Coach Summers arrived at Western Kentucky in January of 2022 expecting to serve as a defensive assistant and coach safeties. That quickly changed with in February, WKU’s current defensive coordinator left, and Head Coach Tyson Helton promoted Summers to serve as the team’s new defensive coordinator. Summers didn’t blink, and quickly got to work putting together one of the best defense’s in the entire country. Through 10 games this season, the WKU defense leads the nation in forced turnovers (24) and defensive touchdowns (5). Two of Summers’ defensive backs in Kaleb Oliver and Kahlef Hailassie have won Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week honors, and several Hilltoppers on the defensive side of the ball set new season and career highs in various statistical categories each week of the season. The WKU defense earned a shutout against FIU early in the season, and has held its opponents to 20 points or less in half of its games this year.
Tyson Summers has had no shortage of stops during his coaching career, finding success everywhere he has been. Before joining Western Kentucky, Summers served as the defensive coordinator at Colorado for two seasons. He was also the linebackers coach at UCF during the team’s 2013 season in which it won the Fiesta Bowl. He was later promoted to defensive coordinator the following year. Summers has also spent time as a head coach, serving as the leader of Georgia Southern’s program for two seasons.
The WKU defense leads all of college football with 24 takeaways. The Hilltoppers have intercepted 13 passes and recovered 11 fumbles. The 13 interceptions ranks seventh-best in the country, and the 11 fumbles recovered is also 11th best in America. Of those 24 forced turnovers, five have been returned for touchdowns. The WKU defense leads college football with five defensive touchdowns this season. WKU ranks 18th in the country in third-down percentage defense, allowing their opponents to convert on third down just .313 percent of the time. Thanks in large part to its stout defense, WKU ranks 11th nationally in turnover margin with a mark of +9.
Linebacker JaQues Evans leads the Hilltoppers with 84 total tackles, which places him in the top 50 in the NCAA. Evans also has 10 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, three PBU’s, six QB hurries, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick. Linebacker Derrick Smith owns 66 tackles with five for loss, three sacks, one interception, once forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Defensive back Kahelf Hailassie has been a Swiss Army Knife for the Tops, recording 58 total tackles with eight TFL’s and three sacks from his DB position. Hailassie has also intercepted two passes while breaking up eight more. He’s forced two fumbles and recovered one.