LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - There is a new man in charge of Western Kentucky football. Tyson Helton is back in Bowling Green.
The former Toppers offensive coordinator under Jeff Brohm, Helton has spent time on his brother Clay’s staff, at USC, and last season as the offensive coordinator at Tennessee. He takes over a WKU program that is coming off a 3-9 season, a season that cost Mike Sanford his job. Helton knows what Western football can be.
“When we were here before we became a part of the national conversation,” Helton said. “When I left we were a top 25 football team and so it showed that Western can do some great things. Our fan base wants to get back. I want to get back to that. I do think, you see the Central Florida’s of the world, the Boise State’s of the world. I think Western Kentucky can reach those goals.”
Helton’s return got players attention.
“The excitement is off the charts,” WKU sophomore Cole Spencer said. The former Trinity High School star added, “when we found out Coach Helton was coming, you know I really know about him too much, but the older guys who were here when he was here, they were just lit up. That excitement obviously spread to us.”
WKU ranked #101 in total offense in 2018, averaging just 363.7 yards a game. In Helton’s one season on Brohm’s staff, the Toppers were #3 in the nation, averaging 526.9 yards a game.
“I’m undefeated right now, I haven’t lost a game,” Helton said. “Everybody feels good about themselves, but I’m looking forward to this season. I think we can do some good things.”
“The energy is different. This year the pace has picked up,” sophomore defensive back Beanie Butler said.
WKU capped off that 12-2 season in 2015 with a 45-35 win over South Florida in the Miami Beach Bowl.
“People have come up to me and say, “Hey coach, is this a rebuilding year?” I don’t think you can walk into a room of 105 men, that’s your football team, and say, hey guys this is a rebuilding year, and I don’t think we’re there at Western. I think we’re beyond that. Are we going to be a better football team in year two or year three, probably, but I think we have the keys, the pieces right now, to be a good football team, this football season,” Helton said.
Game one is Thursday, August 29, at home against Central Arkansas, but the game every WKU fan has circled on the schedule is on September 14. Western Kentucky versus Louisville in Nashville, Tennessee.
“It’s good for the state that we can play Louisville, or you can play Kentucky. I wish we could do it every year, to be quite honest with you," Helton said. "It’ll be an exciting game. The environment, it’ll be in the Tennessee Titans stadium. I know both teams will be pumped up for it, both fan bases should travel well for it.”
The Toppers return 16 starters overall, including a national high 10 on offense.