It’s funny what a little time in the doghouse will do for someone.
After getting off completely on the wrong foot with first-year coach Willie Taggart this spring, redshirt sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes took it upon himself to prove to everyone involved with the WKU football program that not only was he “all in,” but that he had the ability to get the job done as the Hilltoppers’ starting quarterback.
After sitting out basically the entire spring due to what Taggart dubbed as a selfish ankle injury during a pickup basketball game, Jakes worked on earning back the trust of his coach and his teammates’ throughout the summer and so far through fall camp.
It appears he’s accomplished that feat, and because of that, Taggart’s decision to name him as the team’s starter was the right call, in my opinion.
It was the right call for a handful of reasons:
– Jakes started eight games last season against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. Matt Pelesasa and Brandon Doughty have, to this point, only seen FBS games from the stands or on television.
There is no drill that a player can go through that recreates the overall speed of top-level college football.
And though he had some serious ups and downs during his trial by fire last season, Jakes has experience to fall back on – meaning that if things start collapsing around him during a game, he should be more equipped to handle himself mentally than Pelesasa and Doughty would. That’s not a slight to either of the latter quarterbacks, it’s just a simple matter of fact – Jakes has played on the big stage, Pelesasa and Doughty haven’t.
2) Athleticism and body type
– This one’s the kicker for me. The overall race for who the better passer at this point is actually pretty close, and if you asked me, I’d say that it might actually be Doughty.
But as far as who the most athletic player is – it’s not even a question. Jakes has the ultimate ability to turn what might be a four-yard sack into a 10-yard gain with his legs.
Pelesasa and Doughty can move a little bit themselves in order to extend a play – but they can’t break big plays with their legs like Jakes can.
Jakes has the speed to get around the edge on any defense in the Sun Belt, and he also has the size to take some punishment up the middle.
Pelesasa is very well-built from a bulk standpoint, but his listing at 6-1 (already considered short for a modern-day quarterback) might actually be a bit generous.
Doughty has the overall height and body build for the job, but he’s an 18-year-old kid. He’s still physically maturing. And with some hard work in the weight room, there’s no doubt he’ll get to that point – but right now, Jakes is already there.
3) He’s been the better quarterback
– From the first day of fall camp Jakes has been the more impressive player of the three overall in the passing game and in the running attack.
He’s shown a great deal of improvement with his down-field passing, and still maintains a very accurate rate of completion on short timing routes. I’ve seen all three players make good and bad decisions this month, but Jakes has made the fewest.
Only time will tell whether or not that continues.
Will Taggart and company get the Jakes that looked nearly flawless during his first career start at Navy last season? Or will they get the player who couldn’t seem to right the ship when things started to self-destruct against Arkansas State in the final game of the season?
We’re about to find out.
This is actually as good a position as WKU has been in quarterback-wise in my three and a half years of covering the team – because the Hilltoppers legitimately have three players that should be able to hang in as a starter.
Make no mistake, Pelesasa didn’t come to WKU as a JUCO transfer to sit the bench for his two remaining seasons.
He said as much during his comments on Monday. He’ll continue to compete and push as hard as ever to force Taggart to make a switch if need be. He seems to be a natural leader. A very put together player that is willing to do a lot of little things to make up for some of his shortcomings, and a quarterback that wouldn’t quit. On top of that, he’s got the physical ability to play at this level – his deep ball has a nice touch on it, and he’s relatively accurate inside 20 yards as well.
As far as Doughty is concerned, consider me highly impressed. I had a feeling going into camp that Doughty would enter with some talent, but end up getting lost in the woods by the overall speed and amount of information being thrown at him. I was wrong, however, as he seemed to steadily improve with each passing day. His overall natural talent as a passer is probably better than anyone on the team.
When given time, his deep patterns almost always found their way into a receivers hands in stride, his timing patterns were rarely late and he’s mobile enough to get out of the pocket and make a play on the run.
But he’s just a freshman. Mistakes were few and far between early on, but as time progressed, they started to build over the past week. He’s got the luxury of watching from the sidelines this season, working on his physical strength and perfecting the system.
I have a feeling that Pelesasa’s arm injury, Jakes’ overall progression and Doughty’s youth made this decision a bit easier on Taggart than most might think – but unless Jakes comes out and has an All-Sun Belt type season this year, I’d have to think next fall’s quarterback race will be even hotter.
So for the time being, it looks like it’ll be Kawaun Jakes’ team to lead.
And though Taggart has said over and over again that the past is the past when it comes to this football program, those of us with a bit better of a memory know that it doesn’t take much for a starting quarterback situation to get tossed on its ear (see K.J. Black, David Wolke, K.J. Black again, Brandon Smith and Kawaun Jakes from last year).
Taggart’s turned the keys over to the player that’s been there before. And now, it’s Jakes’ turn to prove he can drive.