2007 Western Michigan Preview - Defense
Western Michigan Bronco Defense
Preview 2007 - Defense
2007 WMU Offense Preview
- 2007 WMU Depth
2006 CFN Western
What you need to know:
It's not a big D, but it's very
quick, very disruptive, and very good. After a big year, the
MAC's number one defense gets eight starters back. The line will
get in the backfield early and often with the return of Zach
Davidson and big-play tackles Nick Varcadipane and Cory Flom.
The secondary is loaded with speed and experience with all four
starters returning after helping the D pick off 24 passes. The
big concern is at outside linebacker after losing Ameer Ismail
and Paul Tithof, but Austin Pritchard is a rising star and
Dustin Duclo is good in the middle.
Zach Davidson, 8
Interceptions: Londen Fryar, 5
Star of the defense: Junior DT Nick Varcadipane
Size, outside linebacker
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Junior LB Austin Pritchard
Best pro prospect: Junior SS C.J. Wilson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Varcadipane, 2) CB
Londen Fryar, 3) DE Zach Davidson
Strength of the defense: Pass rush, secondary, tackles
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: While WMU is known for being able to
get into the backfield, it's also terrific against the run. That starts
in the middle of the line where juniors Cory Flom and Nick
Varcadipane return. the 6-2, 272-pound Varcadipane isn't just a run
stuffer, he's great at providing a steady interior pass rush with 2.5
sacks and nine tackle for loss along with 51 tackles. With 101 stops in
his first two seasons, he's one of the MAC's best, more active linemen.
The 6-3, 285-pound Flom is tremendously quick on the nose making 33
tackles and 1.5 sacks with five tackles for loss. The two are also great
at blocking kicks, combining for six last season.
6-2, 243-pound junior Zach Davidson is back on the right side
after making 47 tackles and eight sacks with 10.5 tackles for loss. More
of an offensive linebacker than a top end, it doesn't matter; he's a
major producer. Good against the run, he's a natural pass rusher and a
disruptive force who forced three fumbles.
The one new starter to the line will be 6-0, 230-pound junior bowling
ball Greg Marshall, who made 13 tackles as a reserve. He
got a little bit of starting time and is experienced enough to step in
and be fine against the run. While not a top pass rusher, he'll have
plenty of chances to shine with everyone paying attention to Davidson on
the other side.
Projected Top Reserves: Working with Marshall on
the left side will be sophomore Mark Berghuis to provide more of
a pass rushing threat. He's only 6-3 and 211 pounds, but he won't be an
every down end. It'll be his job to get into the backfield when he's in
Also fitting the WMU mold of a linebacker playing end is 6-4, 215-pound
sophomore Justin Braska after making 14 tackles and two sacks as
a good backup. He has a motor that goes 100 miles per hour on every
play, and he should be a nice reserve behind Davidson.
Bringing a little more size to the inside will be 295-pound sophomore
Cody Cielenski, who's over 20 pounds bigger than Varcadipane. he
made three tackles in a reserve role, and while he won't push
Varcadipane for significant time, he'll be a decent safety valve.
Watch Out For ... All-MAC honors for the three
returning starters. Davidson, Flom, and especially Varcadipane, will all
put up the big numbers needed, and be the stars for the front seven, to
find spots on the All-MAC teams.
Strength: Quickness. The line is extremely aggressive and very
active. They're so good up front that the linebacking corps is allowed
to do whatever it wants to.
Weakness: Bulk size. The tackles aren't tiny, but there isn't a
300-pound big body to come in and provide a brick wall on short yardage
plays. Bigger teams should be able to pound the ball a little bit late
Outlook: This will be one of the best WMU lines in
recent history with three great producers who'll now be the stars of the
defense with the replacements needed at linebacker. Davidson will be in
the quarterback's face all season long, while Varcadipane is quickly
growing into one of the league's all-time great tackles.
Projected Starters: The linebacking corps is undergoing a
facelift on the outside, but gets junior Dustin Duclo in the
middle after a good 53 tackle, 1.5 sack, 6.5 tackle for loss season.
While he's only 5-10 and 225 pounds, he's a tough rock in the middle
with 111 stops in the last two years. He's quick, he's active, and now
he'll have to be the star with the loss of Ameer Ismail and Paul Tithof.
All Ismail did was make 183 tackles, 25 sacks and 45.5 tackles for loss
over the last two years from the weakside. 6-2, 210-pound junior
Cornelius Robinson can't possible live up to those standards, but
he's very fast and very promising. He saw a little bit of time in every
game making ten tackles and a sack, and while he won't be the backfield
terror Ismail was, he'll be a good pass rusher.
Taking over for Tithof on the strongside is 6-5, 225-pound Austin
Pritchard, a good-looking junior who made play after play in spring
ball, and appears to be one of the team's newest pass rushing stars. He
made 27 stops, two sacks and four tackles for loss in a limited role,
and now he'll be one of the team's top three tackles. Very fast with
good size and toughness, he'll be great.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 210-pound junior
Fernand Kashama is a former tight end who hasn't seen the field all
that much. A good athlete, he should grow into a pass rusher on the
weakside behind Robinson, but his toughness against the run is a
6-0, 225-pound Garrett Sosnovich is another undersized defender
in the middle. The walk-on has seen time here and there, but he only
made one tackle last season. Mostly a special teamer, he'll have to play
a bigger role behind Duclo.
