NOTEBOOK: WKU’s Rainey not to be tackled in football fall camp

Zach Greenwell

This story was originally published Aug. 16, 2010.

Western Head Coach Willie Taggart has mentioned Freddie Soft, a tiny voice that sits on players’ shoulders and tells them to slack off, on many occasions.

But when asked why junior running back Bobby Rainey was wearing a yellow jersey during contact drills, Taggart introduced a spin-off of Freddie.

“There’s a new guy, and his name is Willie Soft,” Taggart said. “Willie Soft is on Bobby Rainey right now. I told those guys he’s not to be tackled. I don’t want Bobby Rainey tackled, and I don’t want Bobby Rainey to get hurt. We need Bobby.”

Rainey rushed for 939 yards on 144 attempts in 2009, good for 6.5 yards per carry. That number of touches will almost certainly rise this season, which is why Taggart doesn’t want Rainey getting injured so early in fall camp.

Taggart said he was reminded of his first year as the running backs coach at Stanford, when he said the team went through six running backs and was forced to give carries to a true freshman defensive back.

After that, Taggart said he swore that if he ever became a head coach, he would treat his running back the way Stanford star Toby Gerhart was treated – very, very carefully.

“Toby was our guy, and we didn’t want to get him beat up in practice,” Taggart said. “We need those guys for the game, and it’s also good for those other guys to get a lot of reps. We know what Bobby can do, and we’re going to need some of those other guys.

“I don’t want it to be like how it was that first year at Stanford.”

Not ready to redshirt

Several true freshmen have impressed the coaching staff through one week of fall camp, but Taggart said now isn’t the time for decisions on who will redshirt and who won’t.

“Every day these freshmen are getting better, so it’s hard to say whether or not you’re going to redshirt any of them,” Taggart said. “We’re going to play the guys that can help us win a football game. If those guys show us that they’re not ready, we’re going to do what’s best for our football team and what’s best for that individual.”

Taggart singled out freshman defensive back Tyree Robinson as a guy that deserved more time before a decision on his redshirt. Robinson broke up a pass from junior quarterback Matt Pelesasa in the end zone Friday and intercepted another, and Taggart said that success has been building for a week now.

“You see the improvement, because he was close,” Taggart said. “He was close all week, and he’s starting to believe. That’s the process. If we see improvement like that from guys, we have to keep getting them reps. Repetition is the mother of learning, so … those guys can earn reps or lose reps. It depends on how they execute.”

For the numerous players who have been out of practice because of dehydration or minor injuries, they’re starting to fall behind, according to Taggart.

But Taggart said he doesn’t want them thinking about redshirting. He just wants them back on the field.

“As we go through camp, some guys that aren’t practicing – it’s going to be a lot harder for you to play for us,” he said. “We can’t see what you can do, and the guys that are out here, we can get a good evaluation of whether or not they’ll be ready to play for us or if we have to redshirt. Don’t go in thinking we’re going to redshirt anybody, or they’ll play themselves into a redshirt, basically.”

No more silence for QBs

After a week of the coaching staff holding Western’s three quarterbacks out of interviews, reporters were informed that the trio will become available to the media for the first time after Tuesday morning’s practice.

Pelesasa and sophomore Kawaun Jakes, who Taggart said have begun to distance themselves from true freshman Brandon Doughty in the quarterback race, have taken the majority of the reps over the past few days.

Although Pelesasa and Jakes have pushed back and forth for the coaches’ favor, Taggart said that one person will start getting more snaps than the other soon.

“Reps are going to start dwindling down for a lot of guys, including those guys,” Taggart said. “They need to separate themselves because we’ve been alternating those guys and who goes in with the one’s for different periods, but we’re going to get to the point where guys are in there a little longer. You can’t have a bad day.”