NOTEBOOK: Nebraska talk begins; Andrews cleared, practices with WKU football team

Zach Greenwell

This story was originally published Aug. 25, 2010.

For the first two weeks of fall camp, “Nebraska” was a dirty word as far as Western Head Coach Willie Taggart was concerned.

But on Wednesday, Taggart officially introduced the Toppers to Cornhusker football.

Western began its first prep work for its game at No. 8-ranked Nebraska on Sept. 4, outlining the Huskers’ basic schemes.

“I wanted to get out and introduce Nebraska to the guys,” Taggart said. “Today was more of an introduction to what Nebraska does, and we’ll see where our guys go from there.”

Taggart said Western just worked through the absolute basics and plans to gradually add more pieces to the puzzle. By next week, Taggart said he plans to have an “official BCS gameplan” ready to take to Lincoln, Neb.

“We’re still going to put in our own offense, defense and special teams, but we’re going to keep implementing something Nebraska every day,” Taggart said. “I just wanted the guys to know who they’re blocking and where we’re going with the ball — just get the looks.”

Senior linebacker Orlando Misaalefua said the Toppers have also started watching film on Nebraska, allowing the defense to get used to their power, option-oriented offense.

“I think they’re going to underestimate Western Kentucky, and I believe they’re just going to come out straight power, running the football,” Misaalefua said. “That’s something we’ve got to be prepared for.”

Taggart was asked how Western’s game plan would change with the Huskers waiting to name a quarterback and lacking graduated defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was taken second overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Taggart said that was a simple answer — not at all.

“They’re not going to change just because a guy’s gone, and to be honest with you, I don’t know too many teams that will,” Taggart said. “They’re ranked No. 8 in the country for a reason. They did some good things last year, and I don’t see them changing much.

“They’re coming to play. They’re coming to rattle somebody’s fillings. That’s what they do, and that’s what we’re trying to do. That’s why they’re good because they do that and they do it well.”

Andrews debuts for Tops

While Nebraska was the talk of practice, Western got a pretty unceremonious debut from former Kentucky Mr. Football Antonio Andrews.

Andrews, who enrolled at Western last week and was waiting for NCAA clearance to begin practicing with the team, was out on the field with the team today and wasn’t noticed by reporters until nearly the final whistle.

Andrews wore No. 24 and got several reps at running back with the second-team offense.

“Whenever you get the player of the year — I don’t care what state it is — it’s exciting because you know he’s a really good football player,” Taggart said. “Now as coaches you have to see what he’s good at … and put him the right place so he can do that.”

Andrews, who was a standout quarterback at Fort Campbell High School, committed to Air Force over Western in February. He eventually decided to leave its prep academy and contacted Taggart about coming to the Hill.

Taggart also confirmed Wednesday that Andrews is on scholarship.

“We just told him that we’ll welcome him with open arms,” Taggart said. “He wasn’t happy where he was, and he was a guy we were high on when we came in. We were keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that it would happen, but it didn’t, so I’m going to keep my fingers crossed all the time now.”

Andrews threw for 3,365 yards and 50 touchdowns and rushed for 3,368 yards and 56 scores during his career at Fort Campbell.

Misaalefua, who also played for the Falcons in high school, said he was aware of Andrews back then but never expected him to be such a standout athlete at the time.

“He contacted me last week, and he told me he might come down here, and I was like, ‘Just make the right decision,’” Misaalefua said. “Next thing I know, I see him over here. I think he has the agility and the speed to prosper at that position.”

Although Andrews has missed more than two weeks of practice, Taggart said that just like all other true freshmen, Andrews has the chance to come in and “take somebody’s job” if he can compete.

“If he can come in here and show us that he’s going to help us, he’s going to help us,” Taggart said. “Right now it’s just a matter of getting him out, running him around and seeing what he can do.”

Andrews is the first Kentucky Mr. Football in Western’s history. Taggart said it’s a big-time catch for the program, and he hopes it’s one of many to come in the future.

“We want to go after those types of guys,” he said. “We’re 1-A now, and we’re not going to settle for anything less than 1-A players. We’re playing against Kentucky, so we’ve got to recruit against those guys. But again, it’s not going to do anything if we don’t win any ball games.

“We’ve got to get these guys in here and win some ball games, and then it’ll start going the way we want it to go.”

Franks’ status uncertain

Sophomore linebacker Chuck Franks, who was carried off the field Tuesday with a knee injury, was seen on the sidelines Wednesday with crutches and a brace on his right knee.

Taggart said the staff would know more after Franks’ MRI this afternoon, but that the result might be grim.

“He had a lot of swelling, so that’s not good,” Taggart said.

Junior running back Bobby Rainey, sporting his yellow jersey, returned to practice today with the team not going full-contact.

Junior quarterback Matt Pelesasa also returned from a sore throwing arm to take a few reps, although sophomore starter Kawaun Jakes and freshman Brandon Doughty got most of the snaps.

Others who didn’t practice Wednesday were running backs Braxston Miller and Dalton Cissell, receiver Dexter Haynes and defensive back Tyree Robinson.