With just 17 days left until they open their season in Nashville, the Toppers look focused and ready to go as they prepare to take on cross-state foe Kentucky on Sept. 1. As the team took to the field for Monday afternoon's practice, it was all business for the team.
Taking in practice, one thing was evident: the 2011 team will not be pushed around. Since WKU became a full-time member of the Bowl Subdivision, it seemed at times the team was man-handled by their physically superior opponents who had been playing at this level for years.
Those times have changed though as this years team appears to be much bigger and stronger than teams in the recent past on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Another aspect that will benefit the team is the yellow no-contact jersey. This jersey paid dividends for senior running back Bobby Rainey last season as he finished third in the NCAA in rushing yards as well as winning the Sun Belt Conference's Offensive Player-of-the-Year Award after seeing no contact in both spring practice and fall camp.
Rainey, along with junior tight end Jack Doyle, looked fresh as they donned the jersey for Monday's practice. With its efficacy proven last year, head coach Willie Taggart's squad will hope for similar success this year from the yellow jerseyed players.
One player who is on everyone's radar this season is junior quarterback Kawaun Jakes. After struggling last year, Jakes seemed to have a much better grasp on offensive coordinator's Zach Azzanni's west coast offense.
Jakes appears to have complete control over the starting job, which should benefit Jakes as well as the rest of the team as he can focus on the task of running this offense to the best of his abilities.
Taggart might have found a way to help his quarterbacks this season by equipping them with all new helmet cameras. With this new technology, Taggart and the rest of the coaching staff hope that they will be able to better identify needed areas of improvement at the quarterback position.
If this development proves to benefit the team as much as expected, Taggart even joked at last Thursday's media day about putting the camera on other players.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore linebacker Andrew Jackson set himself apart from the rest of the linebacking core with his intensity and hard work. Jackson has been drawing rave reviews from the coaching staff. His praise has even reached the extent where Taggart compared him to Baltimore Ravens linebacker and twelve-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis.
As their opening showdown against the Kentucky Wildcats approaches, the Toppers will look for every opportunity to knock "big brother" from his pedestal and prove to a national audience that they are the best college football team in the state of Kentucky as well as the Sun Belt Conference.
If they can do so, watch out because this team has a very good chance of being dangerous.