Tag Archives: WKU

Monday football practice quick hits: Jakes named starting QB

By Zach Greenwell

Well, what started out as an uneventful Monday morning practice picked up when reporters were informed that sophomore Kawaun Jakes has been named Western’s starting quarterback by Head Coach Willie Taggart.

Taggart said that he’s been impressed by how Jakes bounced back from his basketball-related ankle injury in the spring, as well as how quickly he’s picked up the West Coast offense. Taggart also said that having not seen much of Jakes in the spring, he was surprised by his ability to throw the ball.

Junior Matt Pelesasa will continue to back up Jakes in the No. 2 slot, and Taggart insinuated that true freshman Brandon Doughty will not automatically redshirt. The Toppers only have three quarterbacks on roster, so Taggart said Doughty will travel with the team and would be used in an “emergency situation.”

This is the fifth straight year that Western has had a different starting quarterback to start the season — Jakes, Brandon Smith in 2009, K.J. Black in 2008, David Wolke in 2007 and Justin Haddix in 2006.

I’ll have plenty more on the QB situation — including quotes and video from Taggart, Jakes and Pelesasa — at wkuherald.com later today.

A few other notes:

— Taggart said that the rest of the depth chart for Nebraska would start to fall into place over the next couple days. He also said that the team will firmly turn its attention to the Huskers later in the week.

— Junior running back Bobby Rainey sat out his fourth straight practice with a sore shoulder today, but Taggart officially went on record that he’d just prefer to let Rainey sit for right now and “save it for Nebraska.”

— The Herald’s still working to find out the latest on the “Antonio Andrews to Western” whispers. Andrews, a former Fort Campbell standout and Kentucky Mr. Football, is no longer on Air Force’s roster and is rumored to be coming to Western. No official word is out on that yet, and Western can’t comment until he’s officially on the team, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

We’re still working that from different angles, however, so stay tuned.

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REPORT: Kentucky’s Mr. Football enrolling at WKU

I know I’m a little late to the party with this, but Scott Brown from WKDZ in Hopkinsville is reporting that 2010 Kentucky Mr. Football Antonio Andrews has enrolled at Western.

Andrews, a standout at Fort Campbell, threw for 3,365 yards and 50 touchdowns, rushed for 3,368 yards and 56 TDs and caught one pass for a 56 yard TD during his career as the Falcons’ quarterback.

Andrews considered Western before eventually signing with Air Force in February.

Nashville’s 104.5 The Zone and the Fort Campbell football radio crew have also published the report on their Twitter accounts.

The original report claims that Andrews said he would begin practice with the Toppers today. I’ll be out at Western’s practice, which is taking place from 6:45-8:45 at Bowling Green High School because of the Rafferty’s Bowl at Houchen-Smith Stadium.

Andrews isn’t listed in Western’s campus directory available on its Web site, but that certainly doesn’t mean he wasn’t enrolled very recently.

If Andrews is out with the team, I’ll be sure to pass the info along immediately. If he’s not, I’ll talk to media relations and get to the bottom of the issue.

-Zach Greenwell

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Friday football practice quick hits

By Zach Greenwell

Just got back from Western’s situational scrimmage football practice.

The Toppers worked through several different situations, lining up on the 35- and 50-yard lines early in practice, then moving to midfield and the red zone before backing up to the offense’s own goal line toward the end.

It was a poor day for the offense — probably one of its weakest so far this camp. The offense had several penalties and missed routes, and Head Coach Willie Taggart said he was kind of perplexed by the lack of focus.

Of the three quarterbacks, sophomore Kawaun Jakes was the clear winner today. Taggart said freshman Brandon Doughty began the day with two straight interceptions, and Pelesasa, who has returned from a tired throwing arm, never looked sharp and missed several throws.

It was just a weird day from the offense, to be honest. It probably comes down to a lack of mental focus — the kind of off day Taggart said he’d been waiting for — so it will be interesting to see how the Toppers respond tomorrow.

A few other thoughts from today’s scrimmage:

— Just a few people I saw sitting out of today’s practice — running backs Bobby Rainey and Avery Hibbitt, offensive lineman Adam Smith, receiver Dexter Haynes and linebacker Ben Duvall.

— Speaking of Rainey, I had a chance to talk with him after practice today. Rainey missed practice yesterday also with a sore shoulder, but I think both days have been purely precautionary. He should return to the field soon, yellow jersey in tote.

The conversation I had with Rainey was a pretty funny one. We talked football and just about everything outside it, including his tendency to play with himself on NCAA Football ’11 for Playstation 3.

Rainey commented on whether or not he’s rated fairly on the video game and even admitted that he sometimes puts himself in at QB when Jakes goes down hurt.

We of course also talked about the upcoming season and his expectations as an offensive leader. I’ll have that feature on Sunday, which is the team’s first day off since camp started.

