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2011 Western Michigan Preview
Western Michigan QB Alex Carder
Western Michigan QB Alex Carder
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 18, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Western Michigan Broncos


Western Michigan Broncos

Preview 2011
 

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bill Cubit
7th year: 40-33
11th year overall: 74-51-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 17, Def. 21, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best Western Michigan Players
1. QB Alex Carder, Jr.
2. WR Jordan White, Sr.
3. CB Lewis Toler, Soph.
4. DE Paul Hazel, Jr.
5. LB Mitch Zajac, Sr.
6. DT Drew Nowak, Sr.
7. SS Doug Wiggins, Sr.
8. DE Freddie Bishop, Jr.
9. DT Travonte Boles, Soph.
10. WR Ansel Ponder, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 at Michigan
Sep. 10 Nicholls State
Sep. 17 Central Michigan
Sep. 24 at Illinois
Oct. 1 at Connecticut
Oct. 8 Bowling Green
Oct. 15 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 22 at Eastern Michigan
Oct. 29 Ball State
Nov. 8 at Toledo
Nov. 12 OPEN DATE
Nov. 16 at Miami Univ.
Nov. 25 Akron

There should be something to show for being consistently good, but Western Michigan needs to finally become great.

There’s a theory in college basketball that if you put together solid team after solid team, eventually the right breaks will come in March and the tournament results will come. WMU head coach Bill Cubit has put together great years on a regular basis, but there’s always something missing on the way to becoming the it team in a given MAC season. This year’s squad has the explosiveness on offense, and the talent and playmakers on defense, to finally get over the hump and win the conference title for the first time since there was a championship game. But several recent Bronco teams had the combination of dangerous offense and athletic defense, too.

The key will be to win the games that are there for the taking. Yeah, WMU won six games, but the best victory came against Kent State and most of the good moments against the weak and the sad. If the Broncos really were good, they wouldn’t have lost to Idaho at home and they wouldn’t have blown a key late game to a bad Central Michigan squad. 8-4 and a bowl appearance looks ten times better than 6-6 and home for the holidays, but the program should also be expecting more. That will only come with a win over someone with a pulse at a key time.

For all the good things about Western Michigan football over the last few years, and for all the positives, the last win over an FBS team that finished with a winning record came in the middle of the 2008 season against Buffalo. That was the only win over a winning team since October 14th of 2006, and there’s no excuse to not be far better.

Alex Carder is one of the nation’s best passers with a live arm and the experience to make better decisions and keep the interceptions to a minimum after improving over the second half of last year. He gets Jordan White back to lead a veteran receiving corps, and five good, speedy backs are in the mix to do a little of everything for the pass-happy attack. If the interior of the line can be settled, there might not be any stopping this offense in MAC play.

The WMU defense has big-time speed and athleticism in the secondary, but it always has that. Now it has the veteran front four that should be outstanding at getting into the backfield on a regular basis and the run stuffers in Drew Nowak and Travonte Boles to improve the run D. Both kickers return, there are plenty of good return men, and the coaching staff knows what it’s doing.

The MAC West might be the toughest of the two divisions, and that’s partly because Western Michigan should be so good. The consistency has been a positive, but now it’s time to be great and win the title.

What to watch for on offense: The interior of the line. The skill players are in place for the MAC’s second best offense, and Carder should blow up into a national name if he can improve on his 2010 campaign, but the line needs to be in place. The tackles would be set if Anthony Parker was back at left tackle, but he’s being tried out at guard early on to make up for the key losses on the inside. WMU will put up big numbers no matter what, and a solid interior would help balance things out with an improved ground game.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush that should be devastating. The Broncos have a good history of being among the best in the MAC at getting to the quarterback, but the production fell flat for a stretch. That all changed last year as defensive line coach Lou Esposito started getting more out of the front four and now everyone is back to do far more. Paul Hazel was the best pass rusher and best all-around end, but Freddie Bishop showed the promise to potentially become a top playmaker. Throw in the speed and athleticism of former linebacker Deuntay Legrier on the outside and veteran tackles Travonte Boles and Drew Nowak in the middle, and the pressure into the backfield should be consistent.

The team will be far better if … the offensive line can give Alex Carder time. Right tackle Dann O’Neill started out his career at Michigan, and Anthony Parker is a 325-pounder with 35 starts under his belt. These two are the rocks up front, but the interior is a question mark with Kevin Galeher needing to prove he can handle the job at center and with Parker possibly moving from tackle to guard to help out the cause. Last year the Broncos gave up 2.5 sacks per game, and while part of the problem was Carder’s inexperience, the line didn’t do its job. If the line gives Carder time he’ll be at a whole other level.

The schedule: The Broncos get to make things fun early on with two statement non-conference games against Michigan and Illinois in September, and then comes a good game at Connecticut to start out October. Of course, it’s all about the MAC play and starting out against Central Michigan and Bowling Green at home should be wild and winnable shootouts. The Northern Illinois showdown is on the road, as is a date at Toledo meaning the two toughest West games are outside of Kalamazoo. Throw in a road game at Miami University, and it’ll be tough to get through the conference slate unscathed.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Alex Carder. The hope was for the one-time top recruit to get bombing early on, while adding a little more mobility than recent WMU quarterbacks. He was even better than hoped for completing 63% of his passes for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He also finished fourth on the team with 226 yards with six touchdowns, and now it’s all in place to do even more. The receiving corps is there for Carder to work with, and the running backs are quick and athletic with the ability to take short throws and make something big happen.

Best defensive player: Sophomore CB Lewis Toler. The line is full of all-star talents and linebacker Mitch Zajac is probably going to lead the team in tackles, but Toler is the all-around playmaker coming off a special first year. At corner, he finished fourth on the team with 59 tackles with five interceptions nine broken up passes and three recovered fumbles. He did it all with a steady, spectacular season, and he’s exactly what the defense needs after struggling at times in the secondary.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore OT Greg Peterson. The line will need some major retooling and shuffling to find the right combination, and Peterson could turn out to be the big key. Not only does the line need to do more in pass protection, but Peterson’s emergence would allow Anthony Parker to work at guard. In a perfect world, Peterson keeps Carder’s blindside clean for the next few years.

The season will be a success if … the Broncos win the West. It’ll be a tall, tall order with the Northern Illinois and Toledo games on the road, and it might take a sweep to get to the MAC Championship. Even so, the team has enough firepower on offense and more than enough athleticism on defense to pull it off. Toledo, as good as it’ll be, is beatable, while NIU is undergoing a coaching change. The Broncos have to put it all together someday, and this is as good a year, and as good a team, as any.

Key game: October 15 at Northern Illinois. If all goes according to plan, WMU is 2-0 in conference play before dealing with the showdown in DeKalb. Last year the Broncos came closer to the Huskies than anyone in the MAC until the title game in a 28-21 loss. Carder threw for 360 yards and three scores, but NIU got a 21-yard touchdown pass in the final few minutes and a two-point conversion for the win. This year’s Bronco team is better.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Average Passing Yards Per Game: Western Michigan 285.8 – Opponents 221.2
- Penalties: Opponents 84 for 720 yards – Western Michigan 69 for 637
- 1st Quarter Scoring: Western Michigan 92 – Opponents 44

- 2011 Western Michigan Preview | 2011 Western Michigan Offense
- 2011 Western Michigan Defense | 2011 Western Michigan Depth Chart
- Western Michigan Previews 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006