CFN Preview 2013 - Western Michigan Broncos
Posted Jun 20, 2013 2013 Preview - Western Michigan Broncos

Western Michigan Broncos

Preview 2013

- 2013 Western Michigan Preview | 2013 Western Michigan Offense
- 2013 Western Michigan Defense | 2013 Western Michigan Depth Chart
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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: P.J. Fleck
1st year: 0-0
Ten Best WMU Players
1. WR/KR Jaime Wilson, Soph.
2. LB Johnnie Simon, Sr.
3. QB Tyler Van Tubbergen, Sr.
4. CB Donald Celiscar, Jr.
5. NG Travonte Boles, Sr.
6. RB Dareyon Chance, Sr.
7. RB Antoin Scriven, Sr.
8. C Terry Davisson, Sr.
9. WR Josh Schaffer, Sr.
10. SS Demetrius Pettway, Sr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 at Michigan State
9/7 Nicholls State
9/14 at Northwestern
9/21 at Iowa
9/28 Kent State
10/5 at Toledo
10/12 Buffalo
10/19 Ball State
10/26 at UMass
11/9 at Eastern Michigan
11/16 Central Michigan
11/26 at Northern Illinois
You're old.

Wasn't P.J. Fleck just doing big things as a Northern Illinois wide receiver? A strong all-around target for the Huskies, he went on to have a cup of coffee at the next level before diving into the coaching world and becoming one of the hottest prospects around right out of the gate.

Phillip John Fleck is going to turn 33 this football season.

But in the new world of college football, youth is a huge advantage. Of course, growing into a job and establishing roots are a big deal, but with social media, a savvier group of players and more and more work and energy needed to recruit, it takes a young coach to be able to handle all that's going on. Of course there will be growing pains and of course there will be mistakes, but even at his young age he has a nice résumé, working with Greg Schiano at Rutgers and Tampa Bay, and he'll be able to command a presence early on – he has the "it" factor. But it only works if the wins start to come.

It's going to take a lot of tweaking and plenty of work to put all the pieces of the young team together, and it might take a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking to make it all work. And that's where a young, energetic head coach comes in.

Fleck knows how to handle receivers, and he has a few good once in rising-star Jaime Wilson and Josh Schaffer, and Tyler Van Tubbergen is a good passing quarterback who could have a huge year if he can cut down on his interceptions. The running backs are deep and experienced with four good veterans who know what they're doing. More than ever, though, the offense might have to put up huge numbers to offset the potential problems on defense.

There are some nice pieces on an inconsistent D, but it's going to take a while to fill in the gaps and make everything work with question marks at defensive end, corner and linebacker, hoping for star safety Johnnie Simon to shine at outside linebacker and needing several young players to grow into big producers right away to provide decent depth – it's going to be a work in progress.

A good program over the last several years – even after going 4-8 last year – it's time to become better against the MAC powers. The program needed some new, young blood, and it got it in Fleck. If nothing else, he'll make this an interesting team to keep an eye on.

What to watch for on offense: Can the running game be more consistent? The interceptions need to stop after Bronco quarterbacks threw 21 last season, but the passing attack is still going to be dangerous and effective. Now there's no excuse to not be better running the ball with all four top backs returning to each fit a role. Dareyon Chance, Brian Fields, Antoin Scriven and Tevin Drake each do a little something different, and quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen can take off, too. The Broncos weren't miserable on the ground, but they only hit the 200-yard mark three times – two in wins – and it hit a stunning wall late in the season against Buffalo and Eastern Michigan.

What to watch for on defense: The playing around with the secondary. The pass defense wasn't a rock and needs plenty of help, and it's getting even more interesting with the move of star safety Johnnie Simon to linebacker. For this to work, Demetrius Pettway has to regain his 2011 form and Justin Currie needs to come up with a big year. Donald Celiscar is an all-star talent at one corner, but Ronald Zamort and Garrett Smith need to shine on the boundary side. With a shaky and inconsistent pass rush, this group needs to be strong early on.

The team will be far better if … the pass rush works. The aberration was the win over Central Michigan, coming up with a 42-31 victory despite only generating one sack. For the most part, when the pass rush wasn't working, neither was the defense with three sacks in the losses to Illinois, Minnesota, Toledo, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan. The six sacks helped the Broncos pull off the shocker against Connecticut – even though the secondary gave up 333 passing yards – and the four helped on the way to victories over Eastern Illinois and UMass, but the consistency wasn't there.

The schedule: The Broncos spend most of the first month on the road against Big Ten teams going to Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa before dealing with Kent State. The showdown against the Golden Flashes is the only home game in a four game stretch before going to Toledo, and then things ease up in a big way with Buffalo, Ball State, at UMass at Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan to potentially go on a roll before closing out with the showdown at Northern Illinois.

Best offensive player: Sophomore WR Jaime Wilson. He came out roaring before hitting a wall and getting banged up over the second half of the season. Dominant over the first five games with 47 grabs and four 100-yard games, he's a quick, talented target with the upside to put up huge numbers if he can stay healthy. When he's right, he's a special punt returner, too.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Johnnie Simon. The safety followed up a 114-tackle season with 103 stops, and now he's going to use his speed, range and smarts at outside linebacker in an attempt to become a terror of a pass rusher. At 6-0 and 182 pounds he's not big enough to handle the duties against power running teams, but he's active and experienced enough to come up with big numbers in his new spot.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DE Manny Diaz. The Bronco defensive front has a good anchor to build around in Travonte Boles, but it needs pass rushers on the outside after a rocky end to 2012. Roosevelt Donaldson is more like a tackle working on the outside, while Diaz is the speedster with a great burst and excellent upside. He hasn't been able to crank things up yet, but he needs to be the terror who gets to quarterbacks on a regular basis.

The season will be a success if … the Broncos are going into the Northern Illinois game with a chance at the West title. With Ball State and Central Michigan at home, and missing Bowling Green and Ohio from the East, the schedule plays out relatively well. Going to Toledo will be a problem, but if the defense can be a bit better, and the offense as explosive as it's expected to be, having a shot at the division championship going into the final weekend isn't asking for the world.

Key game: Oct. 5 at Toledo. While the regular season finale at Northern Illinois might turn out to mean everything, the Broncos need to get by a nasty Toledo first to make that game matter. It's been three years since the 58-26 WMU win over the Rockets, and there have been some fun and wild shootouts over the year between the two, and this should be nothing short of wild if the two offenses play as expected.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Western Michigan 1st Quarter Scoring: 55 – Western Michigan 2nd Quarter Scoring: 143
- 3rd Down Conversions: Western Michigan 84-of-182 (46%) – Opponents 70-of-179 (39%)
- Interceptions Thrown: Western Michigan 21 – Opponents 8
- 2013 Western Michigan Preview | 2013 Western Michigan Offense
- 2013 Western Michigan Defense | 2013 Western Michigan Depth Chart