Taggart opens up WR competition

2 11 2010

Following Saturday’s loss against North Texas, Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart said he was very disappointed in the effort from his receivers.

To be more specific, Taggart said he was “very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very disappointed” in his pass-catchers’ efforts.

WKU has relied heavily this season on sophomore wideout Marcus Vasquez and freshman receiver Willie McNeal – as the pair have combined to make 50 catches for 537 yards and four touchdowns.

But on Tuesday, Taggart declared the receiver slots wide open for anyone willing to take them.

“I told them that what happened in that game wasn’t what happened in the week before that,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of young receivers and they’ve got to compete – nobody there has a job on lockdown.

“They can’t take a day off – we’re going to play the guys that do it right, because those are the ones that are going to help us.”

Taggart also reiterated Tuesday that Saturday’s paltry passing numbers (just 116 yards through the air), didn’t fall on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes.

Outside of a fourth-quarter fumble, Taggart said that Jakes’ performance was more than acceptable – but poor route-running and dropped passes resulted in a stagnant offense.

“I thought he did well other than the fumble,” he said. “It wasn’t on him, part of them not running routes right had him panicking – he had to do some things that we didn’t want him to do at times.

“One guy messes it up and it messes up for everyone. But one good thing about Kawaun is that he understands that if things don’t go right, they fall on him – he gets that and he’s got to hold his teammates accountable. And he does.”

Kicker battle wide open

Taggart said Tuesday that redshirt freshman kicker Monte Merrick is currently “in the driver’s seat” for the No. 1 kicker job, but that the competition is still hot between him and former starter Casey Tinius.

Taggart yanked Tinius during Saturday’s first quarter after his sixth missed field goal of the season, replacing him with Merrick – who proceeded to nail both field goals he attempted.

The first-year WKU coach said that whichever kicker has the best week of practice will get the call come Saturday.

“That’s wide open, right now Monte’s in the driver’s seat but the guy that has the best week of practice is going to kick,” he said. “There was a lot of noise there at the end (when the kickers went through situational drills), which is great because their teammates are into it and it puts those guys into pressure situations. That’s going to make them better in the long run.”

Best Tuesday yet

The mood at practice Tuesday was much more jovial than it was at any point last week, mostly due to the fact that Taggart told the team beforehand that it needed to go back to its core philosophy.

Creating juice.

“I thought our guys rebounded and came out ready to practice today,” he said. “Guys were making plays and having fun doing it.
“We had a lot of energy and our guys got better today – by far our best Tuesday practice (of the season).

“We wanted to get back to what we’ve been preaching from day one. We got away from it last week – we’ve got to create juice and energy and have fun playing with these seniors for the next four weeks. We’ve got to enjoy them and make the last four games the best four of our career.”

Injury updates

Sophomore tight end Jack Doyle was in full pads Tuesday, but his status due to a neck injury won’t be updated likely until Saturday.

Senior outside linebacker Chris Bullard and sophomore offensive guard Adam Smith spent Tuesday with their arms in slings.

Taggart said Bullard’s arm injury is more serious, as it forced him to leave Saturday’s game against North Texas. The WKU coach said that if Bullard can’t practice Wednesday, then he likely won’t play Saturday.

As for Smith, Taggart said the injuries were nothing serious – and his day off was simply an effort to heal some bumps and bruises.

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