Western Kentucky started spring practice Monday morning at Houchens-Smith Stadium. Head coach Willie Taggart (9-15) begins his third season with the Hilltoppers who are coming off a 7-5 season.
Quarterback DaMarcus Smith, originally thought to be ineligible, was with the quarterbacks and taking reps with the WKU offense wearing No. 14. Antonio Andrews and Keshawn Simpson appear to be the top two running backs, while Boe Brand, Rico Brown and Tyler Higbee appear to be the top three wide receivers.
Rammell Lewis, Quanterus Smith and T.J. Smith were getting most of the reps with the No. 1 offense on the defensive line.
Punter Hendrix Brakefield is in the mix to win the place-kicking job. Walk-on Mike Muglar (thank you blog commenter) is not with the team.
Quarterback Dyron Speight has been moved to wide receiver.
First day: “It was good. A lot of intensity. Defense, kind of usual, every spring practice the defense always gets the advantage starting off. I thought overall guys were fired up about getting back on the field. We had a good practice.”
Objective: “I know offensively we got to get better in the passing game. Obviously we got to get better kicking the football. Defensively, being able to stop the pass. That’s something we didn’t do as well as we wanted to. But more importantly just getting better at everything we do. We got to find a running back. I don’t think we’re just looking for one guy, it’s going to be running back by committee and we got some guys that can get that done. I think we’ll see a lot more from those guys once we put on pads.”
Running backs Keshawn Simpson and Antonio Andrews: “I think John Evans is a big part of that, too. We got to be smart in what we ask those guys to do, too. I think all of ‘em are gonna get it. The way we’re going through spring ball, it’s going to be a moving depth chart. Guys are gonna go through and think they’ll have a starting job the entire spring. As coaches, we’re gonna go in and grade every practice and if a guy didn’t practice well he’s gonna move down the depth chart. We’re gonna keep it competitive.”
Team mindset: “These guys have responded well just starting with our winter conditioning. We had 100 percent attendance in our conditioning. In my years of coaching that’s a first. I’m proud of our players for that. Those guys have a chip on their shoulder and they’re hungry. You would think that they didn’t win as much as they did because of the way they’ve been working and getting after it and, more importantly, the way they’re coming together as a football team. Expectations should be high. That’s how we wanted it from day one. It should be high for all of us, not just our football team, but our entire community. We expect great things here in Bowling Green and in WKU. That’s how it’s gonna be.”
Added motivation from bowl snub: “That’s our job. After last year, we’re not gonna make any excuses. We’re not gonna blame anyone, we’re just gonna go do something. That’s on us. We can’t blame anyone else. The way we do that is the way we come out here and work every single day.”
Coming off a winning season: “It goes back to the winter conditioning. It’s been unbelievable. It’s been totally different. Our guys, the way they come to work, you don’t hear any complaining, moaning – they just come out here ready to go. Only time they come to me is when they say, ‘Coach, you don’t look like you’re ready.’ That’s a first and that’s a good feeling because I don’t have to get them going, they’re ready to go, they’re ready to work.”
Maturity: “That’s a big part of it. A big part of it is maturity and guys understanding what we’re doing now and they understand that it’s their job. They don’t actually get paid physically, but it’s their job and they have to take control of their job.”
Brandon Doughty: “He’s coming around. We’re giving him some 7-on-7 reps. I don’t want to get him where he’s around a lot of people right now. Just want him to be able to throw the ball and do some things with not a lot of people around him. You’ll see him more in the 7-on-7 than anything else.”
WR Willie McNeal: “Willie was ready last year. It didn’t do us any good to put him in there and waste a year on him when we could have him for three more years. Willie’s ready to go and you can’t even tell that something happened to him before.”
WR Marcus Vasquez: “He’s not here. He’s not ready. He’s far from being ready to go right now. He actually hurt it (knee) in rehab and had to have a second surgery.”
First day: “It went pretty well. First day jitters, but I think we did pretty good, being the first day. Everybody was anxious ready to get out here and I think it went pretty well.”
Objective: “Do everything right. For me, it’s passing the ball, making completions, making right reads and getting everybody ready to go every day.”
Getting the passing game better: “I’m gonna work my hardest to do that. If I have to stay after to throw extra routes with receivers or watch extra film, I’m gonna do that.”
100 percent attendance at winter conditioning: “That’s real good, just to see how everybody’s into it, it makes me happy and makes seniors like Jack Doyle happy to know they’re in it for us and just going hard every day.”
“It’s my last year. It’s all I got left, so I gotta make everything count. Every day I can’t have no bad days, can’t take no off days – everyday counts. I’m just ready to get this spring and follow it into camp.”
Bowl snub: “We didn’t succeed, basically, because we didn’t go to a bowl game. I think everybody’s mindset – to work harder. Everyday it’s grind – everyday. Last year seemed like we didn’t get no reward for it, so that’s our mindset to try and get a reward.”
First day: “It was good. We executed well, there wasn’t too many mental mistakes for the first day, so I feel like it was a good day.”
Objective: “To get better. We ain’t changing too much from last year, we’re just looking to execute better and play faster.”
Bowl snub: “We wasn’t satisfied with that 7-5, we didn’t get to a bowl, just coming out in the spring we’re getting back to getting closer to our goal and that’s making it to a bowl game.”
First spring after winning season: “It feels great. Nice look for the team. It’s nice to know that everybody’s buying in and to know that we’re gonna get it done.”