2012 Western Michigan Preview – Defense

Posted May 29, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Western Michigan Bronco Defense

Western Michigan Broncos

Preview 2012 - Defense

- 2012 Western Michigan Preview | 2012 Western Michigan Offense
- 2012 Western Michigan Defense | 2012 Western Michigan Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: The Western Michigan defense simply had to hold serve a few times so the offense could carry the attack. That was easier said than done as the production fell off the map over the second half of the season allowing 471 yards or more in each of the final five games. Beefing up the run defense is a must in the 4-2-5 alignment, but getting more from the pass rush would also be nice. The ends are quick and experienced, and now they have to be more disruptive. The linebackers have to be more active so the athletic defensive backs don't have to do everything again. Rover Johnnie Simon and corner Lewis Toler are two of the MAC's best, but they could use more help.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Johnnie Simon, 114
Sacks: Freddie Bishop, 5.5
Interceptions: Rontavious Atkins, Demetrius Pettway, 2

Star of the defense: Junior S Johnnie Simon
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior NG Travonte Boles
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Demetrius Anderson
Best pro prospect: Simon
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Simon, 2) Toler, 3) DE Freddie Bishop
Strength of the defense: Secondary, Athleticism
Weakness of the defense: Run Defense, Consistency

Defensive Line

The run defense has to be stronger and it has to start with junior Travonte Boles on the inside. At 5-10 and 295 pounds he's a short, squatty defender who's a bowling ball on the inside. Stout, tough, and good against the run, he made 31 tackles as a true freshman and followed it up with 25 tackles with half a sack and 4.5 tackles for loss as a 12-game starter. The Florida native has to be an anchor on the nose, while 6-1, 255-pound true freshman Junior Estelus will rotate in to provide more quickness in the interior.

Taking over in a full-time role at defensive tackle is sophomore Demetrius Anderson, a 6-2, 305-pound prospect who got a start against Miami and finished the year making seven tackles. The Florida native wasn't a top recruit, but he has the next three yards to grow into the job. 6-0, 245-pound Miami native Cleveland Smith is a quick interior presence who could turn into a pass rushing end if needed. He'll work in a rotation with Anderson.

Back at left end is 6-3, 257-pound fifth-year senior Freddie Bishop, a long-time starter who made 51 tackles with 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. He took over the job midway through the 2010 season and hasn't let it go with good quickness and a burst into the backfield. Now he's the main man for the pass rush and he has to be used to being keyed on, while 6-3, 224-pound fifth-year senior Chris Prom will rotate in and will see more than his share of time. The former star tight end recruit has the athleticism to blow into the backfield, but he hasn't quite been a terror yet making 12 tackle with a pick and 1.5 tackles for loss last season.

Back on the right side is veteran Paul Hazel after making 26 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 3.5 tackles for loss in a disappointing year. The 6-5, 213-pound senior from Miami was supposed to blow up last season after coming up with eight sacks in 2010, but he only started three times and didn't show off enough of his speed and athleticism. The quickness and pass rushing ability are there, and now it's time to be far more disruptive on a consistent basis or 6-4, 255-pound junior Cory Sueing will step in after making three tackles in a limited role. He brings more size on the right side but he hasn't come up with the stats.

Watch Out For … Anderson. He might not be a top pass rusher like Drew Nowak was, but he should be strong in the interior and should be able to hold his own against the run. The line needs his size.
Strength: Ends. Bishop, Prom and Hazel form one of the quickest trio ends in the MAC. Every once in a while the Broncos come up with a terrorizing pass rush that changes the league around. The veterans are in place to come up with a huge season.
Weakness: Run defense. The Broncos were gouged on a regular basis and got ripped apart for 494 yards and six scores by NIU and 419 yards and five touchdowns against Toledo. Teams that could run were able to cash the WMU defensive front.
Outlook: The pass rush was okay, but it wasn't good enough to overcome a rough year from the run defense. The ends should be stellar, but the defense might hinge on whether or not Boles and Anderson can hold up.
Unit Rating: 5


The Broncos moved around several players in the middle last season with average success. The hope will be for 5-11, 223-pound sophomore Devon Brant to be able to hold down the job after making 43 tackles in just over half a season. He started seven games as a true freshman and came up big late with ten tackles in the shootout against Toledo. He'll be backed up by junior Desmond Bozeman, who'll also be used as a third linebacker depending on the scheme. The 6-0, 220-pounder can fly and is a big hitter making 25 tackles. Now he has to do more to get behind the line.

6-1, 198-pound sophomore Trevor Ishmael made 26 tackles with 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a team-leading three recovered fumbles in a true freshman campaign. The Miami native isn't all that big and he's built like a safety, but he's fast and could be used far more as a pass rusher on the weakside. He'll work in a rotation with junior Tony Easmon, who at 6-1 and 224 pounds brings more size to the position. The JUCO transfer from American River in California was a big-time pass rusher making eight sacks.

