WKU spring practice – day one

21 03 2011

A few observations from the first day of spring practice.

I’ll have a full report with comments from coach Willie Taggart in Tuesday’s Daily News, so look for that.

But my observations from day one:

– Outside of the departures I threw up on the blog earlier, there were a few guys not participating today due to various bumps and bruises.

Notables in that category were starting offensive linemen Sean Conway and Adam Smith, backup tight end Tristan Jones, safety Ryan Beard, backup running back Braxston Miller, defensive tackle Brandon Whitty and starting receiver Marcus Vasquez.

All were out on the field, and all were doing some sort of conditioning work with strength and conditioning coach Duane Hall.

Vasquez is one that might not see a lot of action this spring, as he’ll likely be eased back into action after a season-ending collarbone injury he suffered midway through last season.

One player that was out on the field and going through full drills was junior tight end Jack Doyle. Doyle was wearing a Bobby Rainey-style yellow jersey, meaning he was not going through any contact-type drills, but he was working out in full with the first team offense.

That’s got to be a good sign for the Hilltoppers as Doyle missed a good portion of the latter half of the 2010 season with a recurring neck injury that often times seemed like it could be serious.

– Also on the field Monday was former Bowling Green High School tight end Ryan Wallace. Wallace – who began his career at Colorado before transferring to Kentucky – has been given a clearance by the NCAA to play at WKU, and will have two years left as a Hilltopper.

Another player with local ties that went through full drills Monday was former Franklin-Simpson standout Courtney Dalcourt. Dalcourt came to WKU as a quarterback, but barely made it through any practice time over the past two seasons due to two separate knee injuries.

Dalcourt is now working as a wide receiver, and got plenty of reps today with a position group that couldn’t be any more wide open. It’ll likely take him some time to get used to the new position, but the fact that he’s even on the field at this point has the makings of a true feel good story.

– The defense seemed to have the overall edge today, which is typical during the early stages of spring ball.

The timing between quarterbacks Kawaun Jakes and Brandon Doughty with the limited receiving corps didn’t look all that great, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that WKU’s youthful secondary is arguably the most loaded position group on the field.

WKU returned all four starters from last season, and basically every backup as well – save Mark Santoro – whose playing career has been cut short due to a recurring neck injury suffered last season.

Also making his debut on the practice field for WKU today was former Florida defensive back Jon Dowling – Dowling will not play this season due to transfer rules, but got plenty of reps with the defensive backs during day one.

And if he can make it through his transfer year in good spirits, he’ll no doubt be a difference maker in an already up and coming defensive backfield.

– The other big thing I noticed today was the overall shape and mood of the football team.

WKU does in fact look bigger, it looks stronger, quicker and in better shape – the Hilltoppers (on the surface at least) really resemble a Division 1 football team.

There weren’t any players losing their lunch on the sidelines after the opening workout, something that happened for about the first two weeks of last spring’s session.

Taggart has talked at length about raising the overall expectation level and making a jump, and on day one at least, it appears his roster is getting the message.

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