Tyson Helton smiled extensively as he visited with dozens of well-wishers following Western Kentucky University’s annual Spring Football recreation on a heat, breezy, made-to-order Saturday afternoon at Houchens/Smith Stadium.
Helton is making ready for his fourth season on the Hilltopper helm, having produced two nine-win seasons and two bowl victories up to now 3 years since returning to the Hill, the place he served as Jeff Brohm’s offensive coordinator in 2014 and ‘15.
Helton looked perfectly contest, perfectly at home, and seemed genuinely excited about not only the progress of this year’s squad, however the normal tenor of the WKU program.
“It’s been a really good spring for us all together,” stated Helton, who directed Western (9-5) to the Conference USA championship recreation and a resounding victory over Appalachian State in Boca Raton Bowl in 2021. “Both sides of the ball were good today and that was great to see — we’re coming along real well.
“We have a great culture here. These guys love being at and playing for Western, and I love coaching them.”
The largest query mark this autumn, in fact, might be how nicely the Hilltoppers can substitute bizarre quarterback Bailey Zappe, the country’s main passer remaining season, who, oh via the best way, was once in attendance on Saturday — receiving an enormous ovation when presented to the WKU devoted at halftime.
“I’ve been really impressed with our quarterback play throughout the spring,” Helton stated. “I like our quarterback room, it’s talented and it’s deep.”
The present projected starter is Jarret Doege, the signal-caller at West Virginia for 3 seasons (40 TD passes; 19 INTS). On Saturday, Doege exhibited the poise of a battle-tested veteran, directing the first-team offense to a first-quarter landing — connecting with vast receiver Daewood Davis, a former Oregon switch, for a 20-yard scoring strike.
“He came in here with big shoes to fill,” a grinning Davis stated of Doege, who additionally displayed the facility to throw the ball deep, and likewise tuck it and run. “He wants to be good and he’s had the right mentality from the very start. He’s had a lot of experience against big-time competition and he knows he can have a great season here.
“We’re deep at QB — every one of those guys has positive qualities. We’re blessed with a lot of talent at that position, we really are.”
WKU may be deep, and in most cases regarded as a great deal progressed, on protection. On Saturday, the Tops had been fast to the ball and surrendered only a few large performs.
“We’re going to feature an attacking defense that’s going to be difficult for most quarterbacks we face,” Helton stated. “We didn’t get any turnovers today, but we’ve seen this defense be very opportunistic throughout the spring. Our objective this season will be to win the take-away battle and keep opposing teams out of the end zone.”
Senior nostril take on Brodric Martin (6-5, 320) echoed his head trainer’s sentiments.
“It was great to get back out there,” Martin stated. “I felt like we were in the right spots and executed well all day. We have a lot of talent and experience on the defensive side of the ball, we’re a hungry group, and I fully expect us to be better than we were last season.”
Martin additionally expects the Hilltoppers to be higher, as an entire.
“We have high expectations, as we should,” Martin stated. “Conference title, Top 25 ranking, bowl victory — all of the above are in play for this team to go get. I’m excited, man, and I can’t wait for the season to get started.”
When it does, in fact, the fearless Hilltoppers — who perennially play a famously difficult non-conference slate — determine to be aggressive.
“Yeah, we’re really proud of the culture we’ve established through the years in that way — to be the best you have to beat the best,” Helton stated. “We’ve taken a lot of pride in that, being in the national conversation, and that’s how it can happen — as a program, that’s what he hang our hat on, and it can help you win championships.
“It’s same way for us this year. We get another shot at Indiana (Sept. 17 in Bloomington), later in the year we go to Auburn (Nov. 19), and near the beginning of the season we play at Hawaii (Sept. 3) — hey, we love the challenge.”
As all the time.