Watch Out For … Ishmael. He got his feet wet last season and did a decent job and came on late in the season. Now that he knows what he's doing he should be a terror at times from the outside.
Strength: Quickness. All the top options can move and all of them can get around. Swarming to the ball won't be a problem and the quickness and athleticism are there to be far better at …
Weakness: Rushing the passer. Considering the athletes the Broncos have in the two linebacker spots there needs to be more disruptive play. That's not exactly what the linebackers are supposed to do in the defensive system, but it would be nice.
Outlook: The safeties make most of the big plays and tackles in the WMU system, but the pieces are there to get more out of the linebacking corps. The coaching staff got creative and used defensive backs at linebacker at times last year, but Ishmael and Brant might be good enough to hold down the jobs on their own.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

Junior Johnnie Simon started all 13 games at rover after leading the team with 114 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, two picks and with seven broken up passes as the star of the secondary and the defense. At 6-0 and 182 pounds he has decent size and tremendous tackling ability consistently making play after play last season. A big hitter, he should be an All-MAC star as well as the defense's tone-setter.

The defensive backs make most of the big plays in the WMU defense, and this year it'll be up to junior Lewis Toler to play an even bigger role at the boundary corner spot after starting every game last year. The 5-10, 180-pound veteran made 59 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss and four broken up passes, but he didn't come up with any picks. The team's 2010 defensive MVP and former star receiver prospect is coming into his own.

Returning on the field side is sophomore Donald Celiscar got in as a true freshman making 45 tackles with a pick and five tackles for loss and three recovered fumbles. At 5-11 and 175 pounds he's rail thin, and he's not a blazer, but he can tackle and he proved he could hold up as a corner or a nickel defender.

5-10, 185-pound junior Demetrius Pettway made 57 tackles with two picks and two broken up passes as a ten-game starter at strong safety. One of the team's top recruits in 2010, he has shown why over the last few seasons with the talent and potential to do even more. He's a sure tackler and has great range and quickness showing a good nose for the ball.

Pettway can play free safety, but it'll be 6-3, 201-pound sophomore Justin Currie who takes over the job after making 24 tackles in a reserve role. Also able to move to strong safety if needed, he's smart and doesn't miss; he'll be one of the team's leading tacklers. Adding more experience to the position is 6-0, 190-pound sophomore Rontavius Atkins, who made 40 tackles with two picks starting five times over the second half of last season. He could take back the job from Currie, but he'll more likely move around in the secondary where needed.

Watch Out For … Currie. The Broncos got decent production out of Atkins at free safety last year, but Currie might be too good to keep off the field. He can play any of the three safety positions and he should come up with 75 tackles or more.
Strength: Simon. WMU likes to use extra safeties as linebackers at times and makes Simon a regular against the run. There are few better open field tacklers in the MAC and few better stat-sheet fillers. He's the leader of a veteran secondary.
Weakness: Picks. The secondary came up with enough to get by, but the team grabbed 12 picks on the year with seven coming in a four game span at the end of the regular season and two coming against Nicholls State. Considering how badly the defensive backs were toasted by teams like Ball State, Miami and Toledo, they need to come up with more big plays.
Outlook: The Western Michigan secondary will never be a rock. It was a disaster for years before improving last season, and now it has to be the strength of the defense and among the best in the MAC with Toler and Simon leading the way. The depth needs to develop, but there are more than enough good prospects across the board to come up with best season the Bronco pass defense has had in years.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

The Broncos hope redshirt freshman Andrew Haldeman can step in and produce in place of John Potter, who nailed 16-of-22 kicks including a 45-yarder against Northern Illinois. It'll be sink or swim with Haldeman with the other possible option punter J Schroeder, a true freshman punter who'll take over for Ben Armer, who averaged 41 yards per kick and put 21 inside the 20. Armer is a nice athlete with a big leg and could end up getting chances on deep field goal attempts.

The return game wasn't bad with Jordan White averaging 13.1 yards per punt return while Dervon Wallace averaged 24.8 yards per kickoff return. Now it'll be up to running back Brian Fields to use his speed and quickness in both jobs.

Watch Out For … Schroeder. The punting game was okay, but it wasn't phenomenal. Schroeder should have the job for the next four years with the leg to grow into a good one.
Strength: Coverage teams. Even after giving up a 99-yard kickoff return for a score the Broncos only allowed 19 yards per kickoff return. The punt coverage team allowed just 5.9 yards per try.
Weakness: Sure-thing kickers. Schroeder should be good, but he's only a true freshman. It'll be asking a lot to replace Potter right away, and Haldeman is just a redshirt freshman.
Outlook: The special teams were fine last season, but now everyone has to be replaced. There's good upside at kicker and Fields should be a solid return man, but there will be a drop-off after a good 2011.
Unit Rating: 5

- 2012 Western Michigan Preview | 2012 Western Michigan Offense
- 2012 Western Michigan Defense | 2012 Western Michigan Depth Chart