Notebook: Doyle, Clendenin, Brakefield discuss captains’ roles

Junior tight end Jack Doyle speaks briefly Sunday evening at Smith Stadium to M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan participants. Doyle, who was recently named a football team captain, joined fellow captains senior defensive lineman Jared Clendenin and sophomore punter Hendrix Brakefield to address the incoming class. Jabin E. Botsford/Herald

Brad Stephens

When WKU stands for pregame meals in the fall, a

couple of familiar faces will be leading the food line.

The captains for the 2011 season were announced

Saturday. Senior defensive end Jared Clendenin and junior tight end

Jack Doyle, along with sophomore punter Hendrix Brakefield, will

serve as WKU’s captains for the 2011 season.

A captain is selected for the offense, defense and

special teams. It’s the second straight year that Clendenin and

Doyle will have the title.

Clendenin said before practice Monday he was excited

to take advantage of the first-in-line team meal privileges that

come with being a captain.

But more importantly, he said he was looking forward

to using the captain’s role to help WKU correct the fourth-quarter

struggles of a 2010 season that saw the Toppers lose several Sun

Belt Conference games in the final minutes.

“We’re going to lead a lot like we did last year, but

we definitely have to finish a little bit better,” Clendenin said.

“We’ll try to take a lot more responsibility in the fourth quarter,

trying to get our guys up and ready to finish the game.”

Doyle said he feels more acclimated to the

responsibilities of a team leader after having a year under his

belt with the same responsibility.

“Leadership just comes along,” Doyle said. “You work

on it every day and you get better at it the more you do. I

definitely feel like I’m more experienced and more comfortable in

that role.”

While Clendenin and Doyle are used to captain’s

responsibilities, it’s a different story for Brakefield.

The Nashville native was impressive in his first year

as a Topper, averaging 40.5 yards a punt and pinning opponents

inside their 20-yard line 17 times.

He said the title of team captain isn’t as big of a

deal to him as some might think.

“Captain isn’t anything other than something guys

vote on, and after that everybody is a captain, especially our

seniors,” Brakefield said. “I feel honored, but beyond that I’ll

keep doing the same things I was doing.”

Brakefield is replacing senior kicker Casey Tinius as

special teams captain.

Tinius was elected captain one season ago after being

named 3rd team All-SBC in 2009.

As Tinius tries to get back on track in 2011 after

struggling in 2010, Brakefield said he doesn’t think Tinius will be

bothered by not being elected team captain.

“As a special teams captain there’s honestly only a

few people that get noticed as part of the special teams,”

Brakefield said. “Casey’s going to have a heck of a year, I already

know, and I don’t think it’s a big deal at all.”

Head Coach Willie Taggart said he expects all of his

captains to “take care of the team.”

“Lead this team in every aspect, on and off the

field,” Taggart said. “Hold everybody accountable, and not just

those guys, but seniors too. All of them are captains in my eyes

and they all have to do that.”

Matching up with Kentucky

WKU gets one of its toughest tests of the 2011 season

right out of the gates, as they play Kentucky in their season

opener Sept. 1 at L.P. Field in Nashville.

The Toppers are 0-13 all-time against Southeastern

Conference competition, including a 63-28 blowout loss to the

Wildcats last September at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.

However, Clendenin said he didn’t think WKU will be

physically over-matched against their in-state rival.

“We never feel that way,” Clendenin said. “We’ve got

some quote-unquote SEC guys on our team that I think will match up

real good.”

With kickoff 10 days away, Taggart said the Toppers

are doing plenty of UK preparation work, in addition to regular

fall camp activities.

He said that by the end of this week, the players and

coaches will “lock in” to getting ready for the Wildcats.

Taggart said he thinks an optimistic team mentality

can help the Toppers overcome a Sun Belt-SEC talent disparity.

“Physically we’re probably not on that level,”

Taggart said. “But that doesn’t always win, and our guys are

starting to understand that now. From a mental standpoint, our guys

are starting to believe.”

As for the L.P. Field atmosphere, Taggart said his

players aren’t concerned about a “home” crowd that some predict may

contain as much Wildcat blue as it does Hilltopper red.

He said he instead expects a sizeable home-crowd


“We count on all our Hilltopper nation to be there,

here in Bowling Green, Nashville and all the surrounding areas,”

Taggart said.

Toppers get a day off

After two straight weeks of practicing every day, WKU

players and coaches got a day off Sunday for Picture Day.

Taggart said it was a well-deserved day of rest for

the Toppers after a strong Saturday session.

“Saturday we had one of the best practices since I’ve

been here,” Taggart said. “It was highly, highly competitive, and

was a practice I thought really started to set the identity of our

football team.

“They’ve been grinding and grinding and working and

you’ve got to take a day off to give yourself a break. I thought it

was good timing for those guys to get away, come back and have a

great practice today.”

Sunday’s picture day activities also gave WKU players

the chance to don their new game uniforms for the first time.

The new jerseys were unveiled Friday in the Topper

Club at Smith Stadium, and feature what Taggart called at the

introductory press conference a more “traditional” look.

Doyle gave the uniforms high reviews after trying

them on for the first time.

“They’re awesome, they really are,” Doyle said. “They

fit good and I’m excited to get rolling in them.”