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Western Michigan 2006 Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 7, 2006


Western Michigan Broncos Preview 2006 - WMU Offense


What you need to know ...
Seven starters return, but it'll be next to impossible not to see a step taken backwards after losing heart-and-soul WR Greg Jennings, all-star TE Tony Scheffler and 1,004-yard RB Trovon Riley. The offensive line is huge and experienced and Mark Bonds is a pounding runner who should keep the chains moving. Quarterback isn't an issue with Ryan Cubit and Tim Hiller both returning from knee injuries and solid enough to make everyone around them better. The real question mark is at receiver where several players have to turn into dangerous deep threats. Expect the whole to be better than the sum of the parts.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tim Hiller
98-151, 1,334 yds, 20 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Mark Bonds
101 carries, 456 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Joe Chapple
33 catches, 354 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Ryan Cubit
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore WR Ben Bleck-Owens
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE
Brandon Ledbetter
Best pro prospect: Junior C Robbie Krutilla
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Krutilla, 2) Cubit, 3) RB Mark Bonds
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, offensive line size
Weakness of the offense: Proven receivers

Quarterbacks
Ryan Cubit got a sixth year of eligibility and is back at the helm at suffering a knee injury early last year. This was a deep group of quarterbacks, but Tim Hiller is scheduled to come back from his knee injury next year. That means JUCO transfer Thomas Peregrin has to be good enough to step in right away if needed. The question becomes what to do with Hiller if and when he returns as good as new. He was the team's best quarterback last year, but Cubit is firmly entrenched as the starter. Will the fact that Cubit is the son of the head coach play any role in what happens when Hiller is healthy? No, but the storylines could be juicy if Cubit isn't putting up big numbers.
The key to the unit: Get backups Thomas Peregrin and Caleb Clark ready to go in case Ryan Cubit has problems with his knee.
Quarterback Rating: 6

Projected Starter
- Ryan Cubit, Sr. - 65-108, 60%, 674 yds, 6 TD, 3 INT
Cubit, the son of the head coach, is back after getting knocked out for the year in the third game of the season with a knee injury. He wasn't razor sharp to start the season, but he completed 60% of his throws and appeared ready for a huge season before getting hurt. He's back and ready to take back the starting role with his strong arm and good command of the offense. Now he has to prove he can be a consistent passer at a high level.

Top Backups
- Tim Hiller, Soph. - 98-151, 65%, 1,334 yds, 20 TD, 3 INT, 38 carries, 59 yds, 1 TD
Hiller stepped in to the starting role early in his freshman season and turned out to be the team's best quarterback completing a team best 65% of his throws and showing far more mobility than the other two. Unfortunately, he tore up his knee in the season finale against Northern Illinois and will take the year off before coming back into the mix. He's a big passer who's the team's star of the future.

- Caleb Clark, RFr.
The Canadian is a big passer with a live arm and decent mobility. He won't run like Tim Hiller and doesn't have any experience, so expect this to be a year of tutoring and learning on the fly as he looks to push for the number two job until Hiller comes back.

- Thomas Peregrin, Jr.
The JUCO transfer enrolled early to get into the quarterback mix. He's a pure passer who rewrote the Bakersfield College record book throwing for 4,662 yards and 39 touchdowns over the last two seasons. With a great arm and size at 6-3 and 185 pounds, he appears to be a perfect fit for the offense.

Running Backs
The Broncos added a running game to the mix last year thanks to the emergence of Trovon Riley and his 1,004 yards. Now it'll be up to Mark Bonds to reclaim his starting spot and make his downhill style work. Kirk Elsworth and huge wide receiver Jamarko Simmons also provide power, so it'll be up to the recruiting class to add the speed with Bobby Crawford, Glenis Thompson and Brandon West all sure to get long looks to be the spark the offense might need.
The key to the unit: Unearth a home run hitting back and get a productive, consistent year out of Mark Bonds.
Running Back Rating: 5

Projected Starter
- Mark Bonds, Jr. - 101 carries, 456 yds, 4.5 ypc, 3 TD, 9 catches, 19 yds
Bonds started out the year as the team's main back before Trovon Riley came on became more effective. Bonds isn't a special back by any means with little wiggle and little flash to the outside, but has has speed in the open field and is a great pounder who can be the workhorse if needed and is always moving the pile forward. 

Top Backups
- Kirk Elsworth, Soph. - 18 carries, 61 yds, 3.4 ypc
He's a physical back with good enough straight line speed to turn into one of the team's top kick returners. He's 208 pounds and will be solid between the tackles.
- Jamarko Simmons, Soph. - 6 carries, 5 yds, 11 catches, 95 yds, 2 TD
Part wide receiver, part running back, Simmons is an interesting mix of size, speed and hands. He's 6-2 and 231 pounds with enough flash to be counted on if Mark Bonds and Kirk Elsworth struggle.
- Bobby Crawford, Fr.
Recruited for his speed and dash, the 5-8 true freshman will get a long look at playing time as a change of pace back to Mark Bonds. He ran for 1,281 yards and 13 touchdowns for St. Thomas Aquinas School in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida.

