WKU football practice

Western Kentucky running back Joshua Samuel carries the ball during practice Aug. 2 at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Depth chart revelations in college football are becoming more and more vague.

The ever consistent “or” conjunction between names that offers ambiguity to position titles and now the numerically listed groups have taken the place of a two-deep depth chart that sheds light on first- and second-string players.

Western Kentucky on Monday released its own numerical depth chart rather than the traditional format just days before opening the season against FCS opponent Central Arkansas on Thursday.

The Hilltoppers have a wide range of assumed playmakers who will take the field first, but a two-deep depth chart doesn’t offer much when the plan is to rotate players through various packages.

What the numerical depth chart does is list selected players expected to contribute and not every available player at a certain position.

For example, WKU lists three potential quarterbacks to play Thursday. Tyson Helton announced Steven Duncan as the starter and listed two other quarterbacks, Ty Storey and Davis Shanley, on the depth chart, omitting redshirt freshman Kevaris Thomas.

WKU lists four of its six total running backs on the depth chart, but that position group specifically will play by committee.

Defensively, WKU lists 10 defensive linemen, six linebackers, four cornerbacks, four nickelbacks and five safeties.

Here are four observations from WKU’s released depth:

Rinella ineligible early, freshman called up

Helton announced Monday that redshirt senior kicker Alex Rinella is academically ineligible for the first two games. WKU’s only returning specialist will miss games against Central Arkansas and Sept. 7 at FIU before a potential return against Louisville on Sept. 14. Rinella went 7-of-10 on field goals and made all 12 extra-point attempts last season.

That leaves freshman Cory Munson as the starter for Thursday.

“Very talented kid and I expect Cory to have his ups and downs,” Helton said. “He’s a young freshman. I told him the other day you’re running out there whether you make it or not so if you miss one, just run back over here and get ready for the next one because you’re going back out there again.”

Munson made 17-of-23 field goal attempts as a junior at Northside High School in Warner Robins, Ga., including a program-record 59-yard field goal.

Webb Bates is the other kicking option, while transfer John Haggerty will serve as WKU’s punter.

“I’ll try to take care of Cory some depending how the game goes and try not to put him in situations a little adverse for him, but we’ll have to play that by ear,” Helton said. “As far as leg strength and talent goes, (Haggerty and Munson) are talented and hopefully they can get in a groove and we rely on those two guys.”

Running back rotation

Helton will rotate between four players at running back between Jakairi Moses, Gaej Walker, Joshua Samuel and KeShawn McClendon. The redshirt sophomore Samuel led WKU in rushing last season with 641 yards on 120 carries. Gino Appleberry, the team’s third leading rusher, is not listed on the released depth chart.

“We’ll be running back by committee,” Helton said at his weekly news conference Monday. “I’ll say names in no particular order. Every single guy is different and they all have different skill traits.

“You’ll predominantly see those four guys all play. Now, some will play more than others, but I’d like to get all four of those running backs in the game.”

That position group took a hit when Quinton Baker was dismissed from the team Aug. 17, but it adds Walker from the defense and Moses back from injury.

Hunter still awaiting eligibility

WKU is still awaiting word from the NCAA for an eligibility waiver to be granted to linebacker Jaden Hunter. Helton said word could come Monday, but that doesn’t mean the Georgia transfer will be granted that eligibility.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Hunter is listed in WKU’s group of six linebackers on the depth chart.

“It would be great to have Jaden available before the game,” Helton said.

Bush listed in safety/special teams role

True freshman Clayton Bush is one of five safeties and three punt return options on the depth chart. The South Warren High School graduate is the only freshman from southcentral Kentucky listed on the released depth chart.{&end}

– Follow WKU athletics beat writer Elliott Pratt on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

Covering the Western Kentucky University athletics beat for the Bowling Green Daily News.

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