Toppers take advantage of first weekend in pads

Kareem Peterson/

Lucas Aulbach

After two early-morning, lighter practices last week, the Toppers were ready to come out this weekend and hit harder. The team took the field on Friday and Saturday with shoulder pads on for the first time this spring.

Head Coach Willie Taggart said while the pads gave his team the chance to get some aggression out, he made sure to emphasize to his team that they’re still only practicing.

“When we’re in pads, we always talk about being pros and practicing like pros,” he said. “In the NFL, when guys practice with pads on, they stay up. So we really emphasize on that but with technique.”

Senior defensive back Jamal Forrest said it took him some time on Friday to get used to having the pads on.

“I felt kind of rusty, when you don’t wear full pads for a couple of months,” Forrest said. “After a while, you get used to it.”

Friday was also the first time the Toppers practiced in the afternoon, and the temperature reached into the upper 70s. The Toppers had to deal with the added weight of the pads as well as the high temperatures in their first afternoon practice.

Senior defensive back Kareem Peterson said staying hydrated in the heat is important, but the Toppers would be able to deal with it, calling this year’s team “the best conditioned team since I’ve been here.”

“We’ll be in shape better for this, but we’ve still got to keep water in our system,” he said.

Toppers face off in scrimmage on Saturday

Saturday’s practice, the second time the Toppers practiced with pads on, featured an intrasquad scrimmage. Taggart said the contest would be light and only take up a portion of the afternoon.

Peterson said he expected to learn a lot about where WKU’s defense stands in the scrimmage coming into the 2012 season.

“Last season, we kind of struggled some games with tackling, so we’re definitely gonna be physical and tackle tomorrow,” he said about the scrimmage. “That’s going to be the main focus, on tackling drills and all that good stuff.”

Even though the scrimmage was intended to be light, that doesn’t mean either squad could take plays off. Taggart said while he didn’t want anyone to get injured, he still expected a lot of effort from his players in the scrimmage.

“We want it to be very competitive,” Taggart said. “We want guys to win, one side of the ball — somebody’s gotta win — and more importantly, we want guys to come out and execute.”

Saturday featured the first competitive scrimmage between the offense and defense this spring. The Toppers have ten more practices before the spring game, an annual intrasquad scrimmage open to the public, on April 14.

Topper defense prepared for big year

The Topper defense relished the chance to get the pads on this weekend. Taggart said the defense played well in their first day with shoulder pads.

He contributed a lot of the defense’s success to defensive coordinator Lance Guidry’s system. The WKU defense is playing under Guidry for the second year, and Taggart said the Toppers are benefiting from picking up the system from where they left off last season.

Peterson said he thinks the experience of the defense will help WKU down the line.

“There’s a lot expected of us,” he said “We got a lot of people coming back — we only lost two seniors. We got a lot of experience coming back.”