Receivers
Expect a major step back. No one can do what Greg Jennings did and catch 98 passes for, 1259 yards and 14 touchdowns, and no one can replace tight end Tony Scheffler and his 57 catches for 670 yards and nine scores. Life does go on and WMU has several options to try to fill the void. Joe Chapple is a good start after finishing third on the team in receptions last year. Kelly Martin and Ben Bleck-Owens have to grow into consistent deep threats, and part-time running back Jamarko Simmons has to use his size to be a top target. Four tight ends will battle it out for time with Brandon Ledbetter getting the first look thanks to his hands and quickness.
The key to the unit: Find a combination of receivers to replace Greg Jennings and Tony Scheffler and establish a consistent deep threat early on.
Receiver Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- Ben Bleck-Owens, Soph.
The 6-2 sophomore will take his size and speed to the outside where he has to show he can be close to as dangerous as Greg Jennings. He can't be, but he has the potential to be a dangerous playmaker and the new top deep threat. 

- Kelly Martin, Jr. - 3 catches, 16 yds, 5.3 ypc
The 6-3 Martin will take over at the inside Z position. He's a big, physical receiver who hasn't been able to show off much yet in games or practice. He has the potential to be a go-to target, but he first has to figure out how to get open on a more consistent basis.

- Joe Chapple, Sr. - 33 catches, 354 yds, 10.7 ypc, 2 TD
The team's leading returning receiver has to be a big-play threat right out of the box at the T position. He's a good veteran who finished third on the team in receiving turning into a nice number two wide receiver when Greg Jennings and Tony Scheffler weren't getting the ball. He's more quick than fast and has to be a playmaker once he gets the ball in his hands.

- Tight end Brandon Ledbetter, Soph. - 11 catches, 76 yds, 6.9 ypc, 2 TD
The team's leading returning tight end will try to fill the gaping hole left by Tony Scheffler. He isn't huge at 221 pounds, but he's a receiver.

Top Backups
- Scooter McIntosh, Jr.
The former free safety will move over to wide receiver to beef up the T position. While not a burner by any stretch, he's a good athlete and should see time in the rotation behind Joe Chapple.
- Stephen Penn, Jr.
The JUCO transfer will push for a starting job right away on the inside. He's a good-sized target who was tremendous last year at Valley Forge Military Academy catching 40 passes for 1,019 yards and 16 touchdowns.
- Herb Martin, Jr.
Martin has the speed and the talent to take over as a top midrange threat. The 6-1 JUCO transfer caught 21 passes for 322 yards and four scores last season at Pasadena City College.
- Tight end Matt Stevens, RFr.
The 240-pound Stevens is a bigger option then Brandon Ledbetter with the same soft hands. He's the number two man going into the season needing to battle the 245-pound Joe Gardner to hold on to the spot.

Offensive Linemen
The line underwent several changes and configurations last season with the end result turning out to be not all that bad. Considering the shuffling and the lack of continuity, allowing 24 sacks in this offense was a good season. Of course, the coaching staff would like to see that number cut down considerably. It's a huge line that should be great for the ground game; this group will hit someone hard. There aren't any all-stars outside of center Robbie Krutilla, but there's a lot of depth and plenty of big options to work with. However, things are up in the air at one of the tackle spots after the tragic suicide of starting tackle Chris Bartula this spring.

The key to the unit: Find the right combination of a starting five and stick with it.
Offensive Line Rating: 6

Projected Starters
- OT Rob Johnson, Soph.
Johnson is an imposing run blocker at 6-4 and 329 pounds. The former walk-on took a while to learn the job after mostly playing defense in high school, and now he has to become a better pass protector.
- OG Dominic Moran, Sr.
The only senior on the line, Moran will provide veteran leadership getting the start at left guard. He has seen time at tackle and has grown into a solid run blocker.
- C Robbie Krutilla, Jr.
The team's best lineman, the 302-pound junior is consistent in the running game and has turned into a great anchor and leader of the line. He's a mauling blocker who should be in the mix for All-MAC honors.
- OG Matt Williams, Jr.
The smallest, but most versatile player on the starting five, the 282-pound junior has seen starting time at both guard positions and at tackle. He was even tried out at center for a time.
- OT James Blair, Jr.
A part time starter last year, the 338-pound Blair is a huge guard playing tackle.
He has to step in and produce right away in the starting job after the death of starter Chris Bartula.

Top Backups
- G Steve Ellingsen, Soph.
Able to play guard or tackle, the 6-4, 280-pound sophomore will start out behind Matt Williams at right guard. He saw a little bit of starting experience early on an should be the team's most reliable reserve lineman.
- T Chris Bartula, Jr.
Bartula was a steady starter last season and would've been a key factor this season, but he committed suicide on March 22nd just before the start of spring ball.

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