Rarely does a practice, game or scrimmage go by without trash talking from WKU's secondary.
Most of it is coming from one defensive back in particular, who's made a habit of spewing smack out of his mouth at the offense. But senior cornerback Jihad Morris has a purpose for his jabbering.
"When we talk trash, everybody's gonna feed off of it," he said. "That picks us up. I can't talk trash and just be getting bombed on every play. That's gonna make me play better and make all the guys around me play better. What I'm saying has to do with all 11."
Morris' lift will be directed to teammates all younger than he is in the secondary, being the lone senior defensive back for the Toppers. But Morris has help from a trio of juniors who should see a good amount of time, in getting the underclassmen acclimated.
"It's not just what you do on the field, but it's the mental aspect as well," defensive backs coach Scott Booker said. "It's been good to see those older defensive backs in meetings, talking to them and challenging them whenever it's evident that they haven't prepared like they needed to. On the field, you're going to have situations that occur that just youth is gonna get you."
A pair of true freshmen will have to grow up quickly, as coach David Elson announced yesterday that Jamal Forrest and Kareem Peterson will both forego an immediate redshirt and play right away.
Forrest will be counted on to mature even faster, pegged as the starter at cornerback, alongside Morris. Forrest and Peterson have both risen to the challenge thus far.
"(Jamal's) playing well, he's doing a good job and we've kinda thought that since he got here this summer," Elson said. "Guys were impressed with him in seven no seven, so that's not a big surprise. Kareem Peterson has really done a good job. He's a little bit of a surprise, quite honestly. I thought he might be a definite redshirt guy, but he can run, he's very explosive, he's made plays, he's a smart player and so, he's definitely gonna be in the mix. Special teams and nickel and dime packages is where those DBs definitely help us as well."
Inexperience will be a factor at safety as well. Sophomore Mark Santoro, who saw significant time last season, will start at free safety, but sophomore Ryan Beard will be out at strong safety, suspended for the Toppers' first two games. In his place, sophomore John Garrett will start.
"I think we'll be just fine," Santoro said. "We've got a lot of depth at strong safety, guys like John Garrett, who's been playing his butt off. Orlando Misaalefua has been playing well, so we should be just fine without him and it'll only be a bonus when he comes back that third game."
Right now, there's still a few areas Booker has trying to get across to his youthful group. But he's still resting confidently as WKU prepares for its season-opener at Tennessee.
"We always wanna continually know where our keys are, to know where our eyes should be and keep them there throughout the whole play," he said. "The other thing we always wanna continue to do is improve on our tackling. I think our tackling has improved, but we still have to keep improving it daily. We work on tackling every single day. A secondary that can tackle and eliminate explosion plays will really help the defense be successful."
Plus, whoever is playing will have the pick-me-up from Morris' mouth. And so far, he's been able to perform up his talk.
"For the most part, I've been able to back it up," he said. "I've got a lot of improving to do. I talk trash just to get everybody else up when their practice is down or whatever the case may be."
Will the rest of the young secondary have the confidence to join in?
Check Out InsideHilltopperSports.com's insider's only look at today's practices, including injury reports.
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