More on the WKU quarterback job

23 08 2010

As we all know by now, Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart announced this morning that redshirt sophomore Kawaun Jakes has won the starting quarterback job for this season.

Jakes will be the team’s starter when it takes the field for the first time at Nebraska on Sept. 5.

In eight starts last season as a redshirt freshman, Jakes threw for 1,516 yards to go along with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for 366 yards and five scores.

Jakes – who will be the fifth different opening day starter in five years for the WKU program – beat out junior college transfer Matt Pelesasa and true freshman Brandon Doughty for the job.

After injuring his ankle during a pickup basketball game this past spring, Jakes was forced to miss virtually the entire spring practice session – giving Pelesasa nearly the entire load of reps.

Pelesasa entered fall camp at No. 1 on the depth chart, but Jakes’ overall progression combined with some arm soreness that Pelesasa had to work through last week are just a few of the things that led to Taggart’s decision.

In addition, Taggart said that at the moment, Doughty would only be used in an emergency situation – meaning that Pelesasa will be the primary backup.

Taggart said that there won’t be an outright redshirt put on Doughty at this moment, and that he will travel with the team this season – but it appears that the only way that redshirt gets burned is if WKU finds themselves down a pair of quarterbacks due to injury.

Here are some comments:

From Taggart:

“We wanted to get this solidified now so that we could get the offense and defense together and start getting some continuity. Kawaun did the things we were looking for in a quarterback. He was consistent, he was making plays and he has been a leader. And he did those things more consistently than the other guys, even though those other guys did some good things. I feel good right now that we’ve got three quarterbacks that we can feel good about.”

– On the ground Jakes had to make up on the field and off the field following his ankle injury in the spring

“I’m not really surprised, I just figured if he was going to be our guy then he’d be able to do the things I was looking for. If he could do that, then I was confident he could be our guy. I wanted them all to compete. I told Matt after the spring that it wasn’t a done deal, we said it from the beginning. We’re going to keep this competitive. And just because we named a starter, it doesn’t mean it stops being a competition. We’re not going to play them both, we picked a guy and we’re going to go with him, but if Matt was in there I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.”

– On whether this decision is completely set in stone for the season, or if Taggart won’t be hesitant to make a change if he feels necessary

“They’re going to keep competing. We’re going to make sure the right guy is in there (every week) to lead us to victory. We’re not going to just give up on someone if they have a bad game, but we don’t plan on having too many bad games – so we’re not even thinking about that. We picked a guy, we’re going to stick with him. We’re not in to playing one guy this week and another next week, that’s not a good sign on any football team. We have to pick a guy and then go with him.”

– On Jakes’ progression from the spring

“He’s better than I thought he was coming in. I didn’t see him much this spring, but he really threw the ball well in camp and I think he’s got a good chance to be really good in this offense – especially with his athletic ability. He can beat people with his feet, but he can throw the ball a lot better than I thought. That was surprising. And also how quickly he picked up the offense – he’s a smart kid.”

– On how much Pelesasa’s sore arm played a role in the decision

“I think it was a big part of it. He had a couple days where he ended the day really badly. And come to find out, his arm was bothering him – and I think that played a role in some of those mistakes. But we talked from day one, you’ve got to be consistent. I need a consistent quarterback – we can’t have mental mistakes, we have to be sharp all the time.”

– On Brandon Doughty’s situation

“We’re going to do what’s best for Brandon and what’s best for our program. We’re not going to throw him in there if he’s not ready or we don’t need him, but if we do, he’s going to go in and play for us. … Right now (it would only be an emergency situation). But he’ll be with us (on the road) and he’ll continue to get reps (in practice). You never know.”

Kawaun Jakes

– On winning the job

“I was just thankful coach had confidence in me. I knew that after my injury, I had to come back and work even harder. I feel like I can still get better every day, keep leading and show my teammates that I can do this.”

– On how entering Taggart’s dog house early with the ankle injury helped him progress

“I feel like it was a growing period for me. We had a meeting and he said he couldn’t trust me because I went and did something I wasn’t supposed to during football season. I just tried to learn from that and just build every day on trying to be a good person.

– On if he feels he’s won the trust of his team back

“It’s not all the way. I’m still working on it. I’m going to keep working and keep going forward.”

– On how much this quarterback competition has helped him

“It helps a lot, because it’s competition every day. We play ping pong and we’re competing at it. I try to have fun with it and make sure that every day is my best. If I have a bad day, I go into the film room and try to work on it. It’s helped a lot.”

Matt Pelesasa

– On not winning the job

“Inside as a competitor I was disappointed because I feel like I can be a starter for this team. But I respect the decision that was made and I have all the respect for Kawaun and in his ability to lead this team. I feel like they made the right decision. I wasn’t able to compete this past week and you can’t make a decision like that with the injury, so I respect the decision they made and I’m ready to roll and keep competing.”

– On what his mindset is from here on out

“I’m not changing anything (as far as mindset goes). The competition’s still there. I’m going to continue to compete every day to make myself better, to make the team better, to make Kawaun better. The better guys is going to play (every week) and whether it’s Kawaun or Brandon or me – that person is going to be ready for the job.”

– On how tough the decision is knowing that he only has two years of eligibility

“I know I’ve only got two years left, but the best guy is going to play. And if that’s Kawaun, or even if it’s Brandon, I’m going to be behind it 100 percent. I don’t have any bad feelings toward anybody or animosity or any of that kind of stuff – I’m just going to keep competing. … I think that by coming to practice every day and raising the bar, working hard every day and trying to be perfect out here – it’ll only help Kawaun. That’s how competition works. If we keep raising the bar, we’ll be a lot better for it.”

– On how hard the arm injury has been to deal with

“I feel like I’m letting down my team not being able to go every day. But then again I have to worry about getting myself healthy for the team. We only have three (quarterback), so I have to be healthy when I’m called upon. But it’s hard because I love to compete. I’m ready to get back and get it healthy and help the team. It’s nothing serious, it’s just sore. So I’ve just got to get in there and do some rehab on it and get it better.”

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