Monday, March 28, 2011

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 2010 Review

2010 Record: 2-10 (2-6), 9th Sun Belt
2010 Bowl Game: None
2010 Schedule/Results: @ Nebraska, L 49-10, @ Kentucky, L 63-28, Indiana, L 38-21, @ South Florida, L 24-12, @ FIU, L 28-21, UL-Monroe, L 35-30, @ UL-Lafayette, W 54-21, North Texas, L 16-3, Florida Atlantic, L 17-16, @ Arkansas State, W 36-35, Middle Tennessee, L 27-26, @ Troy, L 28-14


     It's not often that you can point to a 2-10 season ans site progress, but that's exactly what needs to be done in the case of Willie Taggert and WKU. The 2 wins were 2 more than WKU had in 2009. The 2 wins came in Sun Belt play, which is where you want to start winning when you finally do. Also consider that the Hilltoppers were extremely close to pulling off upset wins in 4 other games. Had they even won half of those games, the 2010 season would have been a raging success.
     The QB was Kawaun Jakes by basic default. The talent at this position had withered up under former HC Dave Ellson, so Taggert has taken to having to rebuild this spot, like so many others in this program. Jakes struggled at times, as he only managed to pass for 1680 yards, or 140 per game. He passed for 10 TDs and 6 picks, and in the end only completed 51.2% of his passes. As you can see, he's a work in progress, but don't be surprisedto find Taggert leaning in a different direction through the recruiting process.
     It's not often that one of the countries worst teams can boast one of the best RBs in the land, but that is what WKU had in 2010 in Bobby Rainey, an All-Bilo RB of the Year finalist. The Sun Belt 1st teamer busted his way through the slate, and never was there any quit in his game. Rainey finished the season by rushing for 1649 yards and 15 TDs as what was basicaly the sole provider of offense for the Toppers. Rainey rushed for over 100 yards in 11 out of 12 games, and broke the 150 yard mark 8 times. He hit up Nebraska for 179 yards, Kentucky for 187, and Indiana for 144. He rushed for multiple TDs 8 times, including a 4 TD performance against UL-Lafayette in a 54-21 win. His best game was a 297 yard effort in a 1 point loss to Middle Tennessee. He also busted the 200 yard mark in a win over Arkansas State. Rainey will be a senior in 2011.
     The receiving game was not exactly high octane. Wilie McNeal led the team with a line of 26-360-2, and former QB Marcus Vazquez wound up as the second receiver, composing a less than stellar line 30-332-3. The good news is that the top 7 receivers from 2010 all return in 2011.
     There were many teams that were worse than WKU defensively in 2010, but the Toppers still gave up 28 points or more 8 times during the season, and gave up just under 178 yards per game on the ground. If continued progress is expected in 2011, both of these numbers will need serious attention in the spring. LB Thomas Majors was the undisputed leader of this unit, as he piled up 104 tackles. He was also a senior, and needs to now be replaced, but by whom? Fellow LB Chris Bullard had fewer than half of the tackles that Majors piled up, and the second leading tackler was a DB in Ryan Beard, and he only had 71 tackles.
     Majors also led the front seven as a group, and was a frequent visitor club card holder to opposition backfields with 13.5 TFLs in 2010. Maybe DE Quantterus Smith picks up the pace and the leadership role as a junior in 2011, as he had 10.5 TFLs in 2010. Nobody else had double figures, or came close to it. Smith led the team with only 4 sacks on the season.
     Freshman Tyree Robinson was the only major playmaker in the secondary. Robinson led the team by far with a total of 7 passes defended. Nobody else had even 5, and WKU was outscored in this area 36-23.Derrius Brooks led the secondary with 3 picks, but the Toppers only picked off 8 passes all season long.
     The kicking game as far as the PK was concerned was a heinous wreck. Casey Tinius was just plain awful, as he only connected on 6 of his 15 attempts in 2010. That's about as bad as it gets in major college football. Hendrix Brakefield was better at Punter, and as a freshman was able to average 40.45 yards per punt. He can and will develop and improve.


WKU has a very long way to go to even be considered as a competitive FBS program. This is obviously a program that was not prepared to make this jump, and would seriously benefit from sliding back to FCS status, where they found the competition to be daunting even on that level. Not sure what anyone was thinking when they made the decision to jump, but as far as wins and losses, it has far from paid off. Willie Taggert, who was a very good QB for WKU during their FCS days, came home from Stanford to try to find a way to win here, but the odds are long and the work will be beyond difficult.

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