Taggart introduces Florida recruits to the family

WKU-Manatee County

Emily Patton

In order to sign the top class in the Sun Belt Conference for the second year in a row, Head Coach Willie Taggart had to look outside the state of Kentucky.

Signees from eight different states joined the Toppers’ football program on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, but it was Taggart’s home state of Florida that brought 12 recruits.

“It’s good to go back and be able to get guys where you have some connection,” Taggart said. “Being able to compete against some of the schools we competed against and get some of these guys to leave Florida to come up to Kentucky and play football with us is big time. It’s huge for our program.”

Three signees came out of Southeast High School in Bradenton, Fla., including Rivals.com three-star wide receiver Boe Brand, three-star linebacker Terran Williams and two-star quarterback Dyron Speight.

Southeast High lies in Manatee County, which is also where Taggart attended Manatee High School.

Southeast Head Coach Paul Maechtle said his players were most impacted by the family atmosphere Taggart brought with him from WKU to Florida.

“The biggest pitch from Willie was, ‘You have a chance to make a difference. I know you, I’ll take care of you,’” Maechtle said. “He knows them. He knows relatives of theirs. He has cousins that are cousins of theirs. It’s a family thing.”

The family feel that Taggart stretched across state lines also affected the decision of three-star defensive back Champ Lewis of Fort Myers, Fla.

“The deciding factor for me was the coaching staff, and when I went on a visit I liked the facility,” Lewis said. “I’m pretty close to people there. People are like brothers to me. I fit in good.”

Taggart said the first part of the recruiting process this year was bringing the athletes to WKU’s campus to have a look around.

To Taggart, having the potential player on campus meant there was a definite chance he would be seeing them there in the fall.

“All of them had their perception of what Kentucky is all about,” Taggart said. “Once they get here, it’s totally different from what they expect. They love it. We as coaches do a good job getting the kids information about the school, but WKU is what sealed the deal.”

Other recruits Taggart signed from the Florida area include two-star defensive end Lawrence Campbell, two-star running back John Evans, two-star offensive lineman Dwayne Montgomery, three-star running back Marquis Sumler, three-star linebacker Daerius Washington and two-star offensive lineman Delryn Wilson.

The official 2011 signing class does not include former Florida safety Jonathan Dowling, who is currently enrolled in classes at WKU and is a member of the team.

Dowling was rated the top safety prospect in the country in 2010 by ESPN.com.

“With recruiting, a lot of these kids get told some things, and they get there and things are totally different,” Taggart said. “When you are able to talk the game and then go out and show them they can do it too, that means a lot to a teenager. That means a lot for a kid leaving home and putting his trust in you as a coach.

“We have been able to show that. That’s how it’s going to be around here.”