I’ll have a notebook from today’s practice on the Web site soon, along with a feature on senior wide receiver Quinterrance Cooper. Cooper’s seen more losses than just about anybody on this Western squad, and he’ll be the first to tell you he’ll do anything Taggart says if it means wins.

Look for both of those stories at wkuherald.com later tonight.

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Thursday football quick hits: Pelesasa, Rainey sit with minor injuries

By Zach Greenwell

It was a fairly light news day at Western’s football practice Thursday morning.

Junior quarterback Matt Pelesasa was once again held out with what’s being called a tired throwing arm. Sophomore Kawaun Jakes and freshman Brandon Doughty again took all of the snaps under center with Pelesasa sidelined, but Head Coach Willie Taggart said Pelesasa would be back for this afternoon’s second practice.

Junior running back Bobby Rainey was also out of pads – and the infamous yellow jersey – and was seen icing his left shoulder.

Taggart said that Rainey landed awkwardly on the shoulder during a drill, but that holding him out was just precautionary.

“He sprained his shoulder in the summer, and he went to catch a ball and just landed on it,” Taggart said. “He’ll be fine though.”

We’ve seen similar situations from Taggart a lot this fall with tackle Wes Jeffries, kicker Casey Tinius and of course, Pelesasa. It’s pretty clear that when a proven playmaker goes down with a minor injury, this staff would prefer to give him a few days rest over risking something more serious.

Doughty looks strong

We didn’t get to see much 11-on-11 today, but in the few drives we did see, I was really impressed by Doughty.

The true freshman’s mid-range to deep ball looked the best it has, hooking up with tight end Tristan Jones and receivers Quinterrance Cooper and Blake Ayers for receptions of 15 yards or more.

Although I don’t think these last couple days are enough to pull Doughty back into the race with Pelesasa and Jakes, it does make it seem like the future could be bright for him.

Of course, with the offense having such big success, that means that the defense didn’t have its best day.

Taggart said it’s been two straight days where the offense has decisively gotten the better of the D, and he said the latter needs to learn when to say “enough is enough.”

“We were a lot better offensively today than we were defensively,” Taggart said. “But the thing I did like about the defense was that we were running to the ball. It just wasn’t as much energy as there has been.

“The guys feed off each other. When they’re fired up, it’s hard to move the ball on them. When they’re just out there and quiet, it comes really easy for the offense.”

Taggart goes ‘big-time’

On a lighter note, Taggart elaborated on his dinner last night at the governor’s mansion with Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and his wife.

Taggart was joined by Western Director of Athletics Ross Bjork and President Gary Ransdell.

“I had all the questions I could,” Taggart said. “It’s not like I get to talk to the governor every day. I said I wanted to make sure I got it all out while I was there.

“I felt big-time. I felt like I arrived a little bit there. I walked out with my chest up and a little pep in my step after that.”

Taggart was asked what he had to eat at the dinner and excitedly answered steak and potatoes.

“We were keeping it country,” Taggart said. “Keeping it country in the governor’s mansion.”

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Wednesday football practice quick hits

By Zach Greenwell

Sorry I’m a little late today. The Toppers finished practice Wednesday right around noon, but I hung around after to chat with receivers coach Terry Obee.

I talked to Obee about the potential of freshman Willie McNeal, and how he can be an explosive piece of Western’s offense. Look for more on McNeal’s role this season at wkuherald.com later today.

Pelesasa rests

The biggest news of Wednesday’s practice was that junior quarterback Matt Pelesasa sat out for nearly all drills because of a sore throwing arm, according to Head Coach Willie Taggart.

I only saw Pelesasa take one rep during the time I was at practice, which was a ball greatly overthrown to Bobby Rainey.

In Pelesasa’s absence, I’d say sophomore Kawaun Jakes took about 70 percent of the snaps, while freshman Brandon Doughty got the rest.

It was a good day for both quarterbacks, as Western worked on attacking a nickel defense with short, quick passes.

I’ll have more quarterback updates in a notebook on the Herald’s Web site today.

A few other notes from today’s practice:

— Junior tackle Wes Jeffries was in a sling at practice Wednesday, but Taggart said that it was a minor arm injury that he has been nursing all camp. We’ll keep an eye on that situation, because Jeffries is simply a lineman that the Toppers can’t afford to lose.

— Senior linebacker Chris Bullard was back on the field with the first-team defense today. Bullard had been sidelined for the first week of camp after having minor knee surgery this summer.

— With kicker/punter Casey Tinius still out with a groin injury, freshman Hendrix Brakefield looked as impressive to me as he has all camp.

Brakefield rattled off about five or six straight solid punts at one point, showing that potential that Taggart has mentioned before.

Freshman kicker Monte Merrick, filling in for Tinius, also made the first field goal I can recall seeing him make so far, a chip shot from about 21 yards.

— A couple guys that impressed me today: receiver Jamarielle Brown and running back Dalton Cissell.

