2011 Western Michigan Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Western Michigan Bronco Offense
Western Michigan Broncos
Preview 2011 - Offense
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Western Michigan Offense
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What You Need To Know: After a major disappointment of a 2009 season, the WMU attack got back to form thanks to the development of Alex Carder, a great-looking junior bomber who threw for 3,334 yards. The return of receiver Jordan White for a sixth year gives Carder a star target to work with, but the rest of the veteran corps is good enough to spread the ball around to. The running backs fit the system with quickness and athleticism, and there should be a good rotation of five runners looking to hit the home run. The line isn't anything special and needs to figure out the starting three in the interior, but Dann O'Neill is a great right tackle and Anthony Parker is a big veteran who can work inside or out.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Alex Carder
Passing: Alex Carder
289-458, 3,334 yds, 30 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Tevin Drake
40 carries, 405 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Jordan White
94 catches, 1,378 yds, 10 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore OT Greg Peterson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Brian Fields
Best pro prospect: Carder
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carder, 2) WR Jordan White, 3) WR Ansel Ponder
Strength of the offense: Passing, Quick Backs
Weakness of the offense: Line Interior, Rushing
State of the Unit: The WMU passing game exploded last year finishing 16th in the nation and first in the MAC averaging 286 yards per game and finishing second in the conference in efficiency. The future is bright with three promising reserves working behind a veteran bomber with a world of upside.
Junior Alex Carder didn't get a whole bunch of work in with Tim Hiller under center, and then last year the job became all his and he ran with it. The 6-2, 224-pounder completed 63% of his passes for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns with 12 picks, and hr finished fourth on the team with 226 yards with a team-leading six scores. He's a big, thick passer who was a big-time recruit for the program, and he's showing why with a next-level arm, good mobility, and a growing command of the attack. While the picks were a problem, four of them came against Toledo – along with 403 passing yards – and nine were thrown in the first six games. Over the second half of the season he gave the ball away just three times with two of the interceptions thrown against Northern Illinois. He hit the five touchdown pass mark twice (Nicholls State and Akron) and threw for four scores against both Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green. Now that he knows what he's doing, he'll be allowed to crank up the passing game even more.
Sophomore Tyler VanTubbergen got in a little work last year completing three of his four pass attempts against Michigan State, and now he'll be the No. 2 man in the equation. A tall, thin, 6-3, 197-pound passer, he's a good short-to-medium range option. 6-3, 204-pound redshirt freshman Mike Perish has a live arm and excellent leadership skills, and now he has to battle to move into the backup role. 6-2, 212-pound redshirt freshman Zack Wynn was a great high school playmaker from Florida who adds more mobility in the open field.
Watch Out For … Carder to generate more of a national buzz. With the receiving corps he has returning and the year in the system, his number will be too good to ignore. Now he has to come up with a big win over a brand name team to get on the map.
Strength: Young prospects. It's a great situation for the Broncos. Carder is the unquestioned leader and No. 1 man for the next two years, and there are three very good, very promising prospects waiting in the wings. They'll get time to develop and WMU should be set at the position for a long time.
Weakness: Interceptions. Carder's picks slowed down as the year went on, but WMU was 0-3 when he threw multiple interceptions and went 4-1 when he didn't give the ball away.
Outlook: Carder is a special MAC talent who'll be a 300-yard threat every time he steps on the field. The backup situation is growing into something strong with players at the ready in case something happens to the franchise.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: Everyone is back. The Bronco running game is along for the ride with the passing attack controlling the offense, but the experience is there with everyone of note returning to the crowded Bronco backfield. WMU only averaged 126 yards per game and averaged a mere 3.9 yards per carry, but there are plenty of options to play around with to balance out the O a little bit.
Sophomore Brian Fields has the starting job going into the season, but that doesn't mean he'll be a workhorse. The 5-9, 203-pounder finished second on the team with 362 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, and he caught seven passes for 51 yards and a score. Little used for most of the season, his production mostly came in a late three game stretch running for 107 yards and two scores against Eastern Michigan and 132 yards and a touchdown against Kent State. A top recruit three years ago, he was a Delaware high school all-star with tremendous quickness and burst.
