Bowling Green, Ky. — Day three of training camp is in the books for the Western Kentucky University football team, and as it turns out, Wednesday was also the final day that the Hilltoppers will split up into freshman and veteran practices. The first full squad practice — with all 103 players on the field together — will take place Thursday morning, a day earlier than originally scheduled.
Taking the Heat — Mother nature has provided a toasty start to fall camp, with the heat index around 100 degrees. Players donned shoulder pads for the first time on Wednesday, but head coach Willie Taggart was still pleased with his squad’s mentality throughout practice.
“It was warmer today than it has been, but our guys got after it a little more today,” said Taggart. “The good thing is that our guys are being conscious about running around. The first day I wasn’t impressed with our conditioning, but now I hear our guys picking each other up, and that’s what you want to hear as a coach.”
McNeal Back In The Mix — After a stellar rookie season in 2010 that earned him Freshman All-America honors, wide receiver Willie McNeal suffered a knee injury in spring practice that sidelined him for the 2011 campaign. After getting back into the mix in the spring, the Bradenton, Fla., product is ready to get back at it and help add to WKU’s receiving corp this fall.
“We got a glimpse of Willie being back in the spring, but now we see him out there making the plays that he is capable of making,” explained Taggart. “Willie’s a playmaker, so we have to find ways to get the ball in his hands. Maybe even better than that he is a great teammate — that’s the thing that people don’t always see, but it is huge for our program to have guys like that.”
Even Playing Field Early — Typically by this stage of camp, head coaches are able to see a faster progression of one side of the ball over another. However, through three days Taggart is yet to draw any such conclusion. That is something that makes the third-year coach excited about the balance of his squad.
“This is the first time in three years that I can say neither side has an edge,” said Taggart. “It‘s been going back and forth, and both sides of the ball are doing some really good things. I’m excited to see that. If we can continue to have that balance, it will only make us better as a football team.”