Last season, Western Kentucky's Kawaun
Jakes struggled to find his rhythm with new coach Willie Taggart's
West Coast offense, completing 51 percent of his passes for 140
yards per game.
He started every game last season for the Hilltoppers, which
finished 2-12 - good enough for last place in the Sun Belt
Conference. The ground game wasn't the problem - Bobby Rainey
posted 137 yards per game.
"You're either talked good about or talked bad about," Jakes
But Taggart stuck with his 6-foot-3, 189-pound quarterback, who
on Monday was listed as the No. 1 quarterback on the Hilltoppers'
depth chart as they face Kentucky on Thursday at L.P. field in
"Everyone wanted him to be our savior," said Taggart, himself
a former quarterback for Western Kentucky. "We knew he wasn't
going to be our savior just yet."
Coaches have acknowledged the pressure that was placed on Jakes
"The criticism comes with being a quarterback," said offensive
coordinator Zach Azzanni. "If you win, you get all the praise. If
you lose, they're going to find something you did wrong. I think
he's learning that now - what it's like to be a high-profile
Part of the problem is that Jakes, a native of St. Augustine,
Fla., has worked with three offensive coordinators in as many
Azzanni wants Jakes to take what comes to him on the field.
Jakes has the ability to run and pass, yet Jakes' rushing numbers
were down last season even as Taggart constantly was urging his
quarterback to run.
"I want Kawaun to be Kawaun," he said. "At the same time, I
don't want him taking off whenever he feels like it. I want him
taking off when he feels like it's there."
Taggart says Jakes can get the job done. The quarterback was the
MVP of the spring game and went unchallenged for the starting job
throughout fall camp.
The coach literally has been watching Jakes' every move in
He installed a camera on top of Jakes' helmet during fall
practice and both coach and quarterback review film from it after
"We're trying to get him to see things how we see it - get him
to understand the offense and why we're doing what we're doing,"
Taggart says the relationship between himself and Jakes works
because Jakes is one of the hardest-working players on the team.
"Kawaun knows I'm going to be one of his hardest critics and be
on him all the time," Taggart said. "But I'm also going to have
his back, too."