2013 Western Michigan Preview – Defense

Posted Jun 20, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Western Michigan Bronco Defense

Western Michigan Broncos

Preview 2013 - Defense

- 2013 Western Michigan Preview | 2013 Western Michigan Offense
- 2013 Western Michigan Defense | 2013 Western Michigan Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: The defense needs to be better at taking the ball away, and it has to come up with a few more consistent pass rush, but it wasn't miserable. It wasn't a rock, and it's not going to be this year, either, with defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham moving some parts around to go with more of a true 4-3. The defensive front should form a decent rotation around nose guard Travonte Boles, but the big move is at one of the outside linebacker spots with leading-tackler Johnnie Simon moving over from safety. The secondary won't be bad as long as everyone stays healthy, but it's going to take some time to develop the depth and find the right parts for the right positions.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Johnnie Simon, 103
Sacks: Desmond Boezman, 4
Interceptions: Donald Celiscar, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Johnnie Simon
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DE Manny Diaz
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Nicholas Dance
Best pro prospect:Simon (as a safety)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Simon, 2) NG Travonte Boles, 3) SS Demetrius Pettway
Strength of the defense: Safety, Athletic Linebackers
Weakness of the defense: Consistent Pass Rush, Linebacker Size

Defensive Line

The pass rush was solid and he run defense did a decent job. Just one starter returns, and fortunately, he's an anchor. 5-10, 295-pound senior Travonte Boles is a fireplug of a defender, but he's a rock on the inside coming up with his strongest season yet with 58 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. The Florida native has been consistent and effective, but now he'll have to do even more in the interior. Next to him will be senior Cory Sueing, a 6-4, 255-pound key part of the rotation making 17 tackles with a sack. Built like a tall linebacker, he needs to be pasrt of a rotation, and that's where redshirt freshman Jabarai Bothwell, who'll provide 5-11, 284-pound bulk and decent interior quickness.

There are some tremendous losses on the outside, and now it'll be up to smallish junior Manny Diaz to pick up the slack. Only 6-2 and 218 pounds, he's small, but he's fast and should be able to get in the backfield, but he has to be consistent and has to prove he can hold up against the run. 6-0, 242-pound redshirt freshman Mikhail Dubose isn't as fast, but he's bulkier and should be able to hold up better.

6-1, 276-pound redshirt freshman Roosevelt Donaldson is like another tackle at right end. A fantastic recruit last season, he's smart, big and built to be a 3-4 end, even though he's going to mostly work as a 4-3 pass rusher. Also adding more pop is 6-4, 216-pound sophomore Jarrell McKinney, a linebacker with a big-time burst and the potential to become a pass rushing specialist.

Watch Out For … new recruit Andre Turner, one of the team's top defensive pickups with pure pass rushing skills and a world of upside. He could work as either an outside linebacker or an end, and while the 6-3, 218-pounder needs to hit the weights, he has the tools to be special.
Strength: Pass rushing potential. The coaching staff knows it has lots and lots of work to do to replace Freddie Bishop and Deuntay Legrier, and the first goal is to find a rotation to get to the quarterback early and often.
Weakness: Experience. There's Boles, and there's … Boles. There's promise and potential, but the veteran starters aren't in place and the depth is sorely lacking. It's going to be a while before everything comes together.
Outlook: The Broncos came up with a solid, but inconsistent year up front, and now there will be plenty of growing pains with a good rotation needed right away and proven producers needing to shine through. It might take a little while.
Unit Rating: 5


In the big move this offseason, star defensive back Johnnie Simon moved into the starting strongside job after spending his career at safety making a team-leading 103 tackles last season with a pick and three broken up passes. At 6-0 and 182 pounds he's way too small to be a physical linebacker, but he's a terrific tackler and huge hitter who doesn't miss a stop. One of the team's most disruptive forces, he'll grow into a pass rusher, while 6-1, 198-pound junior Trevor Ishmael will get in the rotation after coming up with 17 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. 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 either side.

Sophomore Nicholas Dance will get the job in the middle after missing all of last year hurt. The 5-11, 211-pounder is 100%, and now he has to show what he can do with good toughness for his size and decent range. He'll be in a rotation with 6-0, 220-pound senior Desmond Bozeman, a huge hitter who turned in a big 90 tackles season with four sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss with a pick, but he suffered an injury late last year and missed time this offseason. When he's right, he's the team's best linebacker.

6-0, 230-pound senior Kyle Lark is the team's biggest regular linebacker and showed he could handle the job on the weakside making 46 tackles with a sack. While he's not an elite pass rusher and might be better for the strongside, he'll be a key part of the run defense. Sophomore Grant DePalma is a smallish 5-9, 218-pound prospect with the quickness to do more than Lark in pass protection.

