With just a week remaining before the Broncos' season opener at Michigan State, here is a position breakdown for the 2013 WMU Football Team.
Quarterbacks: After three years as Alex Carder’s backup, Tyler Van Tubbergen finally gets his shot as the Broncos’ starting QB. TVT has experience as he started in six games last year filling in for Carder while he rehabbed from a finger injury but it’ll continue to be interesting to see how he adopts to a new system after spending four seasons under Coach Bill Cubit. The Holland, Mich. native has shown immense potential including his six TD outpour in the final regular season game of the 2011 against Akron and his 362 yard four TD performance against CMU last year, but he also averaged an INT every 14.5 passes in 2012. He finished 2012 with 1825 yards and 15 TDs and completed 60.9% of his passes. TVT has done well in training camp but at times has been ineffective. Don’t judge him too much after the season opening against MSU. The Spartan defense will make a lot of quarterbacks look bad this year. If TVT goes down with an injury redshirt-freshman Zach Terrell and junior Zach Wynn are the next two in-line. The two Zach’s aren’t as polished as TVT but are capable second and third string options. Wynn has more experience and could leap Terrell on the depth chart at some point during the season. True freshman Cam Thomas is the fourth string QB but is likely to be redshirted this year.
Running Backs: It seems like the trio of Brian Fields, Dareyon Chance and Antoin Scriven have been in Kalamazoo forever. The three backs have combined for 31 career starts and will finally have a chance to shine in an offense that won’t be as pass happy as Cubit’s was. As of now Fields has been taking the most snaps with the first team but Head Coach PJ Fleck has been impressed by the 5’5 Chance, who was the 2012 Most Outstanding Offense Player after coming up just 54 yards shy of 1000. Fields and Chance could be swapping first team reps more often as the season progresses as the two will share most of the backfield responsibilities. Antoin Scriven is the definition of short yardage back. At 5’11 216 lbs. he doesn’t possess top flight speed but can hit the holes hard and pick up valuable 1-2 yards on third or fourth down. Scriven has 13 career TD’s with all but one coming from one yard out. He could see more time as the fullback in 2013. True freshman Fabian Johnson could see the field this year as well as Coach Fleck said he has been the most impressive back not named Fields, Chance or Scriven. It is still yet to be seen what will happen with Tevin Drake who lit up Fleck’s eyes the first time he saw him during spring practice but is currently suspended indefinitely. Drake has the size and speed coaches drool over but spent the majority of his three years at WMU in Coach Cubit’s doghouse. If he can stay out of trouble and put it altogether on the field he could be a special player, but we are yet to see him do it and unfortunately we may never.
Wide Receivers: After being named MAC Freshman of the Year and setting Bronco freshman records for most receiving yards and receptions in a season, the entire coaching staff at WMU was excited to see what Jamie Wilson was going to do for an encore performance during his sophomore campaign. But after suffering what could turn out to be a season-ending ankle injury we just have to wait. The loss of Wilson will be huge for the Broncos but they do have others that could be filling the massive void left by Wilson’s injury. The most likely candidate to become TVT’s #1 target will be senior Josh Schaffer who was the second leading receiver in 2012 with 43 catches for 570 yards and three scores. According to Fleck he is in the best shape of his life and could be in-line for a breakout 2013 season. Behind Schaffer is a pair of sophomores who could both explode in 2013. Kendrick Robert (6’3, 203 lbs.) has ideal size for a wide receiver and gained experience after appearing in nine games, but had only six receptions for 45 yards and a TD. He is an in tough competition with Timmy Keith who will look to return to the Broncos with a vengeance after missing almost the entire 2012 season after suffering a knee injury on the opening kick-off at Illinois. Darrin Duncan brings senior leadership to the group of receivers but the guy to watch out for is true freshman Chris Davis. Davis signed with WMU after receiving only one Division-1 scholarship offer and looks to be trying to prove all the doubters wrong. Out of all the true freshman on the roster there hasn’t been one that has shown the greatest improvement from day one as Davis has. If this continues he’ll be in the starting lineup at some point during the season and it could happen as soon as Week 1. Michael Henry and Courtney Bynes are two other names to keep an eye on. At tight end Clark Mussman will see the majority of time as he is the only upperclassman on the roster with game experience. He’s started in six games, two in 2012, and had six receptions with 35 yards receiving.
Offensive Line: New offensive line coach Brian Callahan had a daunting task in front of him when he was hired in January; replace four of five starters from 2012’s O-Line. That task got even more difficult when Terry Davisson, the only returning starter, was ruled out for the season with a non-football injury. Now the projected starters have a combined five starts between them but there is still plenty to like. Anchoring the line will be junior center Jon Hoffing. Hoffing made his one and only start in 2011 but has appeared in six games throughout his career. At the tackle positions are two guys who while young are filled with potential. Sophomore Willie Beavers started two games at left tackle in 2012 and played in eight, while right tackle Taylor Morton from Okemos, has had a lot of hype around him since last year. At guard James Kristof made two starts as well last year and will take over the position full time in 2013. Right guard will be filled Greg Peterson who was has never made a start but has taken snaps with the first team on occasion since 2011. Travis Turner and Ben Davisson at tackle, John Jackson and true freshman Jackson Day at guard and Nick Roach at center are the backups.
