This story was originally published Aug. 18, 2010.
After watching junior quarterback Matt Pelesasa throw just one pass at Wednesday’s football practice, reporters learned that the junior-college transfer is suffering from a tired arm.
Head Coach Willie Taggart said the injury isn’t serious, and that the coaching staff preferred to give Pelesasa a day off as a preventative measure.
“We told him to take a break,” Taggart said. “We don’t want to overdo it, and it gives (freshman) Brandon (Doughty) a chance to get in there and get some reps, which he took advantage of. We’re not going to put him out there and jeopardize him. He said it was a little sore, and I told him, ‘If it’s a little sore and you can’t execute, we don’t need you in there.
“’You go rest your arm, and we’ll bring somebody else in there and get it done.’”
With Pelesasa on the shelf, sophomore Kawaun Jakes was able to take the vast majority of the snaps under center.
Jakes made a variety of solid passes throughout the day, mixing in short slants with longer vertical passes to nearly every receiver who will get playing time.
Doughty got the rest of reps, probably earning his most practice time to date.
Doughty had some highlights of his own, including a 35-yard strike to Willie McNeal over the top of the defense and a touchdown pass to a diving Clark Jeter.
“He had some freshman mistakes, but he came in and completed some passes for us and moved the ball,” Taggart said of Doughty. “It was good to see with all those quarterbacks in the wet situation. With him being a freshman, I thought he would really get rattled by this rain, and he just took it and ran with it.”
Although Pelesasa became the firm No. 1 on the depth chart in the spring with Jakes out with an ankle injury, Taggart said that Pelesasa’s sore arm wouldn’t be enough to change anything in the race for the starting job.
“I don’t think it clouds the picture, because I don’t think he’ll be out long,” Taggart said. “But if you’re out and you’re out for a while, it’s going to be hard for you to play football for us. That’s never going to change around here.”
The Toppers have been battling the heat for the duration of camp, but the rain Wednesday provided its own obstacles.
“When we started off, our guys were kind of sluggish, and you could tell they were letting the rain affect how they were going to play,” Taggart said. “Some guys started saying, ‘We can’t do this. We’ve got play in the rain, so we’ve got to practice in the rain.’ Once we got into the team period, we didn’t have many balls on the ground, which was good to see.”
Junior safety Mark Santoro said the rain was actually a welcomed change of pace, citing the offensive and defensive linemen taking the time to slide through puddles.
“I think it brought a little bit of energy to the team – something a little different,” Santoro said. “I really think it helped out practice a little bit.
Taggart said experience has shown him that teams are going to have their up days and their down days, but that he’s been pleased with how few poor practices the Toppers have had.
If ever there were a chance for a letdown, it’d be in the pouring rain, he said, but it didn’t happen.
“Every year during training camp, you always hit those days,” Taggart said. “We really haven’t hit those days yet. Guys are still full of energy, and I think it’s because everybody’s fired up. I think they see that practice is a lot easier when they have fun and have some juice.
“It was great because I wanted to see how our guys responded to it. They responded in the right way. It was good for me to just get out there and get wet. I tried to dodge the rain drops, but I’m not that quick anymore, so I got soaking wet.”
True freshmen impressing
Taggart’s still playing it close to the vest on which true freshmen will redshirt and which won’t, but he was asked Wednesday about a handful whose names continue to arise.
In the extremely inexperienced secondary, Taggart said guys like Ty Scott and Tyree Robinson could have a chance to come right in and play if they continue to progress.
“They still have a lot to learn, but they’re coming,” he said. “From an athletic standpoint, they can do it. It’s just understanding and knowing the defense like we need them to.”
Taggart has mentioned freshman receiver Donald Campbell nearly every day of fall camp.
Campbell, who’s from Taggart’s hometown of Palmetto, Fla., has been working as a punt returner and has also made several nice catches at receiver.
Western receivers coach Terry Obee said that freshmen Joel German and Rico Brown have also impressed.
“If (Campbell) continues to come along with us, and if the offense doesn’t get too big for him, there’s no doubt about it because the kid can play football,” Taggart said. “We’re not thinking about redshirting anybody right now. Those guys keep coming and they’re getting better, and hopefully next week we’ll have a better feel for who those guys are going to be.”