Football notes: Holt glad to be back on WKU coaching staff

Tackles and tight ends coach Stu Holt runs a drill during practice at Smith Stadium on Aug. 23, 2011. Holt is one of the newest hires on the coaching staff going into the 2011 season.

Brad Stephens

When assistant coach A.J. Pratt suddenly left WKU’s staff in July, the Toppers needed someone to fill his role quickly.

Head Coach Willie Taggart turned to a familiar name in Stu Holt, a long-time WKU running backs coach under former head coach David Elson, to fill Pratt’s role as the offensive tackles and tight ends coach.

After leaving WKU to coach running backs at Tennessee State in 2010, Holt said it was “a lot of fun” to be back coaching the Toppers.

“I don’t think anyone was expecting Coach Pratt to leave, especially late in the summer,” he said. “Coach Taggart and I talked about this position a while back, and so when Coach Pratt left, I guess it opened up some doors. I really enjoy being around the guys, and we’ve got a lot of good players to work with.”

Holt will be in charge of two areas where the Toppers feature veteran players, including junior tight end Jack Doyle, senior left tackle Wes Jeffries and junior right tackle Seth White.

He worked with many of the same players in his first stint at WKU, making the second time around what he called an “easy transition.”

Holt especially talked about his relationship with Jeffries, who he originally recruited during his days at Warren Central High School.

“I got to know him during the recruiting process, and I’ve really been excited to see him progress,” Holt said. “He’s a fifth-year senior that’s done really, really well and works hard to be the best that he can be. It’s been a lot of fun working with him one-on-one.”

Junior tight end Ryan Wallace said he’s been impressed with how Holt has handled his short time as a Topper assistant.

“He’s learning but now he’s got it down and really helping us,” Wallace said. “He’s done a lot with special teams too, working with the kickers and snappers. Overall, he’s been really positive.”

Holt served as the Toppers’ special teams coordinator in 2005 and 2009.

Tight end X’s and O’s

With question marks at wide receiver, tight end may be especially important for WKU in 2011.

Junior Jack Doyle, recently listed on the Mackey Award preseason watch list for the nation’s best tight end, will be a primary target for quarterback Kawaun Jakes if he can remain healthy all season.

Doyle has been wearing a yellow “no-contact” jersey throughout fall camp after suffering a neck injury against Louisiana-Lafayette that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Wallace could also contend for playing time right away. Holt also mentioned sophomore Jim Murphree as having a strong fall camp.

“Jim Murphree can be good for us in both the run and the pass game,” Holt said. “He’s put on some weight, and we’re constantly on him about holding his weight because that’s been an issue in the past.”

Holt also praised the talent of freshmen Devin Scott, Mitchell Henry and Tim Gorski.

Taggart said WKU’s tight end depth will be a “big part of our offense,” and hinted that multiple-tight end sets could be used this season.

“I hope I can get all of them on the field,” Taggart said. “I love tight ends. You’ll see a lot of those guys playing together. “

Holt said each of the tight ends on the Toppers’ roster have individually impressive skill sets.

“We’ve got some talent there,” Holt said. “We’ve got some older guys that are definitely very capable and some young guys that are going to be good players.”

Holt spoke highly of Wallace’s blocking efforts, as Wallace spent time as an offensive tackle at Kentucky before transferring to WKU.

He said Wallace will be a key factor in both opening holes for senior running back Bobby Rainey and pass blocking for Jakes.

“We’d like to use him in (passing and running) situations, but he’s definitely stronger blocking,” Holt said. “He’s got the best pass sets of anyone we have at tight end because he’s done it.

“He’s a smart player who grades out well in terms of assignment and has good technique. We’d like to be able to use him in all facets of the game, but certainly the run game is his strength.”

Holt said the potential is “limitless” for the Topper tight ends in 2011.

“I think a lot of these young guys will develop well,” Holt said. “The sky’s the limit.”

Doyle taking vow of silence

Just as the offensive line has done the past two seasons, Doyle is taking a vow of silence with the media until the Toppers get a monkey off their back.

Last season the offensive linemen didn’t talk until WKU won its first game, and earlier this season they decided they’d do the same until they won a home game.

Doyle joined in that movement just before practice on Tuesday.

As he was putting his helmet on and heading toward the field to stretch, he told reporters, “I’m going with the o-line.”