Sophomore Tevin Drake only carried the ball 40 times, but he made the most of his workload with a team-leading 405 yards and four scores averaging a whopping 10.1 yards per run. At 5-11 and 212 pounds he's the biggest back in the rotation, and he proved to be ultra-effective late in the year rushing for 229 yards in the final two games on just 18 carries. He'll combine forces with veteran Aaron Winchester, the main starter for the first part of last year. The 5-6, 183-pound senior was the star of the 2008 recruiting class, and while he's been a part of the mix from the start, he hasn't done much on the ground with just 691 career yards and one score with 271 yards coming last year. However, he's the team's best pass blocking back.
Banged up last year, sophomore Aaron Scriven is back and looking excellent this offseason after playing in just five games and running for 39 yards and two scores with four catches for 33 yards. The 6-0, 207-pounder isn't necessarily a power back, but he can run between the tackles, while 5-6, 160-pound sophomore Dareyon Chance is the speedster who'll mostly be used as a returner and a receiver after running for 188 yards and two scores and catching four passes for 28 yards and a touchdown.
Watch Out For … Drake and Fields to form a 1-2 punch. There might be five backs in the rotation at any one time, but Drake and Fields showed late last year that they add more pop and explosion to the equation. They'll start getting the ball more so QB Alex Carder has to run it less.
Strength: Returning production. Four backs got starting time last year and the one who didn't, Fields, is the likely starter. Counting Carder, everyone who ran for ten yards or more last year is back.
Weakness: Workload and power. Scriven sort of has the size and the makeup to bring some power, but that's not really his game. No back got the ball more than 100 times last season and it might be running back by committee for good and bad once again. It'll be hard to establish any consistent ground game, but at least everyone will stay fresh.
Outlook: The running game has flash, receivers, youth, and veterans with five backs who fit the system and should perfectly complement the passing game. This might not be the best group of runners and the overall production won't be there, but for what the offense needs the WMU running backs will be just fine.
Unit Rating: 5.5
State of the Unit: This was going to be a veteran receiving corps as is, and then came a nice break to add to the slew of returning playmakers. Second-leading receiver Juan Nunez is gone, but everyone else of note is back including the main tight ends.
Senior Jordan White appeared to be done with his great career after catching 166 passes for 2,276 yards and 15 touchdowns, including 94 grabs for 1,378 yards and ten scores in a breakout final campaign, but the NCAA gave him an extra year of eligibility to make up for the broken leg he suffered a few years ago. The 6-0, 215-pound veteran caught 13 passes against Toledo and 14 against Northern Illinois, and he should be just as good all season long as both an elite MAC target and a punt returner. He'll be backed up by sophomore Josh Schaffer, a big, strong, 6-2, 234-pound inside receiver with great quickness for his size.
6-1, 183-pound junior Ansel Ponder has some of the best skills of any wide receiver to ever flow through WMU, and that includes Greg Jennings, but he hasn't quite lived up to the hype and tremendous potential. He finished third on the team with 28 catches for 205 yards and a pedestrian two touchdowns, but worst of all he averaged a mediocre 7.3 yards per catch. It's all there with speed, hands, and the size to do far more, but he hasn't been able to break out. He'll get the start in place of Juan Nunez at the X, while veteran Chleb Ravenell is back after getting hurt and missing all of last year. The senior made 48 catches for 513 yards two years ago, and now the 5-11, 188-pounder should once again be a factor in the outside rotation.
Back to work at either the T of the Z on the inside is senior Robert Arnheim, who made 23 catches for 235 yards and a score in a disappointing year after leading the way in 2009 with 59 catches. The former star quarterback prospect moved to receiver in 2008 and was a natural, and with his 5-11, 207-pound size and experience, he should be back to form. 6-4, 201-pound senior Eric Monette brings more size to the rotation, but the walk-on has yet to catch a pass.
Senior tight end Dallas Walker is a superior athlete who started out his career at Memphis as a quarterback prospect before transferring. He went the JUCO route throwing for 1,155 yards and 17 scores for Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and now he's a tall, promising tight end who caught nine passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns. He'll work with 6-5, 248-pound junior Blake Hammond, a seven game starter who caught nine passes for 113 yards with three scores, but he has hurt off and on. The former high school quarterback is a smart, quick target, while 6-4, 237-pound sophomore Clark Mussman, a receiver who could stretch the field making seven catches for 98 yards averaging 14 yards per catch.
Watch Out For … Ponder. Can he replace the 91 catches and 1,032 yards and ten scores made by Nunez? He has the skills and the talent, but he needs to finally live up to his skill level. It's all there to finally blossom into a star.
Strength: Veterans. Getting White back is a huge boost, but Ponder, Arnheim, and the return of Ravenell loads up the corps. Throw in the experienced tight ends, and WMU is loaded.
Weakness: Nunez. There are more than enough talents to pick up the slack, but Nunez was a major playmaker with 13 catches against Toledo, 11 against Notre Dame, and 14 against Central Michigan. It's always tough to replace a productive target who caught 190 passes for 2,337 yards and 24 scores.
Outlook: The Western Michigan receivers should be fantastic. White gives Alex Carder a true No. 1 target to work with, while Ponder, Arnheim, and Ravenell should all put up huge numbers. At least one all-star will come from this group, and maybe three.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: There's some interesting tinkering going on for a line that needs to come up with several key replacements. Expect plenty of movement and plenty of new combinations all throughout the summer to find the right mix, but for a line that struggled in pass protection and didn't do too much for the ground game, there's plenty of room for improvement.
Where will Anthony Parker play? The senior has 35 starts under his belt and spent most of his career at tackle, starting most of last year on the left side, but with the entire interior gone he moved over to left guard this offseason. The 6-5, 325-pounder could easily move back to the outside, but he's far better at guard where he can use his bulk and strength as a road grading run blocker. If he moves back to tackle, 6-6, 319-pound junior Ben Samson will likely step in after seeing a little time in nine games. He could end up working at tackle if needed.
If Parker stays inside, 6-5, 286-pound sophomore Greg Peterson will step in at left tackle. A good prospect, he saw a little time in three games and is looking just good enough to be the main man at the key spot for the next three years. Adding more size is 6-7, 295-pound junior Tim Maka, a JUCO transfer from Mt. San Antonio with good size and decent feet. He should be a good pass protector with the right frame and decent experience at the lower level.
Taking over at center for Nick Mitchell is junior Kevin Galeher, a 6-4, 312-pound tackle who started twice last year in the middle. Originally a defensive tackle, he moved over to the offensive side early on and now will be the main man on the inside with excellent strength and mauling running ability. 6-3, 304-pound redshirt freshman Pat Driscoll who also came to WMU as a defensive tackle but has just enough upside to take over if Galeher moves to guard.
6-6, 296-pound sophomore Terry Davisson started twice last year in the middle of the year at left tackle, but he's far better suited for a guard job. He'll get the call at right guard, and while he's not really built like a bruiser, he can push well enough to be solid for the ground game.
Helping to bring more experience to the line is 6-8, 307-pound junior Dann O'Neill, who started out his career at Michigan and was ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation among tackle recruits, and now he's a steady starter for the Broncos. Very big and very strong, he struggled a bit in pass protection but he has the talent to be the anchor of the line. 6-5, 269-pound redshirt freshman Jon Hoffing is a smallish, quick, versatile blocker who came to WMU as a guard but will work better on the outside.
Watch Out For … Parker. The line needs to figure out who's going to work in the interior, but Parker isn't likely to stay at left guard unless Peterson is terrific at left tackle.
Strength: Size. As always, WMU has a big, huge line. Every starter except Galeher is taller than 6-4, and there's good bulk to go along with the height.
Weakness: Production. The line allowed 30 sacks and didn't do much of anything for the ground game. With the size and bulk there should be more of a push, and there just isn't one.
Outlook: Replacing three starters in the interior shouldn't be that big a problem for a line that had several good recruits waiting in the wings, and the tackle situation could be great if Parker is on the outside pairing with O'Neill. Give it a little bit, but the line will turn out to be decent once the starting lineup is settled on.
Unit Rating: 5
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