NOTEBOOK: WKU football team chooses 2010 captains, wraps up fall camp Saturday

Jonathan Lintner

This story was originally published Aug. 28, 2010.

Head Coach Willie Taggart said on Saturday that the WKU football team had picked its captains the night before.

Junior defense end Jared Clendenin will represent the defense, sophomore tight end Jack Doyle the offense and junior kicker Casey Tinius the special teams.

“I think any time your teammates pick you, it’s deserving because they’ve seen something in you,” Taggart said. “I told them we’re not going to sugarcoat it or put guys in there — no, we’re not going to do it like that.

“We’re going to do it the right way. Guys will vote for who represents the team the way we want it represented.”

Taggart said it’s up to those three to lead the Toppers to “the promised land” this season. That started with the captains standing in front of the team Friday night to offer a speech.

“They’re going to do everything it takes,” he said. “They’ll go over and beyond to lead this football team.”

Taggart sees defensive improvement

Fall camp, which began Aug. 9, concluded with Saturday morning’s workout.

Taggart said he saw improvement across the board throughout the last three weeks of practice, but when asked to name one thing, he went straight to WKU’s defensive line.

“They started to play how we’re asking them to play,” he said. “That’s going to set the tone for our defense. They’ve got to do more than they think they can do. We’re going to need that from them. That will get everyone else going.”

The WKU defense as a whole has work to do. The Toppers gave up 475 points last season while the offense put only 245 points on the board. Opponents also averaged 478 yards per game — the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Taggart said the defense as a whole — both the linebackers and secondary — started becoming “more competitive” throughout fall camp.

But what needs to improve before the Toppers take the field Sept. 4 at Nebraska? “Everything,” according to Taggart.

“We have to just continue to get better — focus on the play that’s at hand, not the last,” he said. “Focus on the play that’s ahead. And we have to continue to be disciplined. We have to preach that every day, all the time. We can’t beat ourselves. Continue to be disciplined, be sharp. Guys have to be locked in to their job — don’t worry about the next guy, do your job.”

Jakes hangs up the sneakers

It was a storybook fall camp for sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes, who fought back from an ankle injury suffered last spring playing pickup basketball. But it wasn’t so much the injury itself as getting back into Taggart and company’s good graces again.

After winning the starting job over junior college transfer Matt Pelesasa and true freshman Brandon Doughty, Jakes said the situation — and the criticism it drew from Taggart — is nothing but a bad memory now.

“We do laugh about it,” Jakes said. “It was a dumb mistake. It’s an experience I hate talking about it — just learn from it.”

Jakes said Taggart has taught him a lot through fall camp about how to be a leader and a football player. And as Taggart said before the quarterback controversy was settled, he’s looking for consistency in both of those areas.

“(The coaches) demanded a lot out of us,” Jakes said. “As a team, we just wanted to better ourselves — going two-a-days, coming out here and trying to be a better person and player.”

And as for Jakes’ basketball career? It’s on the shelf along with his basketball shoes.

“They’re in the closet now,” Jakes said. “I haven’t put them on since, so I guess they’re gone now.”

Quick hits

— Taggart said junior running back Braxston Miller, who sat out most of this week’s practice and again Saturday morning, will be available soon. Miller tweaked his knee, Taggart said, and is waiting on the proper brace to arrive so he can return to the field.

— Freshman Antonio Andrews — initially tabbed to play running back at WKU — worked exclusively with the quarterbacks during the last hour or so of Saturday’s practice that was open to the media. Andrews split snaps with Doughty, playing the second-team offense, while Jakes and Pelesasa worked with the first team.

— Freshman receiver Donald Campbell and redshirt freshman receiver Will Adams took reps as the No. 1 kick returners at the end of Saturday’s practice. Taggart has said there are no guarantees as far as redshirts go this season, but Campbell looks to have earned some playing time as a true freshman.

— Now begins Taggart’s first game week as WKU’s head coach. In addition to players’ growing excitement about hitting someone other than themselves, Taggart said he’s ready to see the coaching staff’s hard work come to fruition. “That’s what’s really exciting for our coaches is putting together a plan,” Taggart said. “Then going out and teaching it to our guys and have them go out on Saturdays and watch them execute the gampeplan. That’s the fun part.”