Backs ready to spell Rainey

8 09 2010

With Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart declaring Monday that there should be no reason to expect junior running back Bobby Rainey to get 30 carries week in and week out, some focus has shifted to Rainey’s backups – all of whom have some pretty fresh legs.

Outside of one carry by full back Rod Johnson last week at Nebraska, Rainey was the only back to take a handoff Saturday – leaving primary backups Avery Hibbitt, Braxston Miller and Keshawn Simpson on the sidelines during offensive possessions.

So are the Hilltopper backs ready to tag out the team’s best player when need be Saturday at Kentucky?

“Oh we were ready last week,” Hibbitt said with a grin after practice Wednesday. “But Bobby’s number got called and he performed really well. Over 150 yards against Nebraska – that’s pretty darn good.

“But actually coach Taggart came to me this week and was joking in the meeting saying ‘when are you going to help your boy out with the ball?’ I was like ‘coach, whenever you put me in.’ We’re ready.”

As ready as the backups might be, the group is extremely inexperienced when it comes to gameday carries.

Simpson redshirted as a true freshman last season, so he’s never had a college carry. Miller had over 1,400 yards as a senior at Lincoln County High School, but began his career as a linebacker at WKU before moving back to running back last season – he has three career carries.

Hibbitt racked up a whopping 3,652 yards on the ground at nearby Bowling Green High School, but has spent the bulk of his college career at cornerback – to date, he has yet to record a college carry.

So while there’s not a lot of game experience at the college level behind Rainey, it’s not like the group is brand new to carrying the ball.

And come Saturday, the trio is hopeful that they’ll get a chance to remind people of that fact.

“It’s been a lot of fun (being back at running back),” Hibbitt said. “It’s home (to me), it’s all I know. I’ve been in my playbook, I’ve been in Bobby’s ear, I’ve been in (the coaching staffs) ear trying to get plays, formations and blocking schemes.

“It’s going well so far, I’m really liking it a lot.”

Jakes ready for fast Cats

Asked what the difference is between Kentucky’s defense and Nebraska’s defense, WKU quarterback Kawaun Jakes replied with one word – speed.

“They’re a really fast team,” Jakes said. “We just have to go out there and play, they might be quicker than Nebraska – so we have to be ready.

“We’ve got to play faster, we’ve got to play faster and think faster.”

Jakes said after Saturday’s loss that there were good and bad things to be taken from week one, but the biggest positive he found from an offensive standpoint was the confidence that his unit can compete.

“We learned we can compete with anybody,” Jakes said. “With Nebraska being ranked, we feel like we competed with them (at times) so we can compete with anybody.”

Jakes was unavailable during Monday’s media availiability, but Wednesday, he was able to address the highlight-reel hit put on him by Preseason All-American defensive tackle Jared Crick.

The 285-pound Crick was able to sneak through and flatten Jakes on the tail end of a pass attempt – leaving Jakes on the ground for several seconds before finally pulling himself back up without any serious damage.

“That was a pretty good one,” Jakes laughed. “I don’t really like watching that one much, but my teammates like to remind me of it.

“It definitely woke me up – that’s for sure. … I think that was the hardest hit I’ve ever taken, but hey, it’s football.”

Purples on parade

Saturday will be extra special for some local high school fans as five Bowling Green High School graduates will be on display when WKU and UK tangle.

WKU junior safety Ryan Beard, junior kicker Casey Tinius and junior running back Avery Hibbitt will meet back up with Kentucky junior offensive lineman Stuart Hines and sophomore tight end turned offensive tackle Ryan Wallace at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.

Tinius, Hibbitt, Beard and Hines all graduated from BGHS in 2006, while Wallace followed in 2007.

“That’s just great,” Beard said. “The last time we all played (on the same field) was at Commonwealth Stadium in the Kentucky All-Star game. We’re all blessed to be able to go out there and play on the same field again.

“We always joked about that in the locker room in high school, playing against each other on the big stage – now it’s hear. Nothing left to do but have fun with it.”

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