Tops pick up commitment from ex-Texas State starting QB Finley

Published 3:26 pm Monday, January 22, 2024

Bowling Green Daily News

Western Kentucky’s football program picked up a potentially impactful commitment on Monday when former Texas State starter quarterback TJ Finley announced his intention to transfer to the school.

Finley, a 6-foot-7, 255-pound quarterback who led the Bobcats to an 8-5 record capped by a 45-21 win against Rice in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl, has plenty of starting experience in his previous stops at LSU (2020), Auburn (2021-22) and Texas State (2023).

The native of Ponchatoula, La., originally signed with LSU and started five games as a true freshman, completing 80 of 140 passes for 941 yards and five touchdowns with five interceptions.

Finley saw action in nine games, including three starts, at Auburn as a repeat freshman (due to COVID-19 additional eligibility) after transferring to that program. He was 70 of 128 passing for 827 yards and six touchdowns with one interception. Finley got the start in the Tigers’ 17-13 loss to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl, passing for 227 yards and a touchdown.

As a sophomore at Auburn, Finley won the starting QB job for the season opener, but missed several games due to injury and completed 33 of 53 passes for 431 yards and a TD with four interceptions in four games.

Finley had his best collegiate season as a redshirt sophomore at Texas State. An All-Sun Belt Conference honorable mention selection, Finley complete4 279 of 414 passes for 3,439 yards and 24 touchdowns against 8 interceptions. Finley started all 13 games for the Bobcats and added 81 rushing yards and five touchdowns

Finley finished 17th in the country in passing yards, ranked 23rd in the nation in passing yards per game (264.5) and passing touchdowns, 16th in the country in completion percentage (67.4%) and 23rd in passing efficiency to help the Bobcats have the 15th-best offense in the country (457.6 yards/game) and 28th-best passing offense (270.9 yards/game).

Finley would join an open competition for the starting quarterback job at WKU, with two-year starter Austin Reed set to enter the NFL draft after two highly productive seasons leading the Hilltoppers.

Reed got the vast majority of snaps behind center over the past two seasons at WKU, but missed the season-ending Famous Toastery Bowl against Old Dominion in Charlotte, N.C.

That game served as a major breakout performance for WKU redshirt freshman quarterback Caden Veltkamp, who entered the game in relief of starter Turner Helton with the Tops trailing by three touchdowns. Veltkamp, a Bowling Green native who played at South Warren High School, rallied the Hilltoppers from a four-touchdown deficit to a stunning 38-25 overtime win.

Veltkamp, who had just six pass attempts in two college seasons prior to the Famous Toastery Bowl, completed 40 of 52 passes for 383 yards and five touchdowns while also adding 53 rushing yards.

Veltkamp played the bowl game while in the NCAA transfer portal and said afterward that the program had asked him to return to the program before the game as a tight end. Veltkamp announced his return to WKU a couple weeks after the bowl game with the intention of remaining a quarterback.

Helton, a 6-2 redshirt freshman from Palos Verdes, Calif., also remains on the roster after completing 11 of 12 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in three appearances this past season.

Bronson Barron, who completed his junior season at WKU after transferring in from Weber State, announced his intention to transfer to FCS program Southern Utah after the season. Barron had just one completion in two appearances for the Tops.

WKU announced the addition of Tucker Parks, a 6-1 senior at Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas, during the December early signing period. Rated a three-star quarterback prospect by 247Sports and On3, and a two-star recruit by Rivals, Parks was slated to enroll at WKU for the spring semester.

Rodney Tisdale Jr., a 6-3 senior at First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Fla., verbally committed to WKU in July. Tisdale is rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.