Brandon Doughty doesn't wonder what might have been because of a knee injury two years ago, the Western Kentucky junior is too busy working to become the Hilltoppers' starting quarterback.
In fact, Doughty believes things are happening as they're supposed to as he embarks on a new phase with new coach Bobby Petrino while learning a new spread offense. Doughty's coming off a strong spring but knows he must continue to show growth and consistency to beat out redshirt freshman Damarcus Smith and three others for the starting job.
Whoever wins it has big shoes to fill after Kawaun Jakes' departure along with meeting the expectations of Petrino and offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm, a former NFL quarterback. Doughty just feels "blessed" to have another opportunity to prove himself.
"I was at a high point before the injury and then I was at a low point in my life," Doughty said of the torn anterior cruciate sustained early in the 2011 season. "To bounce back and see how God put all these people that I respect so much in my path and the way things have happened, it's unbelievable how it puts things in perspective real quick."
Doughty is trying to maintain perspective because he's not close to claiming the job outright. Despite having the early edge entering fall camp following an impressive 314-yard, five-touchdown performance on 23 of 35 passing in WKU's spring scrimmage, coaches insist the competition is still open with three weeks before the Hilltoppers' Aug. 31 opener against Kentucky in Nashville, Tenn.
Petrino said during Saturday's media day interview that Doughty has been on a good path since practice began Monday. The process of familiarizing himself with a young wide receivers corps has affected his accuracy, but the coach said that's to be expected this early in camp.
What has impressed Petrino is Doughty's quick grasp of the up-tempo offense that uses multiple receivers. He also praised Doughty's technique first noticed during warm-ups for last December's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, WKU's first postseason game as a Football Bowl Subdivision member.
"I really liked his demeanor and the way he handled himself on the practice field," Petrino said, "and then as we got into spring, he's a very, very quick learner and he picked things up, he worked hard at it and spent extra time in the meeting room and watching video. He just needs to keep progressing."
Doughty returned last season but completed just one of three passes for 7 yards as the third-stringer to Jakes, who threw for 2,488 yards and 22 touchdowns in leading the Hilltoppers to a 7-6 finish. Watching Jakes taught Doughty a lot about technique and game management before Petrino came aboard, which forced him to brush up even more on the spread offense.
The arrival of Brohm, who recruited the Davie, Fla., native, at Florida Atlantic University, further motivated him to understand and execute the system the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder believes is tailor-made for his skills.
"Knowing Petrino to be the offensive guru that he is, I did my research," Doughty said. "I've got butterflies thinking about what the offense is going to look like."
Doughty considers himself a pocket passer but said he can run if necessary without worrying about the knee. His focus in practice is positioning receivers right and delivering the ball quickly enough that scrambling won't be needed.
As Brohm works to make sure all his quarterbacks become proficient with the offense, he echoed Petrino's assessment that Doughty's progress and dedication. Whether the slight lead he had this spring turns into the starting nod remains to be seen, Doughty is enjoying being part of the discussion again.
"I've been good with it and everything's happening so fast," Doughty said of the learning process. "I don't think about what-ifs. I'm just trying to work every day to get better."