KALAMAZOO, MI (WKZO) – Coach Bill Cubit calls them a bunch of guys from Florida who can run fast and can play. 6 of the 9 players on the depth chart are from the state of Florida, but also 6 of them are either freshman or sophomores and these guys know they will be relied upon heavily this season as the Broncos look to improve on a pass defense that allowed an average of 221 yards through the air during the 2010 campaign.
"They're all talented, there's just a lot of youth," Cubit said. "But I love their talent and enthusiasm. They're all guys that can run. It's just that in the first couple games, they're playing on a lot of big stages."
Gone from the secondary are Mario Armstrong and 2nd leading tackler from last season Jamail Berry, and replacing those 2 will be tough task. But led by sophomore cornerback Lewis Toler, they know what they have to do to improve.
“We worked hard with our teammates during the summer”, Toler said. “We all pushed ourselves real hard to dedicate to go out there and be the best we can.”
Toler, named to the Phil Steele First Team All-MAC in 2010, led the team in interceptions with 5 and will be joined on the opposite side of the field by freshman Garrett Smith. Smith had an exceptional spring practice and has looked good early in training camp and is expected to maintain the starting spot for the September 3rd opener at Michigan.
One member of the secondary who will look to improve on what can only be described as a lack luster career as a Bronco, will be senior free safety Doug Wiggins. Wiggins, a transfer to WMU after his freshman season with Miami(FL), is the highest ranked recruit to ever play at Western, but minus a 13 tackle game last season against Central Michigan, his tenure as Bronco has not lived up to his 4 star recruit as a high school senior. A move to free safety might help Wiggins improve, but he knows that as the only senior in the secondary a lot will be asked of him to lead the young secondary.
At the strong safety position, sophomore Demetrius Pettway will get the starting job after appearing in 8 games in 2010, starting 3 of them. Cubit expects Pettway to make a lot of big plays and sees him as a really good player.
Replacing Jamail Berry at Rover, a hybrid position combined of a linebacker and safety, will be sophomore Johnnie Simon. Simon had 14 tackles and 2 interceptions in the spring game and has been a favorite of Coach Cubit this year. “He is much better than last year,” Cubit said of Simon. “We're hoping he can make some of the plays Berry made for us last year.”
A new member of the secondary will be Aaron Winchester. Winchester started 2010 as the lead running back, but with all the depth at running back Coach Cubit thought it would be best to find a new position for Winchester. “We figured to be fair to him, we’d give him a chance somewhere else”, Cubit said. “I think he gives us a lot of options on the other side of the ball. He’s a hard noise guy, gives us a lot of character and lot of heart. If he can fit in talent wise into the scheme he’ll get a lot of reps at corner.”
Backing up the starters in the secondary, along with Winchester, will be Dervon Wallace, Scott Hinds, Jon Henry, Raheam Buxton and Tronic Williams. All of these players saw time on the field in 2010 and will be asked to step in when needed, but will also see time on special teams.