Football notes: WKU ‘ready to hit some blue’

Senior defensive end Jared Clendenin tackels Kentucky running back Derrick Locke in the second quarter of last season’s game against Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. 

Brad Stephens

After four weeks of fall camp, senior defensive end Jared Clendenin said the Toppers are ready to finally hit someone else.

“We are tired of hitting each other,” Clendenin said. “We’ve been hitting each other for four weeks. We’re ready to hit some blue.”

Clendenin said the defense has come a long way since fall camp started and added that it will take extra effort to contain UK quarterback Morgan Newton.

“We have different starters at a couple of different positions than the last game (against Kentucky),” he said. “Morgan may have a tendency to take off more, and we are going to have to keep him contained and maintain our pass rush lanes.”

Senior running back Bobby Rainey said the Toppers are much more prepared this year than they were last year at this time.

He added that they’re well-prepared for the spotlight that they’ll be playing under on Thursday night at L.P. Field in Nashville.

The game will also be broadcast on ESPNU.

“We’re the only game at that time on television, so all eyes are on us,” he said. “Offensively, we have to step up and give the people a show. Basically all the details are important because it’s game week and everybody has to be focused.”

Taggart said he hopes UK notices a difference in this year’s team.

“Our guys got bigger and stronger and faster, and now it’s time to go on the football field and do something,” he said. “The thing I want Kentucky to say after the game is that this team was totally different than what they played the year before.”

Brand, Jackson earn starting roles

Neither freshman receiver Boe Brand nor sophomore middle linebacker Andrew Jackson found themselves on the team’s two-deep depth chart at the beginning of WKU fall camp.

But after strong fall camps, both will be in the Toppers’ starting lineup Thursday in the team’s opener against Kentucky.

Brand, a 6-foot, 144-pound Bradenton, Fla., native will start alongside junior Marcus Vazquez and sophomore Jamarielle Brown at wide receiver.

Rainey said he was glad Brand was getting the opportunity as a freshman.

“I’m very excited for Boe Brand,” Rainey said. “He’s one of the guys that makes plays, and one of the freshmen that brings something to the table.”

Meanwhile Jackson has drawn attention throughout fall camp, as Taggart has boasted about the sophomore’s hunger for contact.

“He competed every single day and made plays,” Taggart said. “It wasn’t one day, two days, it was every day. 

“He played the game different than most people, he played the game the way we want from our defense.”

Kicking spot still open

Senior Casey Tinius and sophomore Monte Merrick battled for the WKU kicking position throughout WKU fall camp.

And now that camp is over and the Toppers are three days away from their first game?

Neither Tinius or Merrick have taken hold of the job.

Head Coach Willie Taggart said at Monday’s Football Media Luncheon that Tinius has a slight lead in the competition, but that the outcome hasn’t been decided.

Taggart said that whichever kicker gets the job will hold the starter’s role alone, instead of splitting time in a platoon.

“We’re not doing (a platoon,)” he said. “We’ll find out who’s going to be our kicker, and if he struggles, then we’ll put someone else in.”

Tinius was 14-for-19 in 2009, his sophomore season.

But last season the Bowling Green High School product struggled, going just 6-for-15.

Merrick, a former Bell County High School standout, made both of his attempts last year.

Neither Merrick or Tinius will handle kickoffs, according to the team depth chart released Monday.

That responsibility will fall to Jesse Roy, a freshman from Charlotte.

WKU meets with legendary coach Boone

A week before playing at L.P. Field, the home of the Tennessee Titans, the Toppers heard from Herman Boone, the former high school coach portrayed by Denzel Washington in the Disney movie, “Remember the Titans.”

Boone talked to the team about believing in themselves — although he unintentionally provided Rainey some extra motivation.

Rainey said Boone told the team that he never had a starting running back shorter than 6-feet tall.

The 5-foot-8 Rainey, who ran for 1,649 yards in 2010, told Boone that size wasn’t an issue for him.

“I told him I’m not your average 5-foot-8 running back,” Rainey said.