WKU practice update 8/26

26 08 2010

Just returned from practice, here are a few highlights:

– Coach Willie Taggart talked about how today’s workout was more of a ‘communication’ practice – meaning that the team needs to start focusing in on dealing with the hostile environment it will be put into next weekend when it visits Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

Taggart said that next week the team will start pumping artificial noise into practice in an effort to simulate the crowd atmosphere as best they can.

“We said that if we don’t do anything today, we at least want to communicate,” Taggart said. “We got the coaches off the field and let guys communicate with each other because once you get out there next week, they’ll be all by themselves without coaches telling them what to do.

“Next week we’re going to start (pumping sound in), you have to. We’ve never been in there, guys probably won’t be able to hear and guys aren’t prepared for that sometimes and we have to be. It’s the first game, I’m sure (Memorial Stadium) will have a lot of energy – we’ve got to be ready for it.”

Taggart added that players seem to be getting rather antsy at this point, as is often the case late in training camp, and feel ready to take on a challenge from another opponent.

“They’re tired of coming out here and not playing for anything outside of practice, they’re getting fired up,” Taggart said. “Hopefully they’re starting to believe, because that’s what it’s going to come down to.”

The team continued to add parts of its gameplan for next week’s season opener against Nebraska today. Offensively, WKU will be facing quite a challenge – as Nebraska was No. 7 in the country last season in total defense. The Cornhuskers do lose all-world defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, but they still return plenty of talent.

Even still, the Hilltopper offensive unit seems to be taking an optimistic approach into its first official game week.

“It’s going good, we’re getting excited about what we think we can do against it,” WKU sophomore tight end Jack Doyle said of Nebraska’s vaunted defense. “Coaches see different things, we think we can run the ball against them. We’re getting excited about what we think we can do as an offense line and in the running game, and we’re just getting excited.”

Taggart has spent plenty of time preaching confidence and overall belief in the system since taking over the job, and that message seems to be hitting home hard as camp begins to wind down.

“We think we can do anything,” WKU sophomore receiver Marcus Vasquez said. “We just have to go out there with confidence. We’ve got talent, we’ve got a good offensive line, we’ve got good skill players. We think we can go out there and beat them, come Saturday, we just have to go out there with confidence and do what we know best – and that’s just play football.”

– Speaking of Vasquez, we spoke with him this afternoon about how much easier it’s been for him at the receiver position this fall as opposed to last.

As most may recall, Vasquez entered fall camp last season as a quarterback – before eventually being moved over to receiver during the campaign’s opening weeks.

After playing quarterback his entire life, the transition wasn’t easy for Vasquez. But as the year progressed, he did as well – finishing the season with 19 catches, 176 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Heading into this season’s training camp, Vasquez says his overall comfort level is much better.

“I’ve got a whole year playing the position (under my belt),” Vasquez said. “Last year was a transition and I didn’t really know everything. This year, I had the whole offseason playing receiver, I worked out at receiver (in camp) and I think I’ve actually gotten to learn to play receiver.

“I think the hardest part was just learning how to play receiver. Playing quarterback I know how to read defense, I know the routes, but running those routes – that’s been the hardest part. … I’m a lot more comfortable. I wasn’t a great route-runner last year – I’ve practice that a lot, tried to get more crisp and have sharper cuts. The more you do that, the more you get open.”

Taggart said he’s been impressed with the sophomore wideout’s overall game this fall, and his off-the-field maturity level. At 6-1, 192-pounds, Vasquez’s size and overall athletic ability in the open field make him a prototype for a No. 1 receiver in the West Coast offense. Something Taggart says could come in time.

“He’s starting to understand what it takes to play receiver and he’s starting to grow up and mature,” Taggart said. “He’s having a phenomenal camp. He’s still got a lot of improvement to make, but he’s a talent. He can really help our football team. Marcus understands that and he’s working at it every single day. He’s been totally different than he was in the spring, and he’s here to compete and things are starting to come for him.

“He’s got some dropped balls in there too, but we tell him ‘we can’t have that, we need you to be the guy.’ … He has the talent to be a No. 1, he has the talent to be an all-conference player. But he’s got to work every single day. Can’t take a day off. He needs to have that mindset.”

– Taggart confirmed this afternoon that sophomore linebacker Chuck Franks will be out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. Franks will be able to redshirt this season, however, as he played in all 12 games in 2009.

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