Taggart talks Hoosiers

16 09 2010

Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart met with reporters this afternoon to discuss all things surrounding this Saturday’s home opener against Indiana.

As far as the Hoosiers themselves are concerned, Taggart says he expects to see a lot of passing from Indiana senior quarterback Ben Chappell. A seasoned pocket passer, Chappell has a trio of starting receivers that stand at least 6-foot-3 – and he’ll also get back talented junior Tandon Doss this weekend, a player that racked up nearly 1,000 receiving yards in 2009.

“I know their quarterback’s really good, I know he can throw and they’ve got some big receivers like we’ve seen the last two weeks,” Taggart said. “They’re well coached, they run the ball well, they did a really good job running and throwing it against Towson. And even some of those games from last year will show you how good the Chappell kid is. It’ll be a challenge for us defensively but we’ll have to go out there and see what we can do.”

Taggart added that defending the run will still be the No. 1 priority, however, as he’s certain the Hoosiers will attempt to establish sophomore Darius Willis – who ran for more than 100 yards and collected a pair of touchdowns two weeks ago against Towson.

“It’s not going to matter if we don’t stop their running game,” he said. “They get in that pistol and can get downhill quick, that’ll be a challenge. We’ve got to challenge our D-line, too. They’ve shown flashes, but now it’s time to show a little more than that.”

Almost as important will be the fact that for the first time since his assistant coaching days ended at WKU in 2006, Taggart will run onto the field for a game at Houchens-Smith Stadium. Things are quite a bit different inside the Hilltoppers’ home now than they were then – and even more different than they were during his playing days in the mid-90s.

But the idea of protecting a home field is something Taggart says is still the same as it ever was.

“We have to protect our home, first and foremost, this is our home,” he said. “In anything in life, you protect your home no matter what. And also for our fans, we want them to feel the same way we do – impress them, because they deserve it.

“Those guys understand that, there’s a lot of people counting on them to do well.”

Asked what type of environment he wants to turn Houchens-Smith Stadium into? As per usual, Taggart didn’t hesitate in reaching for the stars.

“We want it to be a place people say they don’t want to play in,” he said. “TV games, constant sellouts. I want to get College Gameday here one day – how about that? Right there on the south lawn, facing the beautiful stadium, with the place jampacked with students and people in the community – and you constantly hear about Bowling Green, Kentucky like you hear about Boise, Idaho.”

Rainey’s impact

Taggart took some time to disucss the overall impact that junior running back Bobby Rainey is currently leaving on his program.

Aside from Rainey’s production – he enters Saturday at No. 4 on the FBS’ individual rushing leaders list with 339 yards in two games – Taggart says he’s helping everyone in the program have some sort of tangible success to grab onto, even as the team’s 22-game losing streak continues.

On top of that, Taggart said Rainey’s success in the West Coast Offense doesn’t exactly hurt in the recruiting game either.

“The thing he’s doing is he’s helping our entire program overall,” he said. “It helps recruiting. A guy that wants to play running back and in a system like this, it’s a lot of stuff you’re going to do at the next level. And the guys that are here, it shows them that they can have the opportunity to do the same kind of things. As a team, it gives us something to grab on to. Some real success, we’ve got a No. 4 running back in the country – that’s improving and that’s having something you can grab and see and build off of.

“Hopefully can build on it. It’s a starting point and it’s a pretty darn good one.”

Fast Willie – times two

When asked about the continued improvement of freshman receiver/ kick returner Willie McNeal, Taggart said that the thing that stuck out to him the most recently was his overall speed on game day.

Taggart says he knew McNeal was fast, as evident by his MVP award during last April’s Spring Game, but when he watched McNeal’s 88-yard kickoff return for a score against Kentucky last week – he said he was then forced to go back on a bet.

“He called me out (and challenged me to a race), and I told him he didn’t want to do that,” Taggart said. “I told him, ‘if I beat you, you walk on for a year and I get that scholarship back. If you beat me, no breakfast check for a semester.’

“But after that kickoff return, I just said ‘no bet.’ I’m not doing that.”

Murphree gets his shot

With junior tight end Tristan Jones suffering a season-ending knee injury during last week’s loss at Kentucky, Franklin native and current freshman Jim Murphree has moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart behind starter Jack Doyle.

It’s an impressive feat for Murphree – who was a prep teammate of current WKU redshirt freshman Courtney Dalcourt, a highly-touted high school prospect – considering that he was given a grayshirt last season before entering 2010 without very many expectations in terms of playing time.

But Murphree worked himself onto the travel roster for each of WKU’s first two games this season, playing as a short snapper and even getting on the field and catching a pass against the Wildcats last week.

So while it was Dalcourt that initially turned all the local heads on Signing Day in 2009, it’s Murphree who is paying the early dividends.

“The thing about that kid is that he’s going to fight every single play, he’s going to go 110 percent every play,” Taggart said. “That alone gives him a chance.

“He has the attitude that you can’t tell him he can’t be what he wants to be. He works that way. He has that fight you wish all the kids had, and that gives him a real chance.”

The only other depth chart change this week comes at free safety where junior Ryan Beard – a Bowling Green High School product – has jumped over sophomore Kareem Peterson for the starting job.

One player that hasn’t cracked the depth chart but still might find his way onto the field this week is freshman running back Antonio Andrews. Andrews has spent the week working with the second-team offense as a running back, rather than working on the scout team as he has over the first two weeks of the season.

Taggart didn’t promise much in terms of playing time for Andrews on Saturday, but did say that the former prep phenom continues to show why he was tabbed as Kentucky’s Mr. Football in 2009.

“He’s shown at times why he was Kentucky’s Mr. Football, he’s a really talented athlete,” he said. “But a lot of guys are talented when they’re playing off (scout) cards. But when you’ve got to remember plays and you’ve got guys coming at you full speed trying to take your head off – sometimes young guys don’t roll with that quick.

“He’s getting there, but he hasn’t had to get hit yet.”

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