Tag Archives: Jared Clendenin

WKU defense ‘hungry’ for renewed confidence

By Zach Greenwell

There wasn’t a whole lot said about Western Kentucky’s new 4-3 defense during Tuesday’s media day activities, but the scheme received rave reviews from the players in attendance.

“Our defensive scheme is coming along – I like it a lot,” senior linebacker Thomas Majors said. “The only difference is that instead of having a two-gap scheme, we’ve got a one-gap scheme. We just have one gap to control, so if everyone does their job, things should go well.”

Junior defensive end Jared Clendenin said he also prefers the new look to the old 3-4.

“Last year it was a lot more positioning, trying to get in position laterally,” Clendenin said. “This year we’re going downhill, getting in those gaps and firing off the ball. You don’t have to think as much this year – you’ve got one assignment and you just go.”

Read: Coaching staff looking for consistency in quarterback race

New defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said that the players need to work on polishing basic fundamentals and developing a tougher mentality.

“We just want to continue to build what we started in the springtime, and that’s getting in a defensive mentality in which those kids feel that when they step on the field, no one’s going to move the ball on them,” Bowen said. “Our kids did a nice job in the summer … so when they showed up yesterday, their knowledge level didn’t drop off – it actually increased from when we finished the spring time.

“You see them in practice – there’s not that lost look. Now they can get the call, stay focused and work on the small things.”

It was a rough year for the Toppers’ defense last season, and it was one that Clendenin said stifled the unit’s confidence.

The rebuilding of that confidence is an everyday process, Clendenin said.

“We stay hungry,” he said. “I can’t even explain how hungry we are. We want to get it, and we’re out there working hard every day.”

Turning confidence into results is all about a mindset, Bowen said.

The first four games of WKU’s season – beginning with Nebraska on Sept. 4 – will be challenging, but Bowen said a lot can be overcome with the right frame of mind.

“We have to get these kids to understand that giving up yards and letting teams have success against you is not acceptable,” he said. “Every time you go on the field, you have to go out there with that gunfighter mentality. Until they truly adopt that – that everything we do on defense has a zero margin of error – it’s going to become critical.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in our guys that whoever they line up against, they’re going to be able to hold their own. We’ve given our kids money to play football too.”

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Toppers hold first scrimmage of the spring

The Toppers held their first official scrimmage of the spring season today.

As Head Coach Willie Taggart said they would do, the team ran strictly out of situations rather than just running regular plays.

The offense got off to a very slow start, and the struggles continued for much of the first half of the scrimmage.

Junior quarterback Matt Pelesasa and junior quarterback Tyler Bruce split time under center and were continuously being pressured by the defense.

About midway through the scrimmage, former Western football coach Jimmy Feix spoke to the team during one of their breaks and was greeted with a loud applause and standing ovation.

In the second half of the scrimmage, the Toppers put together eight touchdowns in 12 plays, highlighted by a 96-yard touchdown run by junior running back Braxston Miller and three touchdowns from redshirt freshman wide receiver Willie McNeal. Bruce connected with Miller for a 15-yard touchdown pass as well, which was Miller’s third score of the day.

Taggart said he was happy with how his team looked on both sides of the ball, despite the slow start from the offense.

“The coaches weren’t out there telling them what to do and guys were over-thinking things,” Taggart said. “But it was good to see how our guys would do when we’re not out there and see how they respond.”

He said the goal was simply to get his players to think about what they need to do in certain situations, whether it’s third and long, third and medium, or first and ten.

But Saturday was really the first time since spring practice started that the team had a chance to try out their new plays in a game situation.

Sophomore tight end Jack Doyle said the first week was mentally tough on the players because they were learning so many new plays, but that Saturday was “fun” because they could finally get on the field and play.

Junior defensive lineman Jared Clendenin also said it was good for the team to get on the field and play at a game-like tempo.

“We had a lot of just thud temp practices,” he said. “We can’t really get a good look with thud tempo. We like to tackle and take them to the ground, so it felt pretty good to do that.”

