Western Kentucky

WKU preview: Tight end Doyle 'the heart' of Toppers offense

broberts@herald-leader.comAugust 26, 2012 

Western Kentucky LSU Football

Western Kentucky tight end Jack Doyle was named second-team All-Sun Belt Conference after a junior season in which he racked up 52 catches for 614 yards. The Indianapolis native has more than 1,000 career receiving yards despite missing nearly half of his sophomore season.

GERALD HERBERT — ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Scouting Report

    Coach: Willie Taggart (9-15 in two seasons at WKU)

    Last season: 7-5 overall; 7-1 and second in the Sun Belt Conference

    Returning starters: 19 (10 offense, eight defense, one special teams)

    Outlook: The Hilltoppers finished last season winning seven of their final eight games and came within 43 seconds of beating Arkansas State in their only conference loss. Arkansas State ended up winning the Sun Belt title and going to a bowl. Western Kentucky finished second, but wasn't among the three league schools invited to a post-season game. "That's a lot of motivation for us to continue to work and to go out and do what we're supposed to do to get what we want," Taggart said. They'll have to achieve those goals this year without All-America running back Bobby Rainey, who left Bowling Green as the school's all-time leading rusher. But Western has plenty of returning veterans on both sides of the ball. The Toppers were picked to finish fourth in a poll of Sun Belt head coaches.

    Question marks: How do you replace Rainey? "You can't," Taggart said. But Western will have a lot of options. Taggart mentioned former Madison Central standout Keshawn Simpson first. "He's starting to realize that he can use that 235 pounds to punish people," Taggart said. Others in the mix are true freshman Leon Allen, junior Antonio Andrews and redshirt freshman Marquis Sumler. Who steps up on the defensive line? The Toppers lose starting ends Bo Adebayo and Jared Clendenin, who combined for 7½ sacks last year.

    Game of the year: Florida International was the clear No. 1 in a poll of Sun Belt coaches, and the Toppers get their shot at the Golden Panthers on Oct. 27 in Miami. FIU was also one of the two teams that went to a bowl last year despite finishing below Western in the standings.

    Ben Roberts

  • Players to watch

    QB Kawaun Jakes: With 31 college starts to his credit, Jakes enters his senior year with plenty of experience. He threw more interceptions (12) than touchdown passes (10) last year, but Coach Willie Taggart says he's shown a lot of improvement in fall camp. "I think he's going to have an outstanding year," Taggart said.

    FB Kadeem Jones: Jones started all 12 games last season and spent much of that time clearing a path for star running back Bobby Rainey. He still managed to score eight touchdowns (seven on the ground), and Taggart is expecting an expanded role this year. "He's probably one of the best fullbacks in the country. ... He can do so many things for us."

    LB Andrew Jackson: After playing in just one game as a freshman, Jackson was a breakout star for the Toppers' defense last season. He led the team with 17 tackles for loss, and his 109 tackles were more than twice as many as any other WKU player.

    DL Quanterus Smith: Taggart has big expectations for his senior lineman, who led the team with 7½ sacks last season. "I think he can be the (Sun Belt) defensive player of the year," he said.

    CB: Jonathan Dowling: A four-star recruit out of high school, Dowling sat out last season after transferring from Florida. He should see plenty of time on the field this year. "The kid's so talented. But more importantly, he knows how to play the game and he goes 100 miles per hour every single play. I think that alone makes him much different from most kids out there," Taggart said.

    Ben Roberts

  • WKU schedule

    All times Central

    Date Opponent Time

    Sept. 1 AUSTIN PEAY 6 p.m.

    Sept. 8 at Alabama 2:30 p.m.

    Sept. 15 at Kentucky 6 p.m.

    Sept. 22 SO. MISSISSIPPI 6 p.m.

    Sept. 29 at Arkansas State 6 p.m.

    Oct. 11 at Troy 6:30 p.m.

    Oct. 20 LA.-MONROE 3 p.m.

    Oct. 27 at Fla. International TBA

    Nov. 1 MIDDLE TENN. 8:15 p.m.

    Nov. 10 FLORIDA ATLANTIC Noon

    Nov. 17 at La.-Lafayette TBA

    Nov. 24 NORTH TEXAS Noon

Last season marked a breakthrough for Western Kentucky tight end Jack Doyle.

A year after suffering a neck injury that cut his season short after just seven games, Doyle came back and played all 12 games for the first time in his career. His 52 catches were almost four times as many as any other WKU receiver. That number was good enough to tie for fifth on the Toppers' single-season receptions list. And he finished the season with second-team All-Sun Belt honors.

One thing he didn't do is score a touchdown.

"That's just kind of a fluke thing. I got tackled a lot inside the 10 and got hounded by the teammates a little bit," Doyle said.

His teammates weren't the only ones giving him grief.

Coach Willie Taggart said he and his staff would rib Doyle "all the time" about his inability to find the end zone.

"He's the only guy I know that got tackled on the 1 four different times. Literally, four different times," Taggart said. "The players always joke with him, 'Jack doesn't like touchdowns. Better give it to the running back.'

"He must have a thing for these running backs. He knows the next play is going to be a running back dive or something."

Kidding aside, Doyle has been crucial to Taggart's efforts to turn Western Kentucky into a legitimate FBS program.

The Indianapolis native started 10 games his freshman season, which was the year the Toppers finished 0-12 in their first run as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

Taggart arrived in Bowling Green the following season, and he's been relying on Doyle ever since.

"To be honest, he's been the heart of our offense. Not only our offense but the heart of our football team," Taggart said. "We struck gold being able to inherit Jack here. To be able to have someone of his quality here already was a blessing."

Taggart's offensive plan calls for heavy use of the tight end. He compared Western's scheme to that of the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints, who have made Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham the top two tight ends in the NFL.

Taggart sees a similar future for Doyle, a player he has "no doubt" can play at the next level.

First, Doyle is looking forward to another season of progress for the Toppers, who enjoyed the biggest turnaround in Sun Belt history last season and want to build on that momentum in 2012.

"We have a chance to do things that this program's never done. To go to a bowl as a Division I program is one of them," Doyle said. "That's definitely one of our focuses. And if we do it one thing at a time, one game at a time, I think we'll be in a position to do that."

Ben Roberts Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com

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