The WKU football team is less than a month away from kicking off the 2019 season and is preparing for a new year on the Hill.
The Hilltoppers hosted their media day Tuesday afternoon, as head coach Tyson Helton, redshirt junior tight end Kyle Fourtenbary, and redshirt sophomore defensive end Juwan Jones talked to the media about the upcoming season one day before fall camp began.
According to Helton, WKU will roster 105 players in 2019. The first-year head coach hopes those numbers will provide adequate depth.
Helton also addressed the specific positional battles that will occur during fall camp.
“Offensive side of the ball, you know, the receiver position, we got three young receivers that just came in during the summer,” Helton said. “We got to see if those guys can help us. The running back position, we need to continue to evaluate guys there. Obviously, the quarterback position, we’ll continue to evaluate through camp. For the defense, we probably need to take a look at some of those young guys in the secondary.”
As for naming a starter at quarterback, Helton provided a rough time frame on when an announcement should be expected.
“I’ll probably wait ’till about a week and a half before the first game,” Helton said. “Once you name a guy though, it doesn’t mean this is absolute, this is the rest of the season. I want a quarterback to feel pretty good that he is the guy.”
Helton also addressed the recent controversy about the status of freshman receiver Manny Allen. The former four-star prospect placed his name in the transfer portal last month, but is still listed on WKU’s roster for the 2019 season. Helton said he has a wait-and-see approach with the talented freshman.
“We’ll wait and see with Manny,” Helton said. “The biggest thing I said when I took this job is at the end of the day, it’s about player development. It’s about developing young men into men, so that’s my number one goal for Manny. You know, we’ll see where that goes and all that and I’ll just kind of leave it at that for now.”
Helton mentioned that it was important he retained the defensive coaching staff employed by former head coach Mike Sanford, calling their presence an “invaluable” asset to him during his transition.
Jones called it a “relief” that he and the rest of the defense had experience and a comfort level with the same defensive style and staff.
Coming off an impressive season, Jones said he wants to use 2019 to show that he is here to stay as a force on the WKU defense.
“I want to prove that last season what I did was not an anomaly,” Jones said. “I want to be able to do it the next couple of years I’m here at WKU — be able to produce and help our team win in the end.”
Helton and the Hilltoppers head into 2019 with two mottos to follow.
“The first one is just win,” Helton said. “I know it’s pretty basic, but that’s what you’re here to do. Just win. The other thing we do is called W.I.T. — it’s whatever it takes. Those are our two sayings this season.”
The Hilltoppers are still waiting on a waiver that would allow Georgia transfer linebacker Jaden Hunter to play immediately this season. Helton said he is hopeful WKU will receive the eligibility waiver in the near future.
“[Hunter] may or may not be eligible,” Helton said. “We’re waiting on the waiver right now. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
Hunter’s waiver became even more important after redshirt senior linebacker Eli Brown suffered an injury during spring practice. Helton did not give a timetable for Brown’s return, but would not count Brown out for the entire 2019 season.
“There’s always a possibility,” Helton said. “I never count anybody out. We’ll continue through that process. If [Brown] can go, that’s great and if he can’t, then we’ll continue to rehab him and get him ready for the following season.”
Helton’s goal for the program is straightforward and simple now that he is in charge of returning the Hilltoppers to a top-flight pedigree.
“The goal is always to win championships,” Helton said. “That’s the number one goal. Our goal as a football team is to win every single game we play and I think we can beat everybody we play this year — now with that being said, we better play well, we better play all three phases and we better be healthy.”
The Hilltoppers will begin their quest Aug. 29 against Central Arkansas. WKU’s home opener will be streamed live on ESPN+ at 6:30 p.m.
Reporter Alec Jessie can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow Alec on Twitter at @Alec_Jessie.