Doyle also said the team is excited about the new West Coast offense that’s been installed under Taggart.

“Anybody could be the playmaker,” he said. “We saw Willie McNeal make a ton of plays today. It’s not just Bobby Rainey or someone else, because anyone can step up and make plays in this offense.”

Clendenin said today’s scrimmage was a good way to measure how much the team has improved since day one, saying the team has made “major” progress since then.

-Cole Claybourn

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Point of emphasis: Reign in the physicality

Western came into practice last week looking to up the physicality after a 63-7 blowout loss at Tennessee. The Toppers came out fired up Saturday night for South Florida, but recorded 13 penalties for 124 yards—10 in the first half alone.

Junior offensive lineman Preston King said practice this week is about keeping the effort level up and the penalty yards down.

“We’re still playing physical, but being smart while playing physical,” King said.

Coach David Elson said he talked about the penalties to his team when looking over Saturday’s game film and said that he’s “confident that it will be corrected.”

Elson preached the same message as King — that Western needs to play smarter this Saturday against Central Arkansas.

“A lot of it had to do with effort,” Elson said. “We were just playing that hard and couldn’t let up, but we’ve got to learn to do that. We need to learn how to play at a really high intensity level but under control to where those things don’t happen.”

Also, after sitting out of Tuesday’s practice, freshman tight end Jack Doyle, senior center Cody Hughes, junior lineman Derrick Elder and sophomore defensive end Jared Clendenin all returned to the field on Wednesday. Senior receiver Jake Gaebler continues to nurse a pulled hamstring.

-Jonathan Lintner

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Western nursing a host of injuries

Last week it was the flu. This week, the injury bug is biting Western’s football team.
The questionable list for Saturday’s game against Central Arkansas grew longer following another physical Tuesday practice back from the Toppers’ latest loss to South Florida.
Senior wide receiver Jake Gaebler is nursing a hamstring, senior center Cody Hughes is still fighting a bruised shin and head coach David Elson said freshman tight end Jack Doyle has a hip flexor. All were held out of Tuesday’s practice.
Sophomore defensive end Jared Clendenin failed to leave the practice field under his own power, toting a bag of ice on his arm and junior offensive lineman Derrick Elder went down with just a few minutes left in practice and didn’t return.
I’ll be back tomorrow or Thursday with updates on the injuries–whenever Elson gives an official update–as well as how they’ll affect playing time in this Saturday’s game against Central Arkansas.
-Jonathan Lintner

Last week it was the flu. This week, the injury bug is biting Western’s football team.

The questionable list for Saturday’s game against Central Arkansas grew longer following another physical Tuesday practice back from the Toppers’ latest loss to South Florida.

Senior wide receiver Jake Gaebler is nursing a hamstring, senior center Cody Hughes is still fighting a bruised shin and head coach David Elson said freshman tight end Jack Doyle has a hip flexor. All were held out of Tuesday’s practice.

Sophomore defensive end Jared Clendenin failed to leave the practice field under his own power, toting a bag of ice on his arm and junior offensive lineman Derrick Elder went down with just a few minutes left in practice and didn’t return.

I’ll be back tomorrow or Thursday with updates on the injuries–whenever Elson gives an official update–as well as how they’ll affect playing time in this Saturday’s game against Central Arkansas.

-Jonathan Lintner

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Notebook: WKU football Media Day

Smith “honored” to have starting quarterback role

After so many years of riding the bench, waiting for his opportunity, Brandon Smith was named the starting quarterback for Western’s football team this fall. Smith, a redshirt senior out of Danville, saw action in four games last season, completing 12-of-25 passes for 47 yards.

“It’s an honor to get that starting job,” Smith said. “But now I kind of see it as the real job starts, and the real job is to get the offense going and to meet our team goals this year.”

Smith has seen the ups and downs of Western’s transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), and said he’s ready to accomplish something more than just being there in 2009.

