coming from Houston Baptist, where he held the same position for three seasons – WKU has gone from one of the worst offenses in the nation in 2020 to one of the best in 2021.

Key Hilltopper Team Offensive Notes

  • In 2021, WKU ranks 7th in FBS with 41.4 points per game.
  • In 2020, WKU ranked 114th in FBS with 19.0 points per game.
  • The 22.4-point increase is more than double the previous year’s output and marks the best improvement in FBS, with Utah State (+17.9) as the next-closest.
  • In 2021, WKU has scored 5.2 offensive touchdowns per game.
  • In 2020, WKU scored 2.0 offensive touchdowns per game.
  • In 2021, WKU leads the nation with 423.7 passing yards per game, 43.2 yards above the next-best passing attack (Virginia, 380.7).
  • In 2020, WKU ranked 111th in FBS with 164.3 passing yards per game.
  • The 423.7 passing yards per game would be the second-best number in FBS over the past five seasons (2019 Washington State, 437.2)
  • In 2021, WKU has 65 passing plays of 20-plus yards with 19 of those going for touchdowns.
  • In 2020, WKU had 15 passing plays of 20-plus yards with three of those going for touchdowns.
  • WKU has scored 31-plus points and has at least three passing touchdowns in all 10 games this season.
  • WKU has 458-plus yards of total offense and 365-plus passing yards in 9-of-10 games on the year.
  • Ten different Hilltopper receivers have a touchdown reception so far this season and 13 different players have caught at least four passes.
  • The ground offense is also putting up a respectable campaign, as WKU ranks eighth in C-USA and tied for 84th in FBS with 3.97 yards per rush.
  • The offensive line has allowed only 12 sacks on the season – which includes five sacks in six C-USA games – to rank tied for 15th in FBS.

On an individual level, quarterback Bailey Zappe is the nation’s leading passer, despite it being his first season playing at the FBS level. He is 342-of-483 (70.8%) for 4,170 passing yards, with 42 touchdowns compared to only seven interceptions.

Zappe’s 4,170 passing yards (417 per game) leads the nation, as do his 42 touchdowns. His 70.8% completion rate ranks fifth among FBS quarterbacks with 300-plus attempts. His 169.1 passing efficiency rating ranks fourth among FBS quarterbacks with 300-plus attempts.

Zappe has nine games of 365-plus passing yards to lead FBS quarterbacks (Mississippi State’s Will Rogers is next with seven). He has five games of 420-plus passing yards to lead FBS (Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong is next with two).

Zappe’s favorite target – wide receiver Jerreth Sterns – is also having an incredible season. Sterns – who was named a Semifinalist for the 2021 Biletnikoff Award on Monday – has 111 receptions for 1,368 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Sterns’ 111 catches lead the next-closest FBS receiver by 23 (USC’s Drake London has 88), his 1,368 receiving yards rank second in FBS to Thompkins (1,441) and his 11 touchdowns are tied for the FBS lead with four other receivers.

Kittley is the first Hilltopper offensive coach to be a Broyles Award nominee since co-offensive coordinator and special teams coordinator Tony Levine in 2016. Former defensive coordinator Clayton White was a three-time nominee for WKU in 2017, 2019 and 2020. White is also listed as a 2021 nominee at his new program, South Carolina, where he is the defensive coordinator.

The Broyles Award was created in 1996 recognizing Coach Frank Broyles’ legacy of selecting and developing great assistants during his hall of fame career as head coach at Arkansas. A 43-member selection committee of distinguished former head coaches, broadcasters, and a committee representing the FWAA will select 15 semi-finalists and five finalists from the list of nominees and an overall winner for 2020.
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