Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- Conference USA will crown the coach of the year on Wednesday, December 11 and WKU's Tyson Helton is clearly the favorite.
In his first venture as a head coach, Helton has the Hilltoppers headed to the First Responders Bowl with an 8-4 record. WKU football has carried themselves with a different swagger in 2019 as opposed to last year's squad the only earned 3 wins.
"It's the same team but a different mentality," defensive lineman Juwuan Jones said. "We'd get down last year and everyone was like here we go again. This year on the sideline you can tell we're keeping each other up."
Helton and WKU now have the chance to cap off an incredible season by tripling last year's win total if the Hilltoppers can get a win over Western Michigan on December 30.
So just how impressive is Western's turnaround? Of the 25 FBS schools that won three games or less last season, only seven managed to make it to the postseason in 2019. One of those seven teams includes the Louisville Cardinals, who improved from two wins to seven. The Cardinals head coach Scott Satterfield was awarded the ACC's Coach of the Year.
The Hilltoppers increased their number of wins from 2018 to 2019 by five, which ties with Flordia Atlantic for the most in the conference.
Perhaps Helton's biggest coaching decision came months before the season started. Keeping defensive coordinator Clayton White and his staff. In White's third season at the helm, Western's defense went from 10th in the league to second in 2019. The defense of the Hilltoppers wound up carrying the team for the first part of the season while the offense worked on finding its groove.
Remember, the award for coach of the year goes to the guy that has helped his program take the biggest strides in that season. Helton has clearly done just that for Western.