SPRING FOOTBALL: Five things to watch

First-year Head Coach Willie Taggart will finally get a chance to show his coaching abilities this week as spring football practice kicks off for the Toppers on Tuesday morning.

Here are five storylines to watch for this spring:

Adjusting to change

Aside from centers and guards, coach Walt Wells and recruiting coordinator Eric Mathies, Western’s staff is entirely new.

“Everything is new for everyone. Coaches, players, trainers, managers,” Taggart said. “The way we do things is new. The system is new. They’ve been going through a lot of different offenses over the last few years and are now going through another one, but this will be the only offense they go through for however many years I’m here.”

Implementing the West Coast offense

Taggart’s West Coast offense should favor the passing game more than the run in contrast to the balanced attack Western sought in years past.

The biggest variable in the West Coast equation is sophomore running back Bobby Rainey, who rushed for 939 yards on 144 carries last season. The ratio between running and passing plays could be affected simply by Rainey’s presence.

New coach, new practices

Spring practice marks Taggart’s first time ever leading a team as a head coach, so it should be interesting to see how he attacks everything this spring — from drills to scrimmages. Taggart said that he wants his practices to be very competitive and fast-paced, much like a game.

“You come out to practice, and you’re going to see everybody running around,” he said. “Trainers, managers, everybody is going to be running because that’s how it’s going to be on game day.”

‘Intense’ quarterback race highlights position battles

Redshirt freshman quarterback Kawaun Jakes returns after starting all but four games last season, but Taggart has said Jakes will compete with junior college transfer Matt Pelesasa, incoming freshman Brandon Doughty and freshman quarterback Courtney Dalcourt for the starting spot.

Pelesasa and Doughty are both coming from systems that featured a West Coast offense, whereas Jakes ran former coach David Elson’s spread offense last season.

Different coordinators

Taggart hired former Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen in February to run Western’s defense next season. Bowen said he plans to implement a defense which uses a four-man front, and Taggart — the Toppers’ offensive coordinator — said all positions are open heading into spring practice.

Cole Claybourn

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