True freshmen earning playing time for WKU

Freshman linebacker Xavius Boyd is blocked while attempting to stop Indiana University’s offensive drive in the late in the second half on Saturday at Houchens-Smith Stadium. The Toppers lost 21-38.

Zach Greenwell

Head Coach Willie Taggart promised when he was hired that every player would get a chance to show his stuff.

So far, Taggart’s delivered.

Ten true freshmen have taken the field for WKU (0-3) this season — more than all but 11 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Only six true freshmen played for the Toppers all of last season, so sophomore defensive tackle Jamarcus Allen said the youth movement has caught him off guard.

“I’m really surprised by these young guys stepping up,” Allen said. “These past couple years, we really haven’t had too many people step up, but this class that came in proved themselves and earned their spots.

“Coach Taggart always says he’s going to put the best players on the field, and right now, they’re producing.”

Freshman linebacker Xavius Boyd became the first of Taggart’s 2010 recruiting class to start when he got the nod against Indiana, and freshmen cornerbacks Tyree Robinson and Arius Wright played for a large portion of the second half.

Boyd was still penciled in ahead of senior linebacker Orlando Misaalefua on the first depth chart for Saturday’s game at South Florida, but Taggart said Monday that both Robinson and Wright would have a chance to start with a good week of practice.

“I think we’re going to be all right with (Robinson) back there, and Arius did a good job too,” Taggart said after Tuesday’s practice. “It was really good to see (Robinson) respond in practice today the way he did on Saturday.”

Robinson recorded five solo tackles in WKU’s 38-21 loss to Indiana, while Boyd and Wright combined for five tackles.

“Those younger guys got in there, and I guess because they don’t know any better, they played with a little confidence,” Taggart said. “They got some things done.”

True freshmen linebacker Bar’ee Boyd and defensive back Ty Scott have also seen notable playing time this season.

Freshman receiver Donald Campbell also played for the first time against the Hoosiers, debuting with a 46-yard kickoff return.

Defensive Coordinator Clint Bowen said getting the true freshmen acclimated to the college game has been a challenge, but the Toppers have to deal with the hand they’ve been dealt.

“It’s grow-up time in a hurry,” Bowen said. “It’s open season for a lot of positions. We’ve got to find some guys who are going to execute and make plays on Saturday, and if the true freshmen are the guys that are going to do it, they’ll be the guys on the field.”

Taggart said freshmen getting playing time has had a positive effect on both their classmates and the veteran players, showing them that no job is sacred.

But now that they’ve put themselves in the running so quickly, Taggart said the freshmen have to recognize that they’re now the ones with targets on their backs.

“If you take a job, you better keep your job,” he said. “That’s the environment we’re going to have around here. We’ve got to be that way in order to get things done.”