WKU practice notes 8/11

11 08 2010

A couple of notes from Wednesday’s practice:

As we noted earlier, Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart told the media after practice today that redshirt freshman Courtney Dalcourt – a Franklin-Simpson product – has asked to switch position from quarterback to wide receiver.

Dalcourt is currently rehabbing from a second knee surgery he had done after a second injury this spring to the same knee that forced him to miss his entire true freshman season of 2009.

Most will remember Dalcourt as perhaps former coach David Elson’s most ballyhooed recruit prior to the 2009 campaign. A standout quarterback at nearby Franklin-Simpson, Dalcourt received a three-star ranking from Rivals.com before spurning several BCS-level programs to come to WKU.

Taggart said if everything goes well, Dalcourt could get back in action as early as October.

Taggart said that despite some serious heat for the third straight day, he was quite pleased with the group’s overall effort once again on Tuesday.

“We had a really good practice today,” Taggart said. “Guys were excited to get these shoulder pads on and lots of guys were making plays on both sides of the ball.

“I was really impressed with the energy and effort. Defensively we caused some turnovers, offensively we scored some touchdowns – I was happy.”

WKU practiced in helmets and shoulder pads for the first time this year as it continues to go through the NCAA-mandated acclimation period. The Hilltoppers are slated to don full pads for the first time on Friday.

“The energy level has been better (in this heat), maybe because we had some pads on,” Taggart said. “The first day seemed to be the worst with guys being nervous and cramping up, but ever since then it’s only got better.

“We’re trying to have some fun out here, it’s fun when you work hard and do it right. We’ve got to keep getting guys excited about doing things right. And right now, we’ve got to keep stacking days on top of each other. We’re trying to build a house, and we keep having to lay those bricks every day.”

Taggart still said that mental miscues have popped up from time to time. Fumbled snaps, dropped balls, and various other mental errors have at times ‘taken away from the good things,’ Taggart said.

Taggart told the media today that the careers of senior offensive lineman Derrick Elder and senior linebacker Mike Gothard are officially over due to injury.

Elder was forced to call it a career after chronic back problems forced him into an extensive summer surgery. As for Gothard, Taggart said a rash of injuries – including several concussions – forced the now former linebacker into hanging up his pads.

Both have been on the field every day this week at practice offering any help they can to fellow teammates and coaches.

Other players of note that sat out practice today were senior linebacker Chris Bullard (who Taggart said should be back next week after recovering from a slight knee injury), defensive lineman James Hervey, defensive lineman Korentheus Bailey, defensive back Vince Williams and defensive back Jerome Speights.

Back on the field this afternoon were cornerback Derrius Brooks and offensive lineman Preston King.

The quarterback race continued to sit at a stalemate after this afternoon’s workout as junior college junior Matt Pelesasa continues to share reps with redshirt sophomore Kawaun Jake and true freshman Brandon Doughty.

All three seemingly had positive moments this afternoon.

Both Pelesasa and Jakes seemed to get equal time with the first and second units during a late-practice 11 on 11 drill, while Doughty saw reps with mainly second-team units – but also some starters as well.

Doughty was partially responsible for the only touchdown of the late scrimmage session, however, when he hit freshman receiver Austin Baker on a sideline pattern that turned into a nearly 40-yard score.

Though the ball looked good, Baker likely deserves most of the credit – as he caught what looked to be about a 10-yard sideline route (while being interfered with by the defender) before turning up field and outrunning the entire first-string defensive unit for six.

The kicking game saw better days than today, as both starting kicker Casey Tinius and backup Monte Merrick struggled during the late-practice scrimmage.

Tinius missed a field goal and an extra point, while Merrick badly missed his lone field goal attempt.

Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen seemed to have mixed feelings overall Tuesday about the progress of the defensive unit.

Bowen said that while things have continued to progress in a positive direction overall, the team still needs to work on finding a better path to the ball carrier on each and every play.

Bowen continued to preach a swarming mentality and even spent about 15 minutes after practice putting the entire defense through some extra-curricular conditioning drills in what felt like 100-degree heat.

Asked why the group went through the extra workout?

“We have standards, and when they don’t meet them there are consequences,” Bowen said. “Things have to be done a certain way, and if they’re not, you pay for them.

“It’s the same way in a game. You don’t do things right, you look pretty bad. That’s the way it is every day out here.”

A couple notable standouts defensively on Wednesday were sophomore defensive end Quanterus Smith and junior defensive back Ryan Beard.

I’ll have more on Beard – a Bowling Green High School product – in Thursday’s paper.

As for Smith, the 6-5, 239-pound defensive end seems to have truly taken to his new role in the team’s 4-3 scheme.

Playing with his hand on the ground this season as opposed to working as a rush linebacker in last season’s 3-4 defense, Smith looked virtually unblockable during one-on-one drills with the offensive line on Wednesday.

During much of last season, Smith’s overall athleticism and size seemed to take the forefront during one-on-one battles – as he was one of the team’s more impressive performers during the 2009 camp. But once the season began, Smith looked out of position in the 3-4 and seemed to be stuck in ‘tweener land’ so-to-speak.

With a true position now, Smith has already caught the eye  of both Bowen and Taggart.

“He’s a very talented individual,” Bowen said of Smith. “He’s a really, really special athlete – there’s no denying that. If he continues to learn the position, he really could be a guy who makes a lot of plays for us.

“He needs to embrace that role and do that though, because his overall physical skills are really special.”

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