FIU picked to win Sun Belt, WKU picked fourth

NEW ORLEANS — WKU senior tight end Jack Doyle addresses media members on Monday at the Marriott Hotel at Sun Belt Conference Football Media Day. Doyle was the Toppers’ player representative at the event.

Brad Stephens

NEW ORLEANS —Earning respect has been one of Willie Taggart’s catchphrases ever since he took over at WKU after the 2009 season.

The Toppers got a little bit more respect this year than last, as they were picked fourth in the 2012 Preseason Sun Belt Poll that was released Monday morning at the league’s Media Day.

It’s an improvement from 2011, when WKU was picked to finish seventh.

“Last year we were picked what, sixth, seventh? We’re getting better,” Taggart said. “I think we’re starting to get a little respect.

“We always talk about getting better or getting worse and we’re starting to get a little respect.”

The Toppers received 70 points with one first place vote. They were picked to finish behind Florida International (92 points, five first place), Arkansas State (85 points, two first place) and Louisiana-Lafayette (81 points, two first place).

After WKU in the poll is Troy, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Florida Atlantic and South Alabama, in that order.

The poll was voted on by the league’s 10 head coaches and just like last year, WKU’s lone first place vote came from Taggart.

“That’s the only football team I know about,” Taggart said of the Toppers. “I wasn’t around those other guys. I don’t know what they do in the offseason. But I can’t vote for anyone but my team.”

Senior tight end Jack Doyle, the team’s player representative, said the team is still looking for more respect, including on-campus.

“You can never have enough fans,” Doyle said. “We have to go out there and earn that, you can just go out there and ask to have their respect, you have to go out there and show them on the field.

“That’s a process and we have an opportunity this season to get the respect we deserve.”

WKU tight end Jack Doyle, defensive end Quanterus Smith, linebacker Andrew Jackson and running back John Evans were all named to the 2012 Preseason All-Sun Belt team.

Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin was named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. FIU defensive lineman Tourek Williams was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Taggart said he wasn’t surprised Williams was picked over Jackson for defensive player of the year honors.

“It’s WKU, no one’s going to pick us preseason anything. Come on,” a laughing Taggart said. “We’re not going to ask anyone for respect, we’re going to earn it with the way we play. Andrew will be fired up.”