WKU players adjusting to new football coaches

New defensive coordinator Lance Guidry runs drills with his team during their spring practice on Monday afternoon at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Cole Claybourn

Much of WKU football’s focus last spring was on the players getting used to newly hired Head Coach Willie Taggart and his system.

While the players have had a year to digest all of that, this spring the players will be getting comfortable with new defensive coordinator Lance Guidry and Zach Azzanni, offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach.

And although it’s early, both Guidry and Azzanni said after Wednesday’s practice that the transition for both them and the players seems to be going smoothly.

“Kids are flying around,” Guidry said. “They’re making mistakes, but that’s going to be normal. We’re putting in a lot of things, so there’s a lot of coaching going on, and we just have to continue to get better.”

Guidry has become known for his intensity, and he said he’s starting to see that rub off on the players even after just the second practice.

“They know that I’m animated. They know I’m high strung,” he said. “I think they’ve taken to it well. I think defense is always going to feed off the coaches. If a coach is high strung with a lot of energy, they’re going to play that way.”

Guidry said the only changes that have been made so far on defense have been minor ones, such as some of the terminology.

He said there may be a few more changes made before spring practice concludes.

“We’ll keep adding as much stuff as we can without them having a brain freeze,” he said. “We want to leave the spring with a solid base and carry it over to the summer. If we don’t get to it then, we’ll get it in the fall.”

Azzanni was hired after quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford left for Stanford on Feb. 16 to become the running backs coach.

He said so far he’s been impressed with the players he’s been working with.

“We’ve got a bunch of willing and eager guys right now,” he said. “That’s why I was excited to take this job. I knew these guys were going to be hungry and want to win.

“I like to coach kids that have a hard edge and have a chip on their shoulder. I want to be in a place where all of a sudden, a bunch of people are jumping on your bandwagon.”

Taggart assumed the offensive coordinator role last season but said it will be nice to be able to have someone to bounce ideas off of on the offensive side.

At the same time, he said he wanted that transition to be as painless as possible.

“(Azzanni) knew coming in that we were going to run our offense, but we wanted to enhance it,” Taggart said. “I’m all for new suggestions and doing things new ways, but one thing I didn’t want is for our guys to have a lot of new learning. I wanted them to continue getting better. He’s bought into it.”

Azzanni said one area that he can already see needs improvement is the passing game.

WKU ranked last in the Sun Belt in passing offense last season, averaging 143 yards per game. The Toppers threw for 1,722 total yards – almost 300 total yards behind the next closest team, North Texas, at 2,077 total yards.

They were also last in pass completions with 151.

“We’ve got a lot of talent in a lot of places, but we need to improve greatly in the passing game,” Azzanni said. “That’s what I’m here for. But I like the talent, and I was pleasantly surprised the first day.”

Tops respond to rain

Taggart said Wednesday’s rain cause a bit of a roadblock for the evening practice.

WKU media relations estimated that the storm caused the team to miss about half of its scheduled practice time.

But Taggart said he was happy with how the players responded to the distraction.

“We didn’t have anybody moaning and complaining, which was good,” he said. “That’s kind of like it is in a football game. Sometimes things don’t go as well as you’d like it to, or the way you want it to, but you’ve got to be prepared for it.”

Taggart said the rain prevented the Toppers from doing any special teams drills and said they mostly focused on “team” drills, which meant no 7-on-7 drills.

And despite the rain, Taggart said the team still played with energy throughout practice.

“The guys actually came out with more energy than when we first got out here,” he said. “From an energy standpoint, I thought we matched what we did yesterday. Usually when you get distractions, guys want to throw it in an sign up for the next day.

“But they came out jacked up and ready to roll.”