Monday, August 30, 2010
Sun Belt 2010-Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
2009 Record: 0-12 (0-8)
Head Coach: Willie Taggart (1st season, 0-0)
Offensive Coordinator: Taggart
Defensive Coordinator: Clint Bowen (1st season)
2009 Bowl: That's just a sick joke...just sick
Offense: WKU may be the only team in the conference that is not going to run some version of the spread this season, as Taggart is implementing the other cliche offense known as the west coast offense. These days, you either run one or the other it seems. The focal point of the offense will have to be TB Bobby Rainey, who averaged 6.5 yards every time he touched the football last season. Rainey should have a decent line to run behind, with 3 starters returning, but new center Sean Conway will be a freshman, if he wins the job in camp. Everyone else on the line is a junior or senior, so the experience factor should be there. The QB job is a battle between Kawaun Jakes, who played plenty last season, and JC transfer Matt Pelesasa. Pelesasa has the edge right now. Quinterrance Cooper is the lone returning starter at WR, and it looks like he will be paired up with freshman Willie McNeal at this time. Marcus Vasquez looks to get some time in as well. TE Jack Doyle has pass catching ability as well. A passing game must develop early to take pressure off of Rainey. Right now, there is no need for anyone to plan a defensive gameplan around anyone else but him.
Defense: There will be change here as well, as the Toppers switch from a 3-4 set to a 4-3 base. That's good news and bad, as there is little depth or experience at tackle to make such a switch. Both tackles are very young (James Hervey and Cole Tischer are both sophomores). There is experience at the DE spots as both starters return from last season in Jared Clendenin and Quanterus Smith, although Smith is also just a sophomore and is a former OLB. The other issue is that the tackles are both lightweights, weighing each under 270 lbs. OK if this were a high school team, not so much in D1 college football. All 3 starting LBs return from last season.Thomas Majors is the middle backer, and he had 101 tackles in 2009. Chris Bullard returns at OLB, and they will be joined by Orlando Misaalefua, who moves in from safety, and again is undersized at 218. CB Jamal Forrest returns in the secondary, as does SS Mark Santoro, but these guys got butchered last season. Taggart has brought in several signees who are looking to play. This was the 118th ranked defense in 2009, which is a key reason why WK went 0-12.
Special Teams: Casey Tinius returns at PK, but he only connected on 14 of 19 FGs last season. Freshman Hendrix Brakefield (cool name anyway) is slated to be the punter.
Toss Up Games: 10/30 North Texas
Losses: 9/4@ Nebraska, 9/11 @ Kentucky, 9/18 Indiana, 9/25 @ South Florida, 10/9 @ Florida International, 10/16 Louisiana-Monroe, 10/23 @ Louisiana-Lafayette, 11/6 Florida Atlantic, 11/13 @ Arkansas State, 11/20 Middle Tennessee, 11/27 @ Troy
There is very little opportunity for WKU to improve with this slate. It's much too difficult considering where they are coming from. I am not fond of 1-A teams playing 1-AA opponents, but the Toppers could have used one or two as confidence boosters.
Outlook: Even though Taggart is an alumnus of WKU, I am not sure that he knows exactly what he has gotten himself into. WKU was never exactly stable in 1-AA, as the program was almost disbanded once or twice in the last 20 years, only to be saved by Jack Harbaugh. It's going to take an amazing amount of beating almost impossible odds to build a winner here. However, the facilities are very good, and there seems to be a small fan base that is really supporting this thing. Good luck.