NOTEBOOK: Offense disappoints Taggart during situational scrimmage

Zach Greenwell

This story was originally published Aug. 20, 2010.

Friday’s situational scrimmage was a sloppy showing for Western’s offense.

Linemen jumped offsides. Receivers ran the wrong routes. Quarterbacks missed throws.

And Head Coach Willie Taggart left a little puzzled and disappointed.

“This is the one day that I was really disappointed in our offense, because we had been coming,” Taggart said. “We’d been doing things right, but we had too many dropped balls, guys not throwing the ball on time, not throwing it to the right guy. It all just goes back to being focused.”

Western worked from several different field locations, all the way from the red zone to their own goal line.

Taggart said that of the team’s three quarterbacks, sophomore Kawaun Jakes walked away as the clear winner Friday.

Jakes led a long drive downfield during the time media members were allowed to attend, connecting with senior receiver Quinterrance Cooper for a touchdown catch of about 10 yards.

“When the offense did move, he moved the ball well,” Taggart said. “If anyone had the better scrimmage out of the three, it was probably Kawaun.”

Taggart said true freshman Brandon Doughty began the scrimmage with two straight interceptions, and junior quarterback Matt Pelesasa, who sat out the last two days with a sore throwing arm, never quite looked sharp.

“He was out there, but he didn’t do anything spectacular,” Taggart said of Pelesasa. “He had a touchdown pass down in the red zone, but other than that, he had a lot of missed throws. You could tell his arm was probably still bothering him, because he had a lot of missed throws.”

Taggart was also frustrated by several penalties on offense, namely false starts. The Toppers picked up two consecutive false start calls during a drive led by Jakes deep in the offense’s own territory.

“It all goes back to discipline,” Taggart said. “Guys get fatigued and let ‘Freddie Soft’ talk them into jumping offsides, and we’re not going to deal with that. We’re going to be a disciplined football team. We can’t go out and beat ourselves, and that’s the type of stuff that’ll get us beat.

“It’s all mental, and when the guys got tired, they weren’t (focused).”

Defense shines

Although the offense didn’t do itself any favors Friday, Taggart said that was partly because of the defense being disruptive.

“Our defense came out here and really got after it,” he said. “They took it as if it was a game. Offensively, we were out of sync and looked like we didn’t know what we were doing a lot of times out there, and I think a lot of it was because of what the defense was doing to them.”

Taggart said he was especially pleased with the performance of the defensive line, which had been taking a few plays off the day before.

The front line stepped up during the drills where the offense had to play against its own goal line, which surprised Taggart.

“I told them that they weren’t fooling anyone when they take plays off, because we know what they can do,” he said. “Our defense really stepped it up in that part of the scrimmage, which was really impressive.”

Few Toppers out, Bullard back strong

Junior running back Bobby Rainey sat out for the second straight day with what is being called a sore shoulder, but Taggart said his absence is still just precautionary.

Others missing from action were running back Avery Hibbitt, offensive lineman Adam Smith, receiver Dexter Haynes and linebacker Ben Duvall.

One player who has come back strong from injury is senior linebacker Chris Bullard, who missed the first week or so of camp after having minor knee surgery in the summer.

Taggart said that Bullard has not only impressed with his play on the field, but with his ability to take control of the defense.

“He’s got those fresh legs, but he’s doing what I’d really like for Chris to do, and more importantly, he’s being that leader we’re looking for,” Taggart said. “He holds his teammates accountable, and we’re looking for that, because we don’t have a lot of those guys.”