Willie Taggart met with the media Monday to discuss the team’s ‘off’ week this week. The Hilltoppers (4-1, 1-0 SBC) are at Troy, Oct. 11.
Kawaun Jakes: “He’s doing a lot better. He’ll get an MRI today just to be sure on everything, but he’s doing a lot better and bending his knee and he was on a bike this morning so that was good to see.”
James Mauro the backup? “Yeah, if (Jakes) couldn’t go, but we heal differently around here so I expect for him to go.”
Off week: “Looking to get better. We’re gonna work, go out and really become better technically, fundamentally and looking to be able to execute better than what we’ve been executing.”
Kawaun will go if he can? “No doubt. We expect for Kawaun to go.”
Team to beat in the SBC? “We’re looking at ourselves as trying to be a better football team than we were last week.
“I mentioned before great teams are never satisfied. Our guys aren’t satisfied yet. We wanna go out there and see how good we can be. And we haven’t put that performance out there yet, but we’re doing some good things.
“We want to go out and put a complete ballgame together and we haven’t done that yet.”
Quanterus Smith: “I’ll tell you more than anything he’s doing what he expected from himself and he really put in the work. He played with fanatical effort on Saturday. I think that showed him if he did that every single Saturday or Thursday or Tuesday night that we play on, he can become a dominant player.
“We all know he can do that, sometimes before he showed you in spurts. On Saturday, he was just running around like a crazed dog out there. It was fun to see.
“He really played big-time football and it was great to see him get defensive player of the week because that was an outstanding performance.”
Week off: “They’ll get their bodies back and we’ve been fairly healthy and it’ll give our guys a good chance to get their bodies back together and be ready to attack that week with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
“I wouldn’t say, ‘off’. Hopefully they don’t take these days off, hopefully they do something football related to keep them going.
“We have something that’s bigger than one individual, so we can’t be selfish and take days off. That’s not gonna get us where we wanna go, we got to continue to work and do something that’s going to get us closer to our goals.”
Being a candidate for other jobs: “I don’t talk about any other job but the one that I have. It’s simple.”
Shield players from distractions: “Our players are in a cocoon right now. Our players don’t hear anything right now and, again, there’s no one individual bigger than this team. Our guys understand that and we have big dreams and big goals this year and we’re not gonna let anything distract us from that. Those things we consider, ‘drag’ around here. We’re decreasing drag. We’re trying to do big things this year.”
Troy: “We started yesterday. It’s gonna be a big-time game and those guys are playing really well and they’re gonna be well-coached. Coach (Larry) Blakeney has them playing again.
“You knew Troy wasn’t going to be out that long. And we’re going down there, so it’s going to be another tough environment playing on the road. We’re gonna have to play a great ballgame in order to win it.”
Troy having a rebound year: “I think you’re seeing that now. Those guys are winning and taking care of their business. You don’t look at a coach Blakeney team and think they’ll be out, be down for long. You’re seeing that now.
“Our guys have to come ready to play and those guys seem like they’re locked in, too.”
Jonathan Dowling’s impact: “I expect for anybody that’s in there to have a big impact, just like this past Saturday. That’s the beauty of this past Saturday. A lot of guys stepped up and made plays and there was no excuses.
“A guy went down and there was no excuses, ‘Oh we’re not gonna be able to do any of this or that.’ The next guy (Kareem Peterson) stepped up and made plays for us. I think that was the big thing that I got out of that ballgame.
“Andrew Jackson doesn’t start the second half and you have a true freshman (Daqual Randall) in their taking care of business. No excuses. That’s why this football team is special.”
Confidence: “I think it’s high. You think about our football team and you go back, play UK and that emotional ballgame and to win it the way that we did – that week was big.
“Then to come back and you worry about a letdown, you get asked questions about a letdown and our guys go out and play outstanding.
“Then you go and play the conference champ on the road. Then you’re down 13 at the half and come back and play the way you played in the second half, speaks volumes about the character of this football team and they understand they’re on a mission.
“I think this team is special and they’re locked in. I think that was big time after some of the things they’ve been through these last couple weeks. That’s impressive.”
Arkansas State bigger win than UK? “I’ll tell you what, every last one of ‘em big. Troy is bigger than Kentucky, bigger than Arkansas State – that’s the biggest game on our schedule right now. All these games are big and all these games are winnable, but they’re also ones we can get beat.
“Everybody is capable of doing that is on our schedule, so we can’t lighten up, gotta tighten up.”
Dowling: “He’s gonna have to come out and play. All our guys. We don’t give anybody anything around here. You gotta go and work. We’re sure Jonathan’s gonna come and compete and work for that job, but I wouldn’t go in and say either of those guys is the starter.
“We got this whole open week and those guys still gotta work. The good thing about it is we know we can play with either guy and they know they gotta compete in order to play. It’s a great problem to have.”
Keshawn Simpson: “I think he’ll run around a little bit this week and see how far that takes him, but he’s a lot closer.”
Dowling on the sidelines: “That’s who he is. That wasn’t a representative. That’s Jonathan and he cares about his teammates and he cares about his team and he was trying to do everything he can to motivate his guys to go out and play and you like that.
“Not just from him, that’s what you’ll get out of all of our guys on this football team. When I say this football is special, these guys really do care about each other and these guys really wanna win and they’re doing the things of what it takes to win. That’s what you like to see.”
Keshawn Simpson’s return: “We’ll see how Keshawn goes along the way. I don’t know, it’ll be interesting. We’ll see when he gets back out there and see how he goes. If he gets to where he’s 100 percent and can go we’ll put him in there and have some plays for him and he’ll just add to what we intended to do anyways to start the season.
“But we got two really good backs right now and one is filthy good right now. Gotta keep that going. We got some good players. Got a lot of good players.”