Taggart’s first recruits looking to lead WKU

Sophomore defensive back Tyree Robinson keeps Middle Tennessee wide receiver Harold Turner Jr. from catching the ball in last season’s game. Robinson is part of a Head Coach Willie Taggart’s talented first recruiting class.

Brad Stephens

When Head Coach Willie Taggart was hired in November of 2009, it took him just two months to make his first splash upon the national scene.

Taggart did that by inking a recruiting class ranked No. 1 overall in the Sun Belt Conference by Rivals.com.

And many of those recruits didn’t have to wait long to receive playing time.

Punter Hendrix Brakefield, linebacker Xavius Boyd, running back Antonio Andrews and cornerbacks Tyree Robinson and Arius Wright all saw significant playing time during nearly all of their true freshman seasons.

Robinson reminisced on the experience of facing Nebraska in front of more than 80,000 fans last September in the first college game he said he had ever seen, and mere months after his high school graduation.

“I saw how everybody was getting crunk and excited and I wanted to get in and be a part of that,” Robinson said. “When I got my chance I had a whole bunch of butterflies. But I got a tackle and all that went away.”

Freshman butterflies have been replaced by veteran experience, and now this sophomore group has been called upon to help lead the Toppers to their first-ever Sun Belt title.

“A lot of those guys came in, competed, and saw what it was like to play college football,” Taggart said. “They know that they can do it now and have a lot of confidence.”

Andrews, a former Kentucky Mr. Football at Fort Campbell High School, transferred to WKU from the Air Force Academy at the beginning of 2010 fall camp and was the most highly-touted in-state recruit of the class.

He said the fact that this year’s sophomores came into the program at the same time as Taggart and his staff allowed for the group’s successes.

“It’s exciting to have a brand new coaching staff because you know there are no favorites,” Andrews said. “Everybody had the opportunity to come in and show what they can do, and that raised the level of competition.”

With the departure of last season’s seniors, more members of Taggart’s first recruiting class will have a chance to play in 2011.

Other true sophomores listed on WKU’s two-deep depth chart include fullback Kadeem Jones and linebacker Bar’ee Boyd.

Xavius Boyd said a year of experience increased the comfort level of the group going into the 2011 year.

“Last year we had to come in here and catch up with the veterans,” Xavius Boyd said. “Now we know everything and really have a feel for what we’re supposed to be doing.”

But, as was the case with the recruiting class of 2010, Taggart’s second recruiting class came in ranked No. 1 overall in the Sun Belt by Rivals.com.

Freshmen defensive backs Cam Thomas and Champ Lewis, receiver Boe Brand and others will look to come in and take jobs in the same manner as Taggart’s first recruiting class.

Xavius Boyd said his advice to the incoming freshman was to give it their best shot.

“Those guys need to go hard,” he said. “Work at the position you want and go get it, because we’re always looking for the better talent.”