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WKU Football prepares for opening contest against USF

Head Coach Tyson Helton on the field for the first day of camp at Houchens-Smith Stadium in 2020.

WKU football coaches sat down with the media on Monday as the team is set to kickoff its 2023 season this Saturday against South Florida. 

“I expect this to be a fourth quarter game, I expect this to be a tough game.” WKU Head Coach Tyson Helton said. “Get to the last five minutes then try to win it in the last five minutes, that’s really what you’re playing for.”

Both squads will be debuting plenty of fresh faces on their staff in this game. Eight of the 11 full time assistant coaches on Helton’s staff will be making their Hilltopper debut against USF, including new offensive coordinator Drew Hollingshead. 


“Really excited to start the season.” Hollingshead said. “I’m ready to get through this week, practice as hard as we can and get out there on Saturday.”

USF will also be debuting quite a few new coaches on its staff. Headlining their new-look coaching personnel is head coach, and former Tennessee offensive coordinator, Alex Golesh. Last season at Tennessee, Golesh led the Volunteer offense to an FBS best 46.1 points per game.  

“Offensively, I assume, they’ll continue to do what they do. It was number one in the country [Tennessee’s offense led by Golesh],” Helton said. “But every coach is different, he’ll have his own wrinkle.” 

Other new coaches on the USF staff include offensive coordinator and former Iowa State passing game coordinator Joel Gordon and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who led former C-USA member FAU’s defense last season.

The “Top Gun” connection of Austin Reed and Malachi Corley gave Orlando’s Owl unit plenty of problems last year. Reed racked up 410 yards and three touchdowns while Corley caught eight passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns in WKU’s 32-31 overtime victory.

“Coach Orlando, being the defensive coordinator, helped us last year having played [against] him at FAU.” Hollingshead said. “We got some film from a schematic standpoint.”

USF’s drastic coaching shake up comes after three years of mediocrity under former head coach Jeff Scott. Under Scott, the Bulls only accumulated four wins in three seasons (shortened 2020 included) including last year’s campaign which saw USF go 1-11 and post the second worst defense in the FBS, allowing 41.2 points per game.

USF’s offense, which was somewhat of a bright spot to their dim season last year, only returns four starters from their 2022 squad. Starting quarterback Gerry Bohannon leads the small group of returners for the Bulls. The former Baylor Bear started seven games for USF last year in which he threw for 1070 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions


I am expecting a very high scoring affair between these two squads. The matchup of an Alex Golesh led unit and an offense led by Reed and Corley is sure to excite even the mildest college football fan. However, the overwhelming talent offensively for WKU and the immense uncertainty of the USF on the defensive side of the ball should give the Hilltoppers the edge.  

WKU is favored by 11.5 points against the Bulls according to ESPN.

Football reporter Jake McMahon can be reached at [email protected].

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