#96 Western Michigan Football Preview

Western Michigan Broncos

Overall Rank: #96
#6 Mid-American Conference

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2010 Record: (6-6, 5-3)
2010 Bowl: none
Coach: Bill Cubit (40-33 at Western Michigan, 40-33 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bill Cubit
Defensive Coordinator: Dave Cohen

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tevin Drake, RB, 397 yards
Passing: Alex Carder, QB, 3,334 yards
Receiving: Jordan White, WR, 1,378 yards
Tackles: Mitch Zajac, LB, 97
Sacks: Paul Hazel, DE, 8.0
Interceptions: Lewis Toler, CB, 5

Other Key Returnees: WR Robert Arnheim, DE Freddie Bishop, DT Travonte Boles, RB Brian Fields, DT Drew Nowak, OT Dann O’Neill, G Anthony Parker, WR Ansel Ponder, TE Dallas Walker, S Doug Wiggins, RB Aaron Winchester

Key Losses: S Mario Armstrong, LB Jamail Berry, G Nick Clemens, LB Dex Jones, C Nick Mitchell, WR Juan Nunez, CB Damond Smith, G Phillip Swanson

It is often said that if you have three running backs, you really have none. There may have been some truth to that for Western Michigan last season. Tevin Drake, Brian Fields and Aaron Winchester split carries, but by the end of the season it looked like Drake was ready to take over. On just 40 carries he tallied 397 yards. That is nearly ten yards per carry. Whether or not he can keep that up for an entire season is the big question. Fields is full of potential as well and Winchester is the proven back of the bunch. However, the running game needs to get moving in order to balance the Broncos offense.

The passing game has little to worry about. Junior quarterback Alex Carder threw for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign. He has emerged as a very efficient and effective quarterback and will be in for a big junior season. The return of sixth year senior Jordan White certainly helps the cause. White caught 94 passes for 1,378 yards and ten touchdowns last season. However, the other big time receiver, Juan Nunez is gone. Together those two accounted for 185 receptions, 2,410 yards and 20 touchdowns. Without Nunez somebody else will have to step up. The likely candidates are 5-11 senior Robert Arnheim and 6-1 junior Ansel Ponder. Those were the only other two receivers who caught over ten passes last year. Even if WMU fails to find a consistent secondary receiver, White will have another huge year and the passing attack will again be one of the most prolific in the Mid-American Conference and the nation.

The Western Michigan defense has been somewhat disappointing over the last few years. Eight starters are back, but there are a couple huge holes to fill with the departure of strong safety Mario Armstrong and linebacker Jamail Berry. Those two were second and third on the team in tackles, respectively. The Broncos tallied quite a few sacks and ends Freddie Bishop and Paul Hazel are quality players, but the front four did not do a good job of stopping the run. With two new starters in the linebacker corps, the rush defense may struggle even more. Middle linebacker Mitch Zajac led the Broncos with 97 tackles a year ago and is a superb leader, but the new guys around him need to be more athletic and talented. The secondary may end up being the youngest group on the defensive side of the ball. Corner Lewis Toler is coming off of a great freshman campaign and redshirt freshman Garrett Smith has many people excited, but those two will have a big job to do if the defense expects to improve in 2011.

The Bottom Line:
The defense has potential, but the offense will win the games. How many games they win may depend upon the offensive line. Carder can work with his feet and get quick passes off when needed and let his receivers do the rest of the work, but without better play from the offensive line the rushing attack will go nowhere. Three starters are gone, but right tackle Dann O’Neill is a great talent with plenty of size at 6-8 and 307 pounds and Anthony Parker is a versatile and experienced lineman. The addition of junior college transfer Tim Maka will help immensely, but the line still needs to do a better job of creating holes for the backs and giving Carder enough time to pick apart the opposing defense if the Broncos want to head back to a bowl.

Projected Bowl: none

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 125.92 (93rd in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 285.75 (16, 1)
Total Offense: 411.67 (34, 2)
Scoring Offense: 32.33 (27, 2)
Rushing Defense: 166.58 (76, 9)
Pass Defense: 221.25 (62, 8)
Total Defense: 387.83 (73, 9)
Scoring Defense: 23.83 (52, 6)
Turnover Margin: .25 (42, 4)
Sacks: 2.33 (34, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 2.50 (91, 9)

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