Taggart: Third WKU football practice shows good and bad, but Toppers still improving

Zach Greenwell

This story was originally published on Aug. 11.

It’s difficult for every position coach to leave a football practice happy, as teammates go toe to toe with teammates.

Western defensive coordinator Clint Bowen wasn’t thrilled with his unit’s effort during Wednesday’s practice on the Toppers’ auxiliary field, but Head Coach Willie Taggart, trying to judge both sides equally, had a more positive outlook.

“We had good plays on both sides of the ball,” Taggart said. “I was really impressed with our practice today, with the energy, guys flying around and guys making plays. Defensively, we had some turnovers. Offensively, we had some touchdowns, so I was happy.”

It was an up-and-down day for Western’s defense. The group looked stellar at times – forcing turnovers and creating pressure – but also surrendered several big plays to the team’s first-, second- and third-string offenses.

“We’ve got to continue to keep beating up the little things, and by that, I mainly mean running to the ball,” Bowen said. “I know that sounds cliché, but if you don’t run to the ball, you don’t have a chance. We’ve got to do that with all our might, and then that makes up for a lot of problems.”

Junior safety Ryan Beard agreed that the defense needs to turn up its aggression, saying that minor improvements in effort can produce big results.

“I feel like we’re a lot smarter defense this year, and a lot harder-nosed,” Beard said. “Our big key right now is just flying to ball. We’ve got to swarm and get to the ball, because that’s when big things happen.”

The defense completed some extra running drills at the end of practice, which Bowen said was a reminder that the unit can’t take plays off.

“We have standards, and when they don’t meet the standards, there are consequences,” he said. “Just like in a game, if you don’t do things right, things can go pretty bad for you.”

Wednesday was the Western’s first day with the addition of shoulder pads, and the team will transition to full pads later in the week.

Despite another scorching day outside, Taggart said he’s been impressed with how the Toppers’ effort has continued to improve.

“Actually it’s been better. Today was great, and you thought it would be different with shoulder pads on,” Taggart said. “I think the first day, it was a little shock for our guys. Every day we’re getting better. We actually had more guys cramping up that first night than out in the sun.

“It’s fun when you do things right, and it’s fun when you get excited about doing things right. Everybody feeds off it, and we keep preaching stacking days on top of each other. We’re trying to build a house, and we keep laying those bricks every day.”