WKU football practice

Western Kentucky defensive line coach Kenny Martin goes over a drill during practice Aug. 7, 2018, at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Western Kentucky has had another departure from its defensive staff.

Kenny Martin, who was a defensive lineman for the Hilltoppers and served on the team’s coaching staff for the last five seasons, including as the team’s defensive tackles coach since 2018, was named as a defensive assistant at Central Florida on Tuesday.

“Can’t wait to get to WORK!! #ChargeOn,” Martin wrote in a quote tweet of the announcement from new UCF head coach Gus Malzahn.

Martin will serve as a defensive assistant coach at UCF, according to a release announcing his hiring.

“Fired up to have (Martin) working with our defense!!” Malzahn, who was named UCF’s new head coach Feb. 15, tweeted.

Martin is from Orlando, Fla., and played at WKU from 2009-12. He was a four-year letterwinner for WKU, starting 42 games, and was a member of the Hilltoppers’ first FBS bowl team in the 2012 Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.

His coaching career started at the high school level as co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach at Ocoee High School (Fla.) before a return to Bowling Green as defensive coordinator/defensive line coach at Warren Central. He also coached the defensive line at Virginia-Wise in 2015 before serving as a defensive graduate assistant at WKU from 2016-17.

WKU also had to deal with the loss of defensive coordinator Clayton White this offseason. White left for the same position at South Carolina. Maurice Crum was promoted to the defensive coordinator position immediately following White’s departure, after serving as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2020. WKU hired Keynodo Hudson as cornerbacks coach to fill the vacancy following White’s departure.

The Hilltoppers ranked eighth nationally in pass yards allowed with 177.3 in the 5-7 2020 season, 28th in total yards allowed at 348.7 and 41st in points allowed per game at 25.3.

Following the season, WKU redshirt freshman defensive tackle Ricky Barber was named a FWAA Freshman All-American after recording 58 tackles, including seven for a loss, with four sacks, three quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. The 58 total tackles were tied for fifth among all FBS defensive linemen.

Jeremy Darvin, WKU’s other starting defensive tackle, posted 31 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. Darvin and Barber were each voted Conference USA Honorable Mention by the league’s coaches. Barber was named to the Phil Steele Publications C-USA Second Team and Darvin was a C-USA Third Team selection.

“THE BEST IN THE BUSINESS!! Happy for you coach show dem boys back at da crib wassup,” Darvin tweeted in response to Martin.

In 2019, WKU finished with a top 25 overall defense. It allowed only 20.1 points per game, which was the lowest mark for the program since 2004 and ranked 22nd in the country.

The Hilltoppers finished the year 9-4 with a victory over Western Michigan in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl.

WKU is scheduled to start the 2021 season against UT Martin with a Sept. 4 game at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.