Second season begins for Hilltoppers

4 10 2010

Western Kentucky sophomore tight end Jack Doyle was missing one of his staples of the 2010 season during Monday’s weekly news conference.

His old school mustache.

Asked what happened to the retro piece of facial hair?

“It’s gone,” Doyle replied. “It’s a new season.”

WKU returned from its lone bye week of the season Sunday to begin preparation for its Sun Belt Conference opener this Saturday at Florida International – a game that will effectively mark a new beginning of sorts for the Hilltoppers, who get a fresh slate and a 0-0 record entering SBC play.

“Yesterday at practice, it felt like I had my legs under me,” Doyle said. “We’re ready to go. We’re excited and looking forward to a new season with Sun Belt play – we’re just ready to go.”

First-year coach Willie Taggart said that rather than referring to WKU’s off week as a “bye,” the team opted to look at it as an “improvement week.” And with three days away from the practice field over the weekend to heal bodies and minds, Taggart said the club was able to accomplish everything it wanted during the lone “improvement week” of the season.

“We had the week of improvement and I think we improved,” Taggart said. “We worked on areas where we needed work and I thought we got accomplished what we wanted out of it.

“I thought we had a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, we had some good practices and stayed healthy – which is also good.”

As far as the overall physical health of the team was concerned, Taggart said that junior safeties Ryan Beard and Mark Santoro, along with senior offensive lineman Mychal Patterson, returned to the practice field Sunday.

Taggart wouldn’t make a clearcut distinction on their game availability, but he did say he thought the team was “good to go” from an injury standpoint. Patterson, Beard and Santoro were all inactive for WKU’s previous game at South Florida two weeks ago.

“They make our guys different now,” Taggart said. “A guy is supposed to be out two months, it’s only a month. Two weeks, I expect them back in a week. I think we’re good to go.”

With the bye, or improvement week, now behind them – Taggart said the time has come for the group to “attack the Sun Belt Conference with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

“It was improvement week for all of us,” Taggart said. “It was a good opportunity for us as a coaching staff to improve in areas that we can get better at. We used (last) week for us to improve just like we asked the players, managers and trainers to improve.

“We all needed to get better in order to go where we want – and I thought we did that last week.”

Recruiting strides

Taggart was able to get out of town and hit the recruiting trail this weekend, an experience that he said was productive.

Asked how different recruiting is now as opposed to how it was last winter, Taggart said things have gotten a bit easier due to the fact that he now has actual game footage to show potential recruits his vision for WKU football.

“I think kids are starting to see what we’re doing offensively and how it can affect them if they decide to come to Western,” Taggart said. “They see we’re making improvements, they see how they might be able to fit in and make this thing go. Every week you can see improvements in a lot of different areas.

“Have faith in us, we’re trying to get kids here to see this great university that we have. … If they get the opportunity to do that, they’ll like Western enough. Football wise, they’ll have a chance to be part of something special – that’s what we want this to be.”

Scouting the Panthers

Taggart said that nothing gets easier this week for the Hilltoppers, as they open conference play with one of the league’s speediest groups in Florida International.

FIU also enters the contest at 0-4, but is a team that Taggart says could be the fastest WKU has seen all year.

“You’d think after those four games it’d get easier, but it doesn’t,” Taggart said. “They’re a really good football team and really fast. Compared to South Florida, I’d say they’re probably faster. They’re not as big, but they can run. They create a lot of problems with their defense, make you make a lot of mistakes and get everyone to the ball on defense.

“Offensively they’ve got a lot of playmakers. In their four ballgames, they’ve had an opportunity to win every one of them. I wouldn’t look at their record and think they’re a bad football team, just like I don’t think we’re a bad football team.”




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: