BOWLING GREEN — Tyson Helton, the new face of football at Western Kentucky University, spoke at his first media day as head coach Tuesday morning at the Jack and Jackie Harbaugh Club.
“The day has finally come,” he said. “I’ve been anticipating this day. Staff’s excited. Team’s excited. It’s a great day to be a Hilltopper.”
Former WKU football coach Mike Sanford was fired from his position last November after the Hilltoppers went 3-9 overall, and 9-16 over his two years at the helm of the program.
Helton was announced as WKU’s head coach a few days later.
Although he spent last season with the Vols, and was the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Southern California before that, Helton is a familiar face on The Hill.
During the 2014-15 seasons, Helton served under Coach Jeff Brohm as the Hilltoppers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach — WKU broke over 24 school offensive records during this time, and after the 2015 season, the Hilltoppers were ranked No. 24 in the country by the Associated Press — the highest ranking in school history.
“There’s been a lot of pleasant surprises,” Helton said of returning to The Hill. “I haven’t found one unpleasant to be quite honest.
“First thing that stood out to me is the amount of growth on campus that we’ve had in just a short amount of time in three years I’ve been gone.”
Helton said the new facilities will help recruit players to the program.
“When I walked into the room the first time and talked to our football team, I had the same feeling I had in 2014 when I came in,” he said. “I felt like those guys were wanting to win. They were passionate about winning. They were willing to do what it takes to win.
“They were highly motivated, and so that made me feel good right from the start — and that has progressed from spring and summer.”
Kyle Fourtenbary, a redshirt junior tight end who is on the John Mackey Award watch list, said he isn’t going to let that designation and role on the team put extra pressure on his performance.
“I don’t really feel any pressure,” he said. “I just got placed in the role and I have to go out and I have to give it 100% every play.”
Fourtenbary said he really enjoys how the tight ends will be used in a versatile manner in this offense.
“It just makes the offense more fun,” he said. “It just makes it exciting.
“We have a great group of guys that are willing to go out and play, play 100%.”
While Helton hired several new coaches, he kept the defensive staff, which is great for continuity, said Juwuan Jones, a redshirt sophomore defensive lineman.
“It was a relief to know that we were going to be on year three, 3-4, the same system,” Jones said. “We can expand and build on what we already built last year and the season before.
“It just makes it easier to have the same defense, and not to have to learn a whole new defense.”
When asked if the team has an internal motto in the locker room, Helton said they have two.
“The first one is ‘Just Win,’” he said. “That’s what you’re here to do. … We’re here to win football games.
“The other thing we do is what we call WIT … Whatever It Takes.”
The Hilltoppers kick off their season against Central Arkansas at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 29 at home.