WKU football 2011: quarterbacks and running backs

31 07 2011

Note: This was part of a four-part football season preview that previously ran in the Daily News

By NICK BAUMGARDNER

The Daily News

nbaumgardner@bgdailynews.com/783-3239

Several jobs will be up for grabs when the Western Kentucky football team opens fall camp for the 2011 season Aug. 6.

But the spots in the offensive backfield likely won’t be among them.

Both junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes and senior running back Bobby Rainey held on to their starting spots following spring practice.

With Rainey – the reigning Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year – the decision was a no-brainer.

As for Jakes, there was some speculation that redshirt freshman Brandon Doughty might give the two-year starter a run for his money in the spring – but that wasn’t the case, as Jakes earned spring game MVP honors following the best spring camp of his career.

“I would say he solidified (the job) right now,” WKU coach Willie Taggart said after the spring game in April. “But he’s still got to work and go through the summer. He stepped up to the challenge throughout spring ball and never got rattled. And it helped him, having some competition knowing that Brandon was going to give him his best every day.

“I think that made Kawaun better.”

Now, a look at the two positions that will set the tone all season for Taggart’s West Coast offense.

Quarterback

Incumbent: Kawaun Jakes, jr. (6-foot-3, 189 pounds)

Jakes started every game as a redshirt sophomore last season, and has been the team’s No. 1 quarterback since midway through the 2009 campaign.

His record isn’t sparkling, but he improved last season and showed an ability to digest a new offense after Taggart was hired and changed the WKU scheme from the spread-option to the West Coast attack.

Jakes was careful last season, throwing for 1,680 yards to go along with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. Taggart will no doubt ask the junior signal caller to do more this season – with his arm and his legs.

Jakes will have to become more than a huddle-organizer on the field this season if WKU wants success. And if he wants to keep his job, Jakes will have to start making plays at a more consistent rate.

Next in line: Brandon Doughty, r-fr. (6-3, 203)

Doughty was Taggart’s first highly touted quarterback signee out of high school, signing with WKU as a Rivals.com three-star prospect prior to the 2010 season.

From a raw ability standpoint, Doughty appears to have it all. He’s got good arm strength, has nice touch on the ball and is mobile enough to make things happen.

He had all the reps he could handle this spring, though, and didn’t do enough to make Jakes nervous about losing the starting spot.

Doughty made several mental mistakes under pressure, while Jakes seemed to steer through the game easily.

Just a redshirt freshman, Doughty will likely continue to improve – and could still push Jakes hard this season, depending on how things go come game time. As of this minute, though, Doughty appears to be entrenched as WKU’s quarterback of the future.

The rest: James Mauro, fr. (6-7, 198)

The first thing that stands out about Mauro is his size. At 6 feet 7 inches, Mauro not only has the ability to see over the line and have a clear vision of the entire field, but also probably has little trouble dunking a basketball.

Mauro will likely serve as the absolute last-resort emergency quarterback this season for WKU, simply because Taggart won’t want to remove his redshirt unless it’s absolutely necessary.

The big Texan has some catching up to do, but doesn’t enter WKU without accolades. He was rated as the fifth best prep quarterback in Texas last season by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the 67th best prep quarterback in the country by ESPN.com.

Running back

Incumbent: Bobby Rainey, sr. (5-8, 205)

Perhaps the biggest lock on the team, in the conference, in the country and maybe even the planet: Bobby Rainey will start at running back once again this fall for WKU.

After a record-setting season in 2010, the senior from Griffin, Ga., has landed on the Maxwell Award watch list (given to the top player in college football) and is one more monster season away from becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher.

After doing everything but driving the bus and cooking the postgame meal for WKU in 2010, Rainey – who led the nation with 340 carries and finished with 1,649 yards last year – is 1,534 yards away from breaking Lerron Moore’s career rushing record of 4,396 yards.

Rainey is also 1,135 yards away from passing his coach, as Taggart sits second on WKU’s all-time list with 3,997 yards.

Next in line: Antonio Andrews, so. (6-0, 201)

Rainey led the country in carries last season, so there wasn’t much else to go around. But the player who came forward as the clear-cut No. 2 was Antonio Andrews.

The former prep superstar at Fort Campbell, Andrews was saddled with a hand injury for a good portion of the spring, but managed to make defenders look foolish in scrimmage drills.

Perhaps WKU’s second most explosive offensive threat behind Rainey, expect Andrews to get more touches out of the backfield – and perhaps in the receiving game this season, as WKU can’t afford to have his athleticism off the field.

The rest: Tevin Bryant, r-fr. (5-9, 226); Keshawn Simpson, so. (6-0, 236); Quarrtterrio Morgan, fr. (5-10, 181); Marquis Sumler, fr. (5-9, 172)

Bryant and Simpson both had their moments during the spring while Rainey and Andrews rested. And both players are of considerable size, meaning that they could work their way into an option as a short-yardage back. Though fullbacks Kadeem Jones (5-11, 270) and Nick Baisch (5-11, 258) did an outstanding job when called upon as a lead blocker or short-yardage back last season.

Other players who could possibly make a splash are a pair of highly touted incoming freshmen in Morgan and Sumler. Both three-star prospects according to Rivals.com, Morgan was a former Georgia Tech commit, while Sumler opted to head to WKU after de-committing from Vanderbilt – meaning both players were very highly thought of coming out of high school, and will both be fighting to position themselves for WKU football ABR (After Bobby Rainey) in 2012.

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