Defensive Line: After a season with the 3-3-5 defense the Broncos returns to the more traditional 4-3 under new Defensive Coordinator Ed Pickham. In the middle of the line will is senior Travonte Boles. Boles is the most experienced member of the defense as he has played in every game since coming to Kalamazoo and has started all of them except for two. When Boles first arrived at Western, he was 337 lbs. But after his first off-season under Fleck he has dropped to around 290 and looks like a completely different player. With the rest of the D-Line only accounting for one career start, keeping Boles healthy will be key to their success. While the rest of the line might be young and inexperienced they have talent. Cleveland Smith and Roosevelt Donaldson will be looked upon to sure up the end positions. Smith started the final game of 2012 against EMU and finished the season with 14 tackles, three for loss. Donaldson was redshirted last year and will get pressure from sophomore Jarrell McKinney for playing time. Cory Sueing will be the tackle next to Boles and brings senior leadership to the young line. Sueing had 17 tackles, 1.5 for loss and one sack in 12 games last year. True freshman David Curle was a two-star recruit but has already made a name for him in camp.
Linebackers: Entering spring ball linebacker was supposed to be a position with a lot of depth but has been hit by the injury bug. Devon Brant and Terry Easmon both went down with season-ending injuries but not all is lost at the linebacker position. Johnnie Simon will play solely at strong side linebacker (SAM) after spending the last two seasons at the rover hybrid position. Simon has totaled over 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons and has been named to the All-MAC team both seasons as well. He’s a vocal leader and there might not another member of the Broncos team that has bought into what Fleck has been preaching as much as Simon. In the middle (MIKE) Kyle Lark has shown he has a nose for finding the ball carrier and making plays. Lark made six starts and appeared in all 12 games in 2012, tallying 46 total tackles with 1.5 for loss and one sack. The wildcard to the linebacking core will be Michigan transfer Mike Jones. Jones played in 30 games in Ann Arbor but with a year of eligibility left and it looking less likely he would get the playing time he wanted, Jones decided to transfer to WMU and Fleck couldn’t be happier to have him in Kalamazoo. Jones provides senior leadership, big game experience and has the exact look of what you want from a linebacker. The second Jones signed on with WMU he was named the start at weak side (WILL). True freshman Austin Lewis has been impressive so far and will get some reps, along with junior Trevor Ishmael.
Secondary: The secondary is the most experienced unit on defense as three of the four starters have accumulated double digit start totals. At one corner position, Donald Celiscar as emerged as a potential 1st-team all MAC type player and will be relied upon heavily to make up for the departure of Lewis Toler. Celiscar had two interceptions and 14 pass breaks up last year. At the other corner will be sophomore Ronald Zamort. Zamort had 10 tackles and an INT last season and has edged out Garrett Smith and Leo Alba for the starting nod. Smith has three starts under his belt so he most likely would be next in line if Celiscar or Zamort under achieve or go down with an injury. At strong safety Demetrius Pettway will get the nod. Pettway had just seven tackles last season in 10 games (one start) after starting in 10 games as a sophomore in 2011. He’ll look to get back to his 2011 form in his final year as Bronco. Justin Currie will be starting at free safety and was just two tackles away from 100 last season en route to an All-MAC selection. Currie started all 12 games last year. Currie and Pettway will form one of the most experienced safety duos in the MAC and with experience lacking in the rest of the defense will be relied upon heavily as well. Rontavious Atkins and Jon Henry have the talent to start but will be forced to backup roles.
Special Teams Kicking: Andrew Haldeman will handle field goals and extra points for the Broncos this year. He made 10 of 16 last season with a long of 52 yards against Ball St. to send the game into overtime. If he struggles, true freshman Brett Scanlon is ready to fill in. Scanlon set Michigan High School records while at Dowagiac and kicked a school record 55-yarder in 2011. Scanlon will however handle kickoff duties. Sophomore J Schroeder returns as the punter with a year of experience. J (yes just the letter is his first name) averaged 40.8 per punt last season including a long of 82 yards, fourth longest in school history. If Schroeder struggles at all Scanlon is more than capable of handling punting duties as well. For the third year in a row Kirk Nakama will handle the long snapping. He was put on scholarship last year.
Special Teams Returnmen: As good as Jamie Wilson was last year at wide receiver, he was just as good returning punts and will be extremely missed. Wilson was All-MAC as a punt returner after averaging 13.6 years per return and a long of 48 yards. Dareyon Chance will take over as the lead punt returner and Brian Fields will back him up. Chance had just one return last year for no yards. Fields and Justin Currie will handle kickoff returns to begin the year. Fields returned 17 kicks last year for an average of 22.4 yards while Currie returned four, averaging 14 yards per return.
Fri, Aug 30: @ Michigan State, 8pm
Sat, Sept 7: Nicholls, 7pm
Sat, Sept 14: @Northwestern, 9pm
Sat, Sept 21: @Iowa, TBA
Sat, Sept 28: Kent State, 7pm
Sat, Oct 5: @Toledo, 3pm
Sat, Oct 12: Buffalo, 2pm
Sat, Oct 19: Ball State, 2pm
Sat, Oct 25: @UMass, 3pm
Sat, Nov 9: @Eastern Michigan, 1pm
Sat, Nov 16: Central Michigan, 12pm
Tue, Nov 26: @Northern Illinois, 7pm