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2005 MAC Football Pigskin Preview
Western Michigan Broncos
The Broncos have not had a full time starter since the 2000 season with Jeff Welsh, which just happens to be the last time WMU won the west division. Ryan Cubit, the coach’s son, is firmly entrenched as the starter entering this season. Cubit, a former Rutgers transfer had six starts last year throwing for nearly 1,900 yards and 14 touchdowns. He needs to improve his accuracy though - tossing 12 INTs. At times he looked very good with a big arm. The tools and weapons are there for Cubit to pass for over 3,000 yards this season. Having former record setting Western QB Tim Lester as his position coach should help quicken his development. Seldom used backup Robbie Hass is listed as the backup, but expect redshirt freshmen Alex Engram, a star recruit two years ago, to push for the #2 spot. Engram is small at 5-11 200-pounds, but he is a tremendous athlete with a howitzer of an arm.
Western will have more two-back formations this season to add an addition blocker in the backfield and another receiving threat coming out into flat. There are some good options with Trovon Riley, Daniel Marks & Mark Bonds. This group will need to be much more productive after WMU finished 102nd in the nation in rushing average last season. Riley led the team last year with nearly 700 yards and four touchdowns and should become more of a featured back this season. He's a solid safety-valve receiver with 20 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown last season. Daniel Marks has good size at 225-pounds and should see more than the 50 carries he had last season. He'll be used as the power back and as at times a fullback. Mark Bonds has the size of a blocking back and the quickness to be a featured tailback. True freshmen may contribute this season as well for added depth.
Greg Jennings is a top 5 receiver in the nation and will most likely be an NFL draft pick on the first day next March. The 5-11, 191-pound senior has nearly 2,300 career receiving yards and 25 touchdowns with 11, 100-yard games. He has tremendous speed and can excel in either the deep or ‘short-in traffic’ routes. Brian Jackson is due for a big season after the 6-4 207-pounder recorded 19 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown as a freshman. Justin LeMay missed most of last year but is expected to be back at full strength this fall. Londen Fryar, the son of former NFL star Irving Fryar, has speed and skills and should be a contributor this season. Joe Chapple is a proven veteran while Jamarko Simmons and Jerome Vann add depth. Tight end Tony Scheffler is one of the nation's best tight ends. Scheffler earned All-MAC honors last year catching 53 passes for 570 yards and three touchdowns. He has excellent athleticism and speed for a 6-6, 250-pounder - averaging over 11-yards per catch for his career. Backup Tyson DeVree transferred to Colorado. Make no mistake, this Western Michigan receiving unit is one of the very best in the entire nation..
This unit has shown steady improvement over the past few years after being the ‘Achilles heal’ for several seasons. WMU cut their sack total in half last season and this year they will need to vastly improve their run blocking techniques. There is finally some stability as three different line combinations have started 31 of 35 games together over the past three seasons. There are three potential all-conference performers in Dominic Moran, Mark Ottney and Robbie Krutilla. The concern is with the inexperienced depth within this entire unit. James Blair and Brandon James round out the starters with Chris Bartula and Matt Williams as the lead backups. While the starters have good size, the backups entering the fall campaign do not.
It wasn’t long that the Broncos produced defensive studs like Jason Babin, Anthony Allsbury and Chris Browning. This year’s D-line is looking for some sort of collective effort to turn a horrible defense around in a hurry. Gone is the 4-2-5 alignment that led to the nation's 115th ranked defense and 114th scoring “D” and in comes a more normal 4-3. At DT, Joe Alvarez (just 248 pounds) and Paul Moersch (6-4, 291) battle in the trenches. Dezmond Gray (6-4, 295) is a top backup. At DE, Anthony Belmonte, a former linebacker, didn’t become the pass rushing threat he was supposed to become. Matt Ludeman is only 216 pounds but the coaching staff hopes he can utilize his safety speed to generate some sort of pass rush. Darryl McFadden at 251 pounds adds more size to one of the end spots moving over from linebacker. The line was awful last year unable to stop anyone's running game allowing 215 yards per game.
The LB corps will be a bigger and stronger now that the defense uses a third linebacker. That's a good thing. Paul Tithof plays much bigger than his size takes over one of the outside spots. He had 6 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 4 QB sacks last year from his SS position. Josh Behrens has the size (6-1, 248) to play MLB and is a good tackler in the middle of the field. Darrell Copeland (6-1, 210) is a former safety, adds speed to the other OLB spot. He had 55 tackles last season. Ameer Ismail and Nic Sadd are converted RBs who have added depth and athleticism to the LB unit. Derek Szafranski is a former safety moving to MLB, is just 6-foot 205. True freshmen Kevin Smith and Justin Braska may be called into duty right away.
WMU gave up 265-yards per game last season through the air. Part of the problem was lack of a consistent pass rush, along with poor play within the previous 4-2-5 alignment by the DBs. The safeties should be fine with Kevin Ford and Chad Feldpausch – two good and experienced players. Jamie Vincent and Brandon Henderson are slated for starting CBs but two true and highly heralded freshmen, EJ Biggers and Chauncey Thompkins. Scooter McIntosh, CJ Wilson and Antwain Allen are reserves. If the Broncos improve defensively this year, this unit will need to vastly improve very quickly.
Greg Jennings is one of the nation's best punt returners averaging 15-yards per return last year with two touchdowns. Mark Bonds and Jamarko Simmons are decent kickoff returners. Nate Meyer and Mike Jones are battling for the place-kicker job now that Robert Menchinger has graduated. Adam Anderson, one of the nation’s best punters, graduated as well leaving that job to either Jim Laney or Brett Meldrum.
Even thought the defense was terrible last season, this was not at all a 1-10 team – there was a lot more talent on this roster than that record indicated. Sadly, the team just gave up on the previous coaching staff last season after they nearly upset Illinois in Champaign. Enter new coach Boll Cubit, a long-time and success offensive coordinator, most recently at Stanford, who also has served that same role at Western a few years ago. Cubit brings passion and enthusiasm to a program that has been on a steady decline over the past four seasons. There is a lot of talent offensively so there is no reason why this offense cannot average about 30-points per contest. If the defense has any sort of improvement – WMU can easily have a winning season this year. By dropping Wisconsin and adding SIU and Temple of the past two months, Western’s schedule is much easier now than what it could have been. Don’t be surprised to see WMU battle for 3rd place in the MAC west this fall.
Mark it down!
Western Michigan will win 4 conference games this season. Hosting the likes of Buffalo, Ball State, Kent State and Central Michigan, the Broncos should be favored in all four of these home conference games.
@ Virginia - LOSS
@ Toledo - LOSS
vs. Southern Illinois - WIN
@ Temple - WIN
vs. Buffalo - WIN
vs. Ball State - WIN
@ Bowling Green - LOSS
vs. Kent State - WIN
@ Eastern Michigan - LOSS
vs. Central Michigan - WIN
@ Northern Illinois (Tues.) - LOSS
6-5 Overall, 4-4 MAC