It's not news when an FCS coordinator takes an FBS job. It's also not news when an FCS player moves up a level. But what if they all leave the same FCS school for the same FBS destination?
Such is the case at Western Kentucky, where Tyson Helton's Hilltoppers have, in turn, secured Houston Baptist's offensive coordinator, quarterback, and top three wide receivers.
The great migration began on Dec. 14, when WKU announced the hiring of Zac Kittley as the Hilltoppers' new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Included in WKU's press release announcing Kittley's hire was this passage:
In an abridged 2020 season, the success of HBU's Air Raid passing offense made headlines throughout the country. In only four games, senior quarterback Bailey Zappe completed 141-of-215 passes (65.6%) for 1,833 yards, with 15 touchdowns and one interception. A trio of wide receivers – Jerreth Sterns, Josh Sterns and Ben Ratzlaff – combined to produce 89 receptions for 1,256 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Zappe and the Huskies put up 480 pass yards and three scores at North Texas, 406 and five scores at LA Tech, and 380 and three scores at Eastern Kentucky, but the most notable performance was against Kittley's former school.
At Texas Tech, Zappe completed 30-of-49 passes for 567 yards with four touchdowns, as the Huskies dropped a 35-33 heartbreaker even though they entered the game as 40-point underdogs. The 567 pass yards were the most ever for an FCS player against an FBS defense. At 458.3 yards per game, Zappe's average ranks 83.3 yards above the leading FBS passer (Kyle Trask of Florida - 375 yards per game) in 2020.
Five days later, WKU announced the Sterns brothers as part of its 2021 early signing class. Junior Jerreth Sterns caught 47 passes for 454 yards and five touchdowns in four games last fall, and freshman Josh Sterns hauled in 13 balls for 403 yards and four scores.
Eight days after that, on Dec. 27, Zappe left Houston Baptist for WKU.
And then today, Ben Ratzlaff announced he's joining the rest of the Houston contingent in Kentucky.
In six weeks, Western Kentucky has secured one of FCS's top young offensive coordinators, one of the subdivision's most productive quarterbacks, and his top three receivers. Ratzlaff caught 29 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns in four games last fall.
This is an offense that, again, threw for 567 yards -- the most ever by an FCS team against an FBS opponent -- in a near-upset of Texas Tech. Zappe also threw for 480 yards against North Texas and 406 against Louisiana Tech. The Brothers Sterns and Ratzlaff caught the majority of those passes.
And now all the talent that made that happen up and left for Western Kentucky.
When Kittley left, that was business as usual for college football. But now that his players have joined him, it'll be treated differently -- a scaled-down version of the Miami Heat super team combined with takes of how this signals the end of times for lower-division football.
We'll have to wait and see about all that, but in the mean time a team that went 5-7 with FBS's No. 111 passing offense just got a whole lot better.