I know we’ve tooted Cissell’s horn on a few occasions to this point, but the freshman has frankly looked better than any RB in camp not named Bobby Rainey. Cissell’s biggest play of the day was a strong run of about 25 yards, taking down numerous tacklers along the way.

Again, look for a story on Willie McNeal and a full notebook on the day’s action at wkuherald.com in a little bit.

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Tuesday football practice quick hits

By Zach Greenwell

Finally, they speak.

Western’s three quarterbacks became available to the media for the first time after Tuesday morning’s practice, and the standard line from all of them was that it’s more about improving right now than winning the starting job.

Head Coach Willie Taggart reiterated today that junior Matt Pelesasa and sophomore Kawaun Jakes have distanced themselves from true freshman Brandon Doughty, although Taggart hesitated to say that Doughty was out of the race altogether.

“Every year, as long as I’m head coach, we’re going to have some competition at that position,” Taggart said. “We need it. We need the best out of those guys all the time.

“Kawaun had a really good day today, but again, Matt made some good plays. Both those guys are coming. I’m happy with where they’re at, but they’ve got to continue working to separate themselves.”

Both Pelesasa and Jakes made some big plays Tuesday, with quite a bit of help from their receivers.

It was honestly one of the best days I’ve seen from the Toppers’ receiving corps, as everyone made both the routine and spectacular catch.

Pelesasa’s biggest score was on a pass to junior running back Bobby Rainey, who soared up to catch a ball well over his head in the end zone.

Jakes answered with an uncharacteristic long ball, a 65-yard bomb to senior Quinterrance Cooper for a touchdown.

Receivers Dexter Haynes and Willie McNeal also had some solid receptions.

If Pelesasa had any sort of lead over Jakes early in camp, I think it’s safe to say that Jakes has brought that battle back to neck-and-neck.

I’ll have a whole lot more on the quarterback situation, including videos of each of the candidates, at wkuherald.com later today.

Getting their kicks

We learned today that junior kicker/punter Casey Tinius has been suffering from a strained groin over the last few days.

In his absence, freshmen punters Hendrix Brakefield and Kevin Carrillo and freshman kicker Monte Merrick have handled the special teams duties.

Western will definitely need the services of Tinius, however, because although each of his replacements have shown flashes of brilliance, not every kick or punt has been gold.

Merrick’s only field goal try of the day was from about 38 yards, and it came up about five yards short and to the right.

“We’ve got to have a kicker,” Taggart said. “That kicker’s got to be great. We’re going to make sure (Tinius) is healthy, and make sure he’s ready to roll for us, because we’re going to need some field goals.”

Whoever wins the punting job will have to replace standout Jeremy Moore, who was a bright spot in last year’s 0-12 season.

Brakefield, a Nashville, Tenn., native, is listed as the starting punter on Western’s fall depth chart.

“There’s competition there too,” Taggart said. “We need someone to step up and do that part for our team. We look for those guys to be great at doing that.

“Some of those guys, like Brakefield, will kick the ball 60 yards, and then he’ll come back and kick it 20. We need some consistency, because he can do it.”

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Monday football practice quick hits

By Zach Greenwell

Not a whole lot of news to report from Western’s football practice today, although we’re starting to see a lot more of quarterbacks Matt Pelesasa and Kawuan Jakes volleying for the starting job.

Jakes has really looked much better over the last couple days, and I’d say today was probably the best he’s looked so far in camp.

Jakes scored on a scramble of about 30 yards as soon as I arrived at Houchens-Smith Stadium, and he was able to make several solid short passes — basically chipping his way down the field.

Head Coach Willie Taggart said that Pelesasa didn’t have his best practice last night, and to be honest, I feel like Jakes has tightened that race considerably over the past couple days.

We’ll gain more perspective into that situation tomorrow when the quarterbacks become available for interviews for the first time after Tuesday’s practice.

A few other notes:

— Not only has the entire offensive line boycotted interviews until the Toppers win a game, but they’ve gotten their coach involved too. Offensive line coach Walt Wells was geared up to talk to me for a few minutes one-on-one today, until he was urged not to do so by his players.

I’ll have a feature on the veteran offensive line and their silence in a little bit, with some interesting quotes from Taggart and tight end Jack Doyle — assuming the O-line doesn’t find  a way to get the story off the Web.

— Junior running back Bobby Rainey has been wearing a yellow jersey in practice, and Taggart explained today that the jersey signifies that Rainey is not to be touched during drills.

Taggart said his first year at Stanford, when his running back corps went through six starters because of injury, persuaded him to protect Rainey, one of his biggest playmakers. Look for more on that in a notebook in a while.

— A few guys that stood out to me in practice today — running back Keyshawn Simpson, receiver Marcus Vasquez and defensive back Tyree Robinson.

Robinson was especially impressive, breaking up a pass in the end zone and intercepting another. If there was any position where I would expect some freshmen to break through, I’d imagine it would be in the inexperienced secondary.

Check wkuherald.com later tonight for full coverage of today’s practice.

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