Bowling Green, Ky. — For the seconds straight day, the Western Kentucky University football team split their practices between a freshman session and veteran practice Tuesday, getting out on the grass practice field for the first time in camp. Tuesday also marked the second straight day of workouts in just helmets and shorts. After a similar drill tomorrow, the Hilltoppers will put on shells Thursday before going in full pads for the first full squad workout Friday afternoon.
Taking A Positive Step — Following Monday’s first practice, third-year head coach Willie Taggart expressed some disappointment about his team’s conditioning, but those worries were quickly dispelled after Tuesday’s workout.
“Today was great,” said Taggart. “Our guys were out there running around and it was a lot faster — a lot crisper. Today there was much more of a sense of urgency. We did a lot of good things the first day, and I’m hopeful a lot of it was just guys anxious to get back out and practice.”
Life In The Fast Lane — Throughout the summer and into the start of training camp, Taggart has preached the need for a “fast start” in 2012. It is well documented that after an 0-4 start in 2011, WKU took off to win seven of its last eight and be in a position for postseason play. But this year, Taggart wants that excitement to start right away.
“We‘re a football program that wants to take that next step and gain a national identity,“ explained Taggart. “The only way that is going to happen is by winning some of our nonconference games, and it’s a case where those games are at the beginning of our season. The first two years since we’ve been back, we haven't started fast, so we want to do something new. We want to get people excited about this team early, and get them to stick with us all the way through the season.”
Older Hilltoppers? — After two straight years as one of the youngest teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the 2012 Hilltoppers have an unfamiliar title attached to them — Veterans.
“It’s kind of funny to be able to say that now, consider all the young guys we’ve had playing the past couple years,” said Taggart. “We feel like our guys should know what to do now on both sides of the ball, so we want to see a lot better execution and a fewer missed assignments.”
Communication Is Key — After the first day of practice on Monday, Taggart made it a point to praise his defense not only for their play on the field, but also for their communication — something that wasn‘t always the case the last time they were all on the field together back in the spring.
“More than anything, I praised them because communication was something I was screaming about all spring and didn’t get it,” explained Taggart. “Our defensive coaches are doing a great job of allowing our guys to communicate. It‘s a beautiful thing to sit out there and here those guys yelling out things. You never know when you might alert a guy to something a coach said in a meeting to get someone right on a play. It‘s great to see those guys having each other’s back. They are in year two of this defense, and I guarantee it will pay dividends for us this season.”
Sense of Urgency — About to enter his fourth year under center, senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes has been praised by his coaches for the amount of work he put in this summer. Knowing this is his last go-around in a Hilltopper uniform appears to have sparked a flame in the veteran signal caller.
“Kawaun knows this is it for him, and knows there is not time to waste,” said WKU quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan. “You can definitely tell there is a sense of urgency with him, and he’s excited to go out there in his senior season.”