Western Kentucky football coach Willie Taggart met with the media this afternoon to discuss the start of fall camp, which will begin officially on Aug. 5 – with the first practice on the field taking place on Aug. 6.
A few comments from Taggart:
On how much less room for error there is now as opposed to last season:
“The guys understand and know what to do know, with every aspect of our program. They understand our expectations in the classroom, the weight room, the chow line – everything. They get it now. And once that happens, the culture changes. We’re starting to see that now. And when that changes, the expectations go up and yes, you expect things to be a lot better. You don’t expect nearly as many mistakes.
“It’s still a process. We taught them how to walk, now we want them to run. But we understand it’s still a work in progress. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to settle for anything. We’re going to expect the best. It’s hard to achieve high if your goals aren’t set high and that’s been a problem, we didn’t have high goals – we have to get back to doing that around here.”
“The only good thing we had going into last season was that we had a top recruiting class (in the Sun Belt). With the schedule we had and everything we were up against, that was hard. It was hard to go into a season with the energy you need to be successful with all that negative stuff around us. There are far more positive things going into this season, which to me, is a sign of improvement. We have some positive things going on now. We’re improving and that’s how it should be. That’s the sign of a football team that’s moving in the right direction, when you’ve got a few players being recognized – it doesn’t mean anything right now, but it’s good for the program, because we’ve never had that here before. We haven’t won a lot of ballgames and we’re still getting some attention, we can be really, really good. But we’ve got to grind. We’ve got to grind in order to shine. They’re buying into it, and they’re working – and hard work pays off.”
On how he’s feeling personally entering his second season as a head football coach:
“Last year things were coming at me all over the place. There was a lot of learning for me, too. You don’t see that stuff, but we had a lot going against us last year. There were some things I did last year that I know now I can do better. For me, going into the season I’m feeling more confident knowing exactly what we have and having been through some games with this team.
“I know our football team a lot better, I know our staff, I know everyone around here a lot better. We all do. I’m more confident now than I was before because I know what to expect and I know where we’re at. We’re doing a lot of things that winning teams do. You usually make the most improvement between year one and two, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
On the development of junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes:
“If he keeps doing what he’s been doing, we’re going to see that position become what we want it to be. The things that were keeping him from being productive were the little things. Working on football away from here. He’s doing that now. His teammates are rallying around him, he’s thinking more about the game than he did before. I’ve never had any problem from a physical standpoint with Kawaun, physically, he can get it done. It was those little things. Until you’ve played that spot and been out there, you don’t understand. The physical part isn’t enough. It’s those little things … the mental things, stuff he wasn’t doing before that he’s doing a better job of now. He was more productive in the spring and he was doing everything it took to be a college quarterback.
“A lot of it is mental. A lot of it was just not knowing what to do. He’s been in two different offenses since he’s been here, and the other one (the spread-option) was probably a little easier and built more for an athlete. This one, you’ve got to think more. This offense, there’s a lot more involved with it. And he had to learn it with live bullets last year. He didn’t have the spring thanks to that (pickup basketball injury). He’s more comfortable now with our offense, he can tell me what he likes and doesn’t like now and that’s all good stuff.
On opening the season in Nashville on Sept. 1 against Kentucky:
“We’re the little brothers. I know growing up, my big brother always tapped me on the head and I didn’t like it. He wouldn’t let me play with his ball. But I got older, found ways around getting tapped on the head and eventually started playing with his ball and he couldn’t keep up with me.
“It’s important that we keep growing and understand that we’re getting older. We’re the little brothers right now, but we’re growing up and we can start throwing punches back. … We want to be able to beat these guys. It won’t be easy by any means, but we’re going into that game with the attitude that we’re there to win. We’re not there just to be there. Moral victories there don’t appeal to me at all. We’ll be there to win that game for Western Kentucky University.”
Taggart also said Wednesday that freshman offensive tackle Curtis Williams is the lone member of the incoming class to not qualify, and he won’t be with the team this season. Taggart said the plan at moment is for Williams to enter the program in January.
He also added that offensive lineman Cody Widelski has left the program.
I’ll have more from Taggart in Wednesday’s Daily News – including a shuffle on how WKU will run its first week of fall camp practices.