Coach Willie Taggart doesn’t have a lot to complain about these days.
When asked on Friday, the last afternoon practice of fall camp, if he had any complaints about his team heading into next weekend’s season-opener he had a pretty simple answer — no.
“We’ve had a really good camp,” Taggart said. “I’ve been impressed with the way our kids have been working, coming out and giving it their all every single day we come out here, not allowing ‘Freddie Soft’ to come out here day in and day out. Guys have been fighting through it.”
The Toppers will close out fall camp on Saturday morning and play their first game, against Austin Peay, next Saturday at Smith Stadium.
The WKU roster has started to take shape as fall camp closes, and team captains will be announced on Saturday.
Taggart said the Toppers have improved across the board this offseason. He cited the even playing field of competition between the offense and defense as evidence of the talent WKU has.
“It wasn’t one side dominating the camp like it has been in the past, and to me that’s a good sign,” he said. “We’re getting ourselves to where we’re a good football team.”
Dowling to sport Taggart’s number this season
Sophomore defensive back Jonathan Dowling will wear No. 1 for WKU this season.
Dowling played his freshman season at Florida after coming out of his school as one of the top safeties in the country. He sat out last season after transferring to WKU but is eligible to play as a sophomore this year.
No. 1 holds special significance for the WKU football program. Taggart wore it when he played quarterback for the Toppers in the 1990’s.
The coach said Dowling earned it for the way he has performed on the field, but he can always give the safety his old No. 10 back if he doesn’t play at a high level.
“I told him now, the beauty of it is he can always add that zero to it at any time,” Taggart said. “I told him to make sure he takes care of that No. 1.”
Toppers to hold Family Fun Day on Saturday
After a month of practices in the August heat, the Toppers will finish camp up by celebrating with their fans at the WKU Football Family Fun Day.
The Toppers will practice for the last time on Saturday morning before hosting the free event at Smith Stadium from 4 to 6 p.m.
The first half hour features a full tour of the WKU football facilities, while the final hour and a half will give fans an opportunity to meet the team and get autographs.
Taggart said the event is a great chance for WKU to interact and connect with the community.
“It’s a great opportunity for our fans to come out and get to know our football team and our coaches, and for our players to get to know our fans, too,” he said. “We want to build this and we want to build it together. It’s going to take all of us, so show up Saturday and show out.”
Offense and defense face off in Thursday scrimmage
The Toppers had their final full-on scrimmage before the season-opener on Thursday, the last chance for the offense and defense to take the field against each other.
Taggart said the exhibition was a good chance for players to make their case for a starting job before next Friday.
“I told the guys, ‘This is your last chance to really get on the bus,’” he said. “Some guys are right at the doorstep of that bus, whether they get on that bus or not.
“This scrimmage will be a big part of that, seeing whether they’re gonna be there with us.”
The coach came away from the scrimmage impressed with the defense. He had said earlier in the week that the offense has had the upper hand in practice recently and he was looking for the defense to respond.
“I thought we got out of it what we were looking for,” Taggart said. “One thing we wanted to see defensively was tackling better and I thought our guys did a better job of tackling, and we created some turnovers.”
WKU hasn’t played a regular-season football game since Nov. 26, 2011, and Taggart said the scrimmage showed that his team is ready to face off with a regular-season opponent.
“These guys are starting to do it and they’re hungry,” he said. “They’re ready to hit someone else now.”