Column: Toppers need to plant some roots

Zach Greenwell

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

But for WKU football, it’s a little bittersweet.

The Toppers have lost two crucial assistant coaches in the past week, as both defensive backs coach Clayton White and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford headed for jobs at BCS schools.

They each accepted positions as running backs coaches — White at Connecticut and Sanford at Stanford.

That’s three of Head Coach Willie Taggart’s best guys gone in a flash, as the Toppers also lost former defensive coordinator Clint Bowen in December.

Taggart filled that job with a stellar hire earlier this month when he landed Lance Guidry, most recently the interim head coach at Miami (Ohio).

Now it’s time for Taggart to work his magic again.

Only this time, Coach T’s eye for talent needs to also find some consistency.

There’s no doubt that the master recruiter put together a solid coaching staff in his first year at WKU, tying together his connections in Florida, at Stanford and elsewhere.

Bowen bolted to North Texas for unknown reasons, but White and Sanford’s moves were clearly upward transitions.

Both are very young, have experience and have long coaching careers ahead of them.

That they’re already moving up the ladder again is a tribute to Taggart and his ability to know a good thing when he sees it.

Taggart says that when someone leaves his program, he’ll replace them with someone better.

What that means is up for interpretation, but as it was with Guidry, the next hires need to have “willing to settle in” on the checklist.

Keeping up-and-coming coaches at WKU will be a nearly impossible task, especially as the Toppers become more successful and gain more attention.

You could argue already that the success of junior running back Bobby Rainey and Taggart’s guidance is what got White and Sanford — two guys that have never solely coached running backs — their jobs.

But as this program moves forward, it can’t be a revolving door. Otherwise you don’t have a program — you have a pit stop.

And the groups that White and Sanford left behind, the defensive backs and the quarterbacks, need consistency.

The secondary is one of the youngest positions on the roster, and the quarterbacks are an impressionable group that often called Sanford “a friend.”

Take 2011 quarterback recruit James Mauro. The Texas native was recruited first by White and then by Sanford. As much as Mauro says he’s sold on WKU, it has to be unsettling when those that sold you are thousands of miles away.

The sky is hardly falling over at Houchens-Smith Stadium. All of WKU’s assistants bring different talents and styles, and it’s understood they could always move to greener pastures.

There’s also the chance that in the coming years, Taggart could even accept an enticing offer that would take him elsewhere. It happens in the coaching business, especially at WKU’s level.

But Taggart always says nobody has it better than the Toppers.

His challenge now is to make others feel the same — including his staff.