NOTES: Taggart still pleased with Tops, impressed by Sun Belt football

Zach Greenwell

With the conference portion of WKU’s season beginning Saturday at Florida International, Head Coach Willie Taggart reflected on his first five weeks Thursday.

Taggart said the Toppers (0-4) have been patient to this point and will continue to be in terms of wins and losses, but that the rate of progress has to continue to speed up as things move along.

“I think there’s got to be a sense of urgency,” Taggart said. “With the way our whole season has been sent up right now, there’s got to be a sense of urgency to do whatever it takes to win a football game.”

Taggart, a consistent winner as both a player and assistant coach, said he hates losing as much as anybody. But he said he understood that the wins wouldn’t automatically come rolling in when he was hired last November.

“If it happened that way, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “We’re going to keep working, and then the (wins) will come. And when they come, they’re going to keep coming — coming like hotcakes. Do I hate losing? Heck yeah. Do I like these first four games? No, I don’t like that.

“It’s frustrating because you know how others see things, but it’s going to come, and it’s going to make it that much better when it comes.”

The fact that the general public only measures improvement by wins and losses is one of the obstacles to overcome, Taggart said, because he doesn’t want to disappoint fans.

But at the same time, he said he’s not getting too bent out of shape as long as WKU is moving in the right direction.

“We’re improving, and different guys are improving, and that’s what’s exciting,” Taggart said. “Everyone wants to win — I do too. It would be great, and then they’d say, ‘Coach Taggart, you’re the best thing since sliced bread.’ But it doesn’t happen that way.

“But I see the improvement, and that’s why I don’t get emotionally hijacked.”

Sun Belt surge

Taggart said he had the chance to watch Troy’s 42-13 win over Middle Tennessee Tuesday night on ESPN2, and he came away impressed.

“We’ve got to continue to get some speed,” he said. “You watch some of these teams, and they’ve got some guys that can run like deer. That’s what stood out more than anything — not necessarily that they’re bigger, but they can run.”

But he said no team in the Sun Belt is lightyears ahead of the rest of the pack, leaving the door open for an upstart — like WKU — to capitalize.

“It’s a league where anyone can win,” Taggart said. “It’s a pretty even playing field. You’ve got Troy and Middle up at the top, but they’re going to be there until someone knocks them off.”

Taggart was asked whether or not he sometimes becomes jealous that his current players get to play for a conference championship and he did not, but he said his “days are over.”

“I just want our guys to experience winning a championship,” he said. “That’s a great feeling, and our guys deserve it. It’s going to be a challenge, but we’ve had plenty of those challenges so far this season.”

Quick hits

— Taggart was questioned about the amount of quality receivers the Toppers have faced this season, and the effect that’s had on the extremely young secondary.

He said it’s been good experience for guys like freshmen corners Tyree Robinson and Arius Wright, who are learning on the job against stiff competition.

“Those guys are going to get tested for the rest of the year,” Taggart said. “They’re freshmen, and you always want to test them. I told them the best way not to get tested is to ace it. Ace that test, and they won’t bother you anymore.”

— Taggart wouldn’t elaborate on the health status of any of the Toppers, only saying that the team is “good to go” with those that are going to make the trip.

So what about those that might not make the trip? Junior safety Mark Santoro’s status is still up in the air, Taggart said, although it’s been his policy all season that a player will not play if he doesn’t practice during game week.

“If he’s not (ready), that bus is going to be rolling,” Taggart said. “We’ve got enough guys on scholarship around here to be okay.”

— Look for more on WKU’s matchup with FIU at Friday. Also, be sure to join the Herald’s live blog and check the site after the game for reaction from Taggart and players.