NOTEBOOK: Rainey’s carries not limited; Tops not focused on Elson

Head Coach Willie Taggart took to the podium Tuesday for Western’s 2010 football media day. Taggart, a first-year coach, makes his debut Sept. 4 at Nebraska

Jonathan Lintner

Records, Head Coach Willie Taggart said, are made to be broken.

That includes his own.

The media were informed on Monday right before the first-year coach and former WKU quarterback took the stage that the last Topper to rush for 150 yards three times was Taggart himself. He did it four times in a row, and when it comes to Saturday’s home opener against Indiana, Taggart said he won’t hold Rainey back.

“Most coaches want to get their best players the football, and he’s pretty darn good,” Taggart said. “He could start on any of those teams. Why wouldn’t you give him the carries?

“He’s not complaining. I’m not worried about him getting hurt because he could go out there and trip over a rock and sprain an ankle. There are things you can’t control. We can control when he gets in the game and makes something happen for us.”

Rainey, who said he’s feeling fresh right now, rushed 30 times against Nebraska and 22 times against Kentucky. The junior had just 144 carries all of last season.

Rainey said part of picking up the slack this season factors into an offense that exposes his athleticism — both on the ground and through the air — and a bigger part in leading the Toppers.

“Even though I felt like a leader last year, it’s just the simple fact that I’ve taken the title this year,” Rainey said. “It’s just leading, basically.”

Taggart said on Monday that he’d like more balance in the offense than its had thus far. Sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes attempted 15 passes against UK while WKU rushed 33 times.

When it comes to giving the ball to Rainey, though, Taggart said he doesn’t expect attempts to slow down much. And when it comes to the philosophy of preserving a running back throughout a season, backs that say they’re tired at the end of the season are “taking the easy way out,” Taggart said.

“I’m not worried about wearing him down,” he said. “Everyone’s going to get worn down throughout the season. You can’t go in worried about those things.”

Elson won’t be WKU’s focus

There wasn’t much for the Toppers to say about former coach David Elson, who Taggart played under and then later coached under at WKU, at Monday’s media luncheon.

After being fired from WKU, Elson found a job sa defensive quality control coach at Indiana.

“I don’t think that factors into this ballgame. We’re playing Indiana University — not coach Elson,” Taggart said.

Taggart said that although he and Elson talked while the now-WKU was running backs coach at Stanford, the two “haven’t talked in a while.” But Taggart said he hasn’t forgotten how much he learned from Elson.

“He did a lot of good things,” Taggart said. “I learned a lot of things from coach Elson. A lot of the things I apply to how I work now, I learned from him.”

Said Rainey: “The coach who is with us now is what we’re focused on. We’re not focused on last year and who’s on last year’s team. We have a new squad this year, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Indiana’s media relations office told the Herald that Elson will not comment this weekend.

A new streak

Taggart said he’d like to start a new WKU football streak this weekend: consecutive sellouts.

That statement came after the Toppers traveled to Nebraska, which has now sold out 306 consecutive games.

“I hope the entire community can come out and support this football team because we need it,” Taggart said. “I’ve said from day one: We’re all in this together — the entire community.

“I want to see it packed. I think that would be a step in the right direction.”

Sitting at 0-2, junior defensive end Jared Clendenin views this weekend as a fresh start.

“It feels like another opener in a way,” Clendenin said.

WKU had to follow the same blueprint in building a Football Bowl Subdivision program as Boise State did — a program located away from the best recruiting states. Taggart said he’s ready to have a Boise-like community supporting the Toppers, too.

“If you watch Boise play, that place is sold out a lot,” he said. “They have the community behind them all the way. In order for us to get the program where we want to go, we’re going to need to have our community behind us.

“Yes, we’ve got to win ballgames — but we’re going to have to have them behind us whether we win or we lose.”

Taggart says injuries minimal

Junior tight end Tristan Jones, who was assisted off the field Saturday and later carted back to the locker room, could have a sprained knee, Taggart said. He added that sophomore defensive back Kareem Peterson “will be fine” after Peterson had his arm in a sling. Clendenin, who was wearing a boot after the UK game, did not have one when he spoke on Monday.