Toppers address needs, build depth with signing class

Head football coach Willie Taggart address the media Tuesday afternoon. Taggart said that this recruiting class will add depth in areas in which the Toppers need it.

Brad Stephens

“Depth” was a buzzword for Willie Taggart last Nov. 12.

That day, his Toppers fell 42-9 to No. 1 Louisiana State as the Tigers’ talented bench wore down a pesky but thin WKU squad.

On Wednesday, Taggart signed his third recruiting class as head coach, this one consisting of 13 players due to limited scholarship numbers.

He said the 2012 class accomplished two goals: addressing specific position needs and adding that much-needed depth.

“I think in the first two years you try and get the best talent,” Taggart said. “But I think now, going into year three, we got that talent in here. We need to start addressing needs.

“That showed this season at LSU. They had a team that was full of depth and we ran out of depth… I feel like this class that we’re bringing in now is going to help us get to that next step.”

The class features seven three-star players and ranks No. 2 in the Sun Belt Conference, according to

Taggart and his staff made an especially big push to add depth along the defensive line, inking three defensive tackle and two defensive end prospects.

WKU lost only two key members to graduation along its front four in 2011, but several more are slated to graduate after the 2012 season.

Therefore, Recruiting Coordinator Eric Mathies said the large defensive line group was all about always planning one or two years in advance and keeping the cupboard full.

“You want to make sure you build your defense up strong,” he said. “And it all starts up front.”

The class also featured four signees from Kentucky, doubling the two combined in-state recruits from Taggart’s classes of 2010 and 2011.

That group was headlined by three-star defensive tackle Tyrone Pearson, a former Louisville Seneca High School standout, and three-star running back Anthony “Ace” Wales of Louisville Central High School.

Both waited until ceremonies on Wednesday to announce their final decisions.

“To be able to get those guys is huge and can hopefully be a sign of a new beginning in the state of Kentucky,” Taggart said.

There were no kickers nor quarterbacks in the signing class, though class of 2011 four-star Seneca quarterback DaMarcus Smith enrolled at WKU in January and is awaiting word on his eligibility.

When asked about Smith’s status, Taggart said only that he was enrolled and that he hoped Smith and other players in similar situations would “come and be a big plus to the WKU football program.”

As for other areas of needs, the Toppers added three total running backs, two offensive linemen, one linebacker, one defensive back and one wide receiver — Austin Aikens, a three-star signee from Tampa, Fla., (Plant High School).

Taggart said he was pleased with how his staff handled the low number of available scholarships by prioritizing needs and landing solid prospects.

“We’ve got to continue to build our football program not just now but for the future,” he said. “I think we did a good job of doing that with this added depth.”