Western Kentucky will enter the 2010 season with the longest current losing streak in all of Division I-A football. The Hilltoppers have lost 20 games in a row and 23 out of their last 25 total games.
First-year head coach Willie Taggart faces the daunting task this season of trying to get things turned around. WKU has installed both a new offense and defense this spring and the Hilltoppers kick off our first of 12 inside looks at Nebraska's opponents.
Western Kentucky comes into Memorial Stadium to kickoff the 2010 season on Sept. 4 and Huskeronline.com caught up InsideHilltopperSports.com's Jason Stamm to get his insight on things coming out of the spring.
Nebraska played three Sun Belt teams a year ago, where does WKU rank right now within its league?
"Western Kentucky right now is on a 20 game losing streak. Until they prove otherwise, I would say they are dead last in FBS and dead last in the Sun Belt.
"They look a lot better this year. They've changed offenses. They were running a spread option, they've gotten a new head coach and they only kept two assistant coaches from the last staff, so everybody else is new. They are running a West Coast offense now and they also scrapped the 3-4 defense and they are now running a 4-3. I'd say the new formations are kind of situated more towards the personnel they have. It's just tough to run a 3-4 if you don't have some big tackles and they don't have anybody huge like that. I'd say this year they are at the bottom half of the Sun Belt. They've got nowhere to go but up from last year"
Brion Carnes nearly picked Western Kentucky over Nebraska. With that said, how successful have they been as recruiters down in South Florida with Willie Taggart?
"Over half of their 2010 recruiting class is from Florida. I believe 11 or 12 of their 20 guys were from there this year. Willie Taggart is from Manatee down in Bradenton, which is why they had the connection with Brion Carnes. Taggart has known Carnes and his family since he was a little kid. Coach Raymond Woodie, their defensive ends coach is also from Bradenton, so they know the area very well. They've got a lot of connections down there. That's probably the main reason why. Willie Taggart actually played quarterback behind Tommie Frazier at Manatee, so there's just another connection there for you, so Coach Taggart knows Tommie Frazier very well."
Name me one player on offense and one player on defense that Nebraska has to watch out for as they look ahead to their opener at WKU?
"They've got a JUCO quarterback who's a spring enrollee in Matt Pelesasa that's from College of San Mateo out in California. He's probably the best prototypical quarterback they've had in about five or six years. They've had guys in the past that could throw or guys that could run in the past, but nobody that could do both. Pelesasa can do both and he looked very impressive in spring and came out the starting quarterback on the depth chart right now.
"The other guy I would throw in there is Bobby Rainey, who is their starting running back. He rushed for just under 1000 yards last year and was second team all-conference. He will probably split the kickoff return duties, but be their main kickoff return guy again this year. He's a very explosive guy. He's got good speed, good vision and he knows how to hit the hole."
"On defense, I'd say the guy that stands out is Jared Clendenin, who's a defensive end. It will also be interesting to see how he handles the new front, because he won't have as much responsibility in the 4-3, where in the 3-4 he was taking on a lot of double teams. Statically he didn't show up a lot, but this year he'll be a three-year starter. He'll be a true junior, he started as a true freshman. He's got a lot of experience coming back. He's definitely the most experienced guy coming back on the defense."
What is the strength of this team head out of the spring?
"That's tough to say right now. It's all been about rebuilding the culture, rebuilding the attitude and they are trying to get this thing going in the right direction. They've got nowhere to go but up. Last year was such a struggle. They had blowouts, they were blown out of a couple of games, but they also had some games where they had the lead and it was almost like they didn't know how to win.
"Strength wise, I'd say their biggest strength is probably the running game because of Bobby Rainey, and then there are a couple of tailbacks behind him that could also make an impact in Braxston Miller and Keshawn Simpson, who's a redshirt freshman. He redshirted last year and all three of those guys will probably get some carries.
What is the weakness or area that has the most questions?
"I'd say the biggest question mark is the secondary. They were torched last year. It wasn't so much just through the air, they just gave up big plays, even rushing wise they gave up a lot of big plays. They got seven defensive backs out of 20 in their recruiting class and that was obviously a big need. I would say out of that seven, I wouldn't be surprised to see three or four of them get some significant playing time. You've got a lot of uncertainty there with a lot of new guys coming in."
What are the realistic expectations for Western Kentucky heading into 2010?
"They've got only one of their first five games at home. The Indiana game is crucial for them. I think if they can win that one, and I think it's a pretty winnable game, that could change the whole outlook on the season. If they win that game, it would get their attitude back up and I think it's a pivotal game for the whole season. If they do win that game, I think they could win three or four games, but if they lose that it will be tough to win one or two for them. A lot of it I think hinges on the Indiana game."
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