A few snippets from Western Kentucky’s football media day, which the team held today inside E.A. Diddle Arena.
WKU coach Willie Taggart was joined by offensive coordinator Zach Azzanni, defensive coordinator Lance Guidry as well as senior defensive end Jared Clendenin and senior running back Bobby Rainey.
Taggart, his assistants and both players arrived at the media day news conference wearing their now custom-made blue-collared work shirts – as the team continues to put emphasis on getting back to basics.
In any event, a few comments from today:
WKU coach Willie Taggart:
On his team’s progression to this point:
“Our guys are working hard, they understand how to practice now and that’s fun to watch as a coach. I’m not emotionally hijacked because guys are going the wrong way or don’t know what we’re doing. Our football team now understands how we practice and that’s fun. Guys aren’t sitting around looking clueless either.
“I always say, I hate boring people – and I tell our football team that we can’t be that way. We have to be excited. If you make an interception, get excited. If you catch a pass, get excited. Guys will say, ‘coach, I’ve been there already.’ No, you haven’t. It’s hard to catch a ball, it’s hard to score a touchdown or get a pick – I want my team to enjoy what they’re doing.”
On the importance of WKU’s season-opener vs. Kentucky in Nashville:
“It’s very, very, very important – because it’s the first game. It’s the first one on the schedule and the first game we can play. It’s the beginning of a new season and I want to see what our football team can do.
“I’ve watched them grow, watched the culture change and now I’m excited to go watch our guys respond after starting to finally believe in themselves.”
Taggart on his mission to remind his team of WKU’s past football success, and show them what the school once was, and possibly could be again:
“When I was a player, we didn’t have all this stuff. We worked for everything we got. We didn’t complain, we just worked. We had fun, we enjoyed each other – but at the end of the day, we worked. There are a lot of people counting on us to do well and there are a lot of people that worked really hard to get us to where we are today, they were blue collar – and I’m one of them. And I want our guys to get back to that.
“We brought some old footage back and really showed them what we went through. I showed them an old OVC championship team. And how, you know, today we run onto the field out of a tunnel through the helmet – back then, we ran through a car port. That’s ghetto-fabulous – that was big time. Those guys went crazy when they saw that. And back then, we thought we had something going – we had the smoke, all that, we had fun and we won a lot of ballgames.
“We didn’t worry about any other stuff back then, we just had fun and played ball. And that’s how I want our team to be.
“A lot of guys don’t understand how it is around here. When I took this job I said that I was going to beat (WKU’s football tradition) back into them. There’s a rich tradition here and we have to get back to feeling that way. … We don’t have to settle and I want our team to stop settling and talking about being the new guys on the block or the transition. Get away from excuses and just work. That’s what we used to do around here. We took everything we ever won and got. If we wanted it, we went out and took it. We need to get back to doing that.
“We need to put pride back into this program, because there are a lot of (former players) out there that are waiting to be able to go to work and brag on this team. A lot of people are depending on us.
“Every night after practice during camp I have a former player come speak to the team. The other night we had (former player) Pat Reynolds, who played on the (2002 1-AA National Championship team). He gave a great speech – we were all fired up. And he walked up, took out his championship ring and left it there. He said he was coming back to get that when we win the Sun Belt.
“And he said he’d be getting a lot of other guys to put their rings up to let them know how important it is – I put mine up. But I want that thing back, quick.”
Taggart on his expectations for Bobby Rainey this season – Rainey himself has set a goal for 2,000 rushing yards:
“Bobby looks good. He’s been good. I tell him to shoot for the stars. Our team, we want a Sun Belt championship. You have to set those goals high, and if he doesn’t set that goal high he won’t get it.
“I always tell Bobby that you’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. If he gets less than 1,600 yards, I tell him he’ll have gotten a little bit worse. If he gets 1,600 on the dot – I’ll take it – but still, a little bit worse. He understands that, though, and we talk about that with everything in our program.”
Taggart on how time is running out for his veterans to make a mark:
“No matter how you put it, it’ll hurt them if they leave here having lost their entire career. You’ll think about that and think about everything you could have done. But now, they have an opportunity to lead this program to a winning season and go out as a winner.
“And they have to hold these young guys accountable to make sure that this group goes out a winner. … You could leave here and say you were a part of getting something started again, and they should take pride in that.
“They’re doing a good job of holding guys accountable – and that’s a big difference. They’ve been able to show the young guys the way in how to get things done.”
Taggart on Kawaun Jakes’ development at quarterback:
“Kawaun’s growing up, just like the rest of our football team. I commend him because he’s done a great job of taking criticism. He got a lot of it last year, even though he’d only played one year and was in a new system – he got it bad, but he took it well.
“I knew he wouldn’t get this offense down in one year, if he did, he would already be playing at the next level. I understood that we were running our offense with a spread group, I knew we weren’t going to be on our A-game all the time.
“But Kawaun’s always had the tools to run and throw the ball. The concern always was, to me, doing those little things on and off the field. He can’t who anybody any weakness, he can’t show them that he’s rattled. He’s got to put it on his shoulders. He wasn’t that way before, he was just like the rest of them.
“I told him simply, there’s a part of you that your teammates can’t have – sorry, it’s just the way it is. He can’t be like them, that’s what he signed up for when he wanted to play quarterback. And he’s understanding that now. And he’s putting in the work now to get there, before, he wasn’t doing it. Now, he’s studying film, taking notes, and that’s good to see.”
For more on media day, see Friday’s Daily News