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October 21, 2009

Tops Putting Attention On Aerial Game

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It's not that they haven't tried, but since a solid passing day at Navy, the Toppers haven't been able to get much going through the air.

That was redshirt freshman quarterback Kawaun Jakes' first career collegiate start. It's still a growing process, but one that is steadily getting better.

"Overall with me actually completing the ball and them catching it, I think I did ok," Jakes said. "But with some mental mistakes, I think I've done bad, with the interceptions and all and not getting he ball to the right people."

Jakes is up to 615 yards passing this season with four touchdowns and a 124.84 passer rating. But Jakes also has six interceptions. That won't stop WKU from doing what coach David Elson said is the missing link thus far.

"The thing that's gonna help our passing game is we've gotta complete some deep balls," he said. "That's what we missed on in the game Saturday. We've completed some during practice and I know he's working on it."

Last week and again this week, the Toppers will be without redshirt freshman tight end Jack Doyle due to injury. Doyle has been the top receiver this season with 20 catches for 178 yards.

In Doyle's place is sophomore Tristan Jones, who's already seen plenty of action for WKU. Last season, he played in every game, finishing with three touchdowns. But with Doyle's big play behind the season, Jones has slid back on the depth chart, until now.

Jones said he's had little problem developing a passing chemistry with Jakes.

"Kawaun has a good relationship with everybody," Jones said. "If you're open, he'll get it to you. If you're barely open, he'll squeeze it in there. It's your play to make it. He doesn't have any special bonds with anybody, but we kinda play with him, having a special bond with Dexter Haynes. That's about it, but he shares the ball and that's why we like him."

Jones and junior Rod Johnson will share the load this week at Middle Tennessee. Of the two, Jones might be the one more likely to aid the deep passing game.

"Probably a little bit here and there," Jones said. "But I'm more of the short-route guy. I'm not a sprinter like all the rest of the skinny dudes. Probably a couple of times you'll see me going down the field."

While Jones will primarily be used in mid-range passes, the Toppers have let Jakes get a healthy dose of throwing long passes. Haynes and sophomore wide receiver Derrius Brooks are two of the top targets who will figure in.

There's one key element that Jakes has been working on with his receivers and one that Elson said he and his staff have tried to help give him by throwing a lot in practice.

"It's timing, it really is," Elson said. "It comes down to timing and throwing it to the guys that are gonna be in there. He's been doing that, we've been doing that and it's just gotta keep getting better on it."

Jakes said he feels comfortable with all of his receivers. Like other areas, when WKU gets the timing down for the most part, a win might not be that far away.

"Practicing hard every day and going at it gets the timing down," Jakes said. "That's just me getting the ball downfield and them making a play. I put it on myself.

"It's just timing and delivering the ball in the right spot."


Check Out InsideHilltopperSports.com's insider's only look at WKU's Wednesday practice, including a full, in-depth injury report.



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