“I waited a long time to get this opportunity, but you know, just getting the opportunity isn’t enough. I’d like to do something with it,” Smith said. “It’s only going to be a success if we meet our goals.”

Western using low rankings as motivation

It’s no secret: The critics haven’t been kind to Western this preseason. The New York Times and Sports Illustrated ranked the Toppers 120th among the 120 FBS teams entering this season, a year after Sports Illustrated left them off the list completely.

Elson noticed his team’s absence from the list last season. Now, entering his 14th season of coaching at Western, he’s telling players that respect has to be earned.

“I told our guys, and I said this even last year, but nobody’s going to hand us anything,” Elson said. “Nothing in this world is given to you. You have to earn it. There’s only one thing you can do about it, and that is to go out and prepare to be as successful as you can on Saturdays and beat people you’re not supposed to beat.”

The low ranking isn’t lowering spirits in camp, but rather giving the players something to work towards.

“You see it, you notice it, and of course we use it as motivation,” Smith said. “I know me personally, I think about it a lot when I’m out there working. A lot of people are basically counting us out.”

Under new coaches, players find system familiar

Head coach David Elson introduced three new coordinators to the team over the spring – Mike Dietzel on defense, Walt Wells with the offense and Stu Holt, who now works with the special teams.

Each coach was already a member of the Toppers’ staff (with Dietzel moving to defensive coordinator for the second time), and players said they have found the transition to be easy so far.

“Nothing much has changed from coach Elson being our coordinator to coach Dietzel,” sophomore defensive lineman Jared Clendenin said. “They’ve got the same core values for the defense, and that’s to go out and play hard every time and fly hard to the ball.”

Dietzel said he hoped the players’ familiarity with the coordinators will lead to good things, adding that even though he didn’t have a defensive position while working with special teams, he was always a part of the mix when Elson was in charge.

“I’ve been on the defense the entire time I’ve been here,” Dietzel said. “From the standpoint of that, the players are used to me being a part of the meetings and a part of the defensive strategy.”

Having a new offensive coordinator and quarterback in the same year can often be confusing, but Smith said he’s not worried.

Under Wells’ system, Smith said changes have been kept at a minimum, and the newly appointed coach is rather adding on to what the offense already knew.

“Coach Wells made it pretty simple for us,” Smith said. “A lot of the terminology has stayed the same. A lot of the plays from the past we’ve kept in, but we’ve added a few new wrinkles here and there to make it an overall balanced offense.”

Western looking to finish close games with a win in 2009

A story from both the 2007 and 2008 transition seasons was how close Western came to knocking off so many opponents. Close losses to Troy and North Texas two seasons ago lingered into 2008, where Western was a drive away from knocking off Florida Atlantic and a turnover from a win against North Texas.

Nobody knows the ins and outs of those tight games better than Elson, who reviewed game tape from some of his latest barn burners and came away hopeful for this season.

“You can see with a little something here, a little something there, whether it be schematically, whether it be the ball bouncing your way, a call here or there, we’ve been extremely close,” Elson said. “So that’s got to give you some optimism as you go into it.”

Jeremy Moore, Western’s senior punter, was on line with Elson.

“We’ve been in almost every single game we’ve played in,” Moore said. “If we can find a way this year to finish games better, to execute in the fourth quarter when it’s tied and we’re up by a touchdown, down by a touchdown, a lot of those games can go the other way.”

The Toppers have more reward to win the close ones in 2009. Now an official member of the Sun Belt conference, Western’s bowl eligibility is on the line with every win and loss.

Crennel denoted as Distinguished Alumni

As announced on Thursday, former Western football walk-on and eventual standout Romeo Crennel will be inducted into the 2009 class of Western Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Crennnel was a four-year starter for the Toppers, playing from 1966-69. After serving as a graduate assistant for Western, Crennel went on to be an assistant coach in the NFL for 24 seasons and was head coach of the Cleveland Browns for four seasons.

Throughout his career, Crennel won five Super Bowl rings.

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