Watch Out For … new recruit Caleb Bailey, a 5-11, 221-pound huge hitter who might be the team's best defensive prospect. A blaster against the run, he forces big plays and can be used as a pass rusher on either side. For a shaky linebacking corps, he might be needed right away.
Strength: Quickness in the rotation. If the two-deep stays healthy – not a given – the Broncos have a fast group that can get around the ball in a hurry. Simon is a playmaker who'll produce anywhere, and Boezeman and Lark should round out a strong front three.
Weakness: Knees. WMU linebackers are having problems staying on the field. Devon Brant is gone for the season with a knee injury after making 32 tackles, and Terry Easmon, who made 83 tackles with three sacks and seven tackles for loss, is out until at least the start of the season after suffering his own knee injury. With Bozeman also trying to get to 100%, there are plenty of question marks.
Outlook: There's upside, but only if all the parts are healthy. The coaching staff is trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle, but things might be vastly different by the middle of the season when everyone is back.
Unit Rating: 5

Defensive Backs

The pass defense wasn't exactly a rock last season, but it got a huge season out of corner Dondald Celiscar, a 5-11, 185-pound junior on the field side making 79 tackles with two picks and 14 broken up passes. With decent size, nice quickness and lock down ability, able to take the opposing No. 1 and erase him. He's not a blazer, but he can handle himself well in open space.

The problem is on the boundary side with Lewis Tolar gone. Getting the first look is sophomore Ronald Zamort, a 5-10,160-pound rail-thin defender who got in a little time making ten tackles with a pick. He'll have to fight off sophomore Garrett Smith, a 5-9, 172-pound fighter, he did a nice job when he got his changes making 39 tackles with a broken up pass. At the very least, he could end up working as a nickel and dime defender.

The safeties need experience, but the starters are set with Justin Currie turning into an excellent all-around playmaker finishing second on the team with 98 stops and three broken up passes and two recovered fumbles on the way to an All-MAC season. At 6-3 and 201 pounds he's big, smart and doesn't miss tackles in space. While he's great at free safety, he could move to strong safety without a problem.

Currie will once again be joined by senior Demetrius Pettway, a veteran starter who went from being one of the team's top recruits in 2010 to a steady producer two years ago making 57 tackles. However, last season he was out of the mix coming up with just seven tackles. He'll be handling the strong safety job now, backed up by Rontavious Atkins, a 6-0, 190-pound junior who has been a nice part of the rotation over the last few years making 44 tackles with three broken up passes. Versatile, he can work anywhere in the secondary.

Watch Out For … sophomore Leo Alba at one corner. The speedy 5-11, 163-pounder isn't going to push Celiscar for a job on the field side, but he made 11 tackles and two broken up passes in his true freshman season and showed he's ready to do far more in nickel and dime packages.
Strength: The starting four. While there might be a few concerns about whether or not Pettway can shine again, and Zamort has to be the main man at the boundary, but the starters should be solid with Celiscar shining as an All-MAC star. With a good pass rush, this group should be fine.
Weakness: The depth, especially at safety. The secondary is undergoing a few big changes and an overhaul, and the rotation might need a lot of time to form. There are several prospects, but few proven performers.
Outlook: The secondary only picked off eight passes last season and didn't come up with any over the last four games. There's promise and potential, but there has to be more overall production and more consistency. The secondary struggled as the season went on, and now it's starting new in several areas. It could be a trouble spot for a while, but there's upside.
Unit Rating: 5

Special Teams

Sophomore Andrew Haldeman is back after a decent first season hitting 10-of-16 field goals. He whiffed on his first two kicks against Illinois, but he canned five of his last six field goals and connected on a 52-yarder to force overtime against Ball State – and then missed the 36-yarder. He doesn't have a consistent deep leg, but he was good enough to be counted on and improved his accuracy this offseason.

The punting game was abysmal thanks to a rough coverage team. Sophomore J Schroeder is back after his true freshman season, and while he averaged 40.8 yards per kick and blasted an 82-yarder, he only put 12 inside the 20. The talent is there to make a big improvement.

The kickoff returns need to be better, even though Brian Fields averaged 22.4 yards per try. The team averaged just 19.7 yards an attempt with Justin Currie averaging 14 yards on his four returns. Both will get their chances, while sophomore receiver Jaime Wilson will handle the punt returns again after averaging a terrific 13.6 yards per attempt, but he didn't get any tries over the second half of the year..

Watch Out For … a big improvement from both kickers. They weren't awful in their first seasons, and now they know what they're doing. Schroeder should make a night-and-day change in production.
Strength: Punt returns. Wilson was fantastic on his 15 tries early around, changing around the field position time and again. He's great at making the first man miss.
Weakness: Punt coverage. Solid a few years ago, the Broncos struggled allowing 11.2 yards per try and all but eliminated the great things Wilson was doing over the first six games. It'll take a little more work with Schroeder to make it happen.
Outlook: An extremely young group after going through a massive overhaul last year, everything should be better and more consistent. The kickers are growing into their jobs and the returners will be solid – expect the special teams to be stronger.
Unit Rating: 5.5

- 2013 Western Michigan Preview | 2013 Western Michigan Offense
- 2013 Western Michigan Defense | 2013 Western Michigan Depth Chart