Watch Out For ... Pritchard. He'll ease the pain
of losing Ismail and Tithoff with good all-around skills and the
potential to grow into an All-MAC producer.
Strength: Speed. Built to get into the backfield, the
linebacking corps loses two stars on the outside, and replaces them with
more smallish, speedy speed rushers. This will be a disruptive group no
matter who's starting.
Weakness: Size. By design, this is a small, quick group that's
supposed to make plays because of its speed and athleticism. While that
hasn't been a problem in MAC play, it might be an issue from time to
Outlook: The situation isn't as bad as it'll be
made out to be. You don't get better by losing the outside defenders WMU
has to replace, but Robinson and Pritchard should be fine as the season
goes on, and Duclo is an unsung playmaker in the middle.
Projected Starters: The secondary is loaded with all four
starters returning. The star of the show is 5-11, 185-pound junior
Londen Fryar after an All-MAC season. The team's leading pickoff man
with five interceptions, and he's one of the team's surest tackles with
52 stops. The son of former NFL star, Irving, Fryar is fast, active, and
On the other side is rail-thin 6-0, 165-pound junior E.J. Biggers,
one of the team's fastest players who made 31 tackles and four picks. A
top recruit when he came to the program a few years ago, he started to
grow into a top all-around corner. Now he should be a star with the
experience to go with his wheels.
Junior safeties Louis Delmas and C.J. Wilson are big
hitters who also grew into ball hawks. The 6-0, 181-pound Delmas is back
at free safety after finishing third on the team with 53 tackles and
four interceptions. With 4.5 speed, he could play corner if needed, but
he's too good a tackler, especially in the open field, to not be a
safety. The 6-2, 206-pound Wilson was second on the team with 62 tackles
to go along with three interceptions and six broken up passes. He's an
intimidating force at strong safety with great range, and now he should
be an All-MAC star with the reputation to go along with the numbers.
Projected Top Reserves: While senior Anthony
Gebhart won't see much in the way of starting time behind Wilson at
strong safety, he could step in and be productive if needed. He's not
all that big at 5-8 and 195 pounds, but he's a tough tackler with 45
stops and an interception in a reserve role. He makes things happen when
he's on the field.
Senior Antwan Allen made 95 tackles in 2005 and was all set to
become a big-time star at strong safety, but he suffered a knee injury
and missed the entire season. While he won't push Delmas out of a spot,
the former wide receiver is too good to not see time somewhere.
The top backup corner will be 6-0, 190-pound junior Desman Stephen,
a bigger option than Biggers who made eight tackles and an interception.
He might not have made many plays, but he was a difference maker with
his pick going for a touchdown in the win over Virginia.
Watch Out For ... this to be one of the MAC's best
secondaries. It gave up a few too many big plays considering the pass
rush was in the backfield all the time, but with all four starters
returning, and good reserves, there's no reason for this to not be one
of the team's biggest strengths.
Strength: Experience. The backup safeties are good enough to
start without a drop-off in production. To get Bronco fans even more
excited, all four starters are juniors. Things should be even better in
Weakness: Consistency. The secondary has speed and talent, but
it got picked apart a bit too often, having problems with Miami
University, Ball State and Eastern Michigan, while it was solid against
Florida State and Virginia. If there isn't the same pressure from the
front seven that there was last year, will there be problems?
Outlook: It's been a work in progress over the
last two seasons, throwing freshmen to the wolves in 2005, allowing over
300 yards per game, sticking through the inconsistencies as sophomores
last year, and now hoping for everyone to be tremendous as juniors.
There's depth, speed, experience, and enough talent to be great.
Projected Starters: The big question mark will be at
placekicker, where senior Mike Jones has to replace Nate Meyer,
who was good with 17 of 24 made field goals. Jones came in and hit a
22-yard field goal against Temple for his only work, and while he
doesn't have Meyer's leg, he should be fine from close range.
Returning at punter will be senior Jim Laney, but he has to be a
lot better after averaging a mediocre 38.2 yards per kick. He put 15
inside the 20, but he didn't show off a big leg and didn't air it out
enough. After a great sophomore year, at least directionally, he needs
to be steadier.
Watch Out For ... the kicking game to prove costly
at some point. WMU played six games decided by a touchdown or less.
Jones will miss a few kicks that Meyer would've hit, and Laney isn't
going to blast the team out of trouble.
Strength: Return game. The Broncos led the MAC in punt and kick
returns, and Brandon West and E.J. Biggers will make this a major
Weakness: Huge legs. The offense will have to get the ball down
to the 25 to have any real confidence in Jones, while Laney has to come
up with more than a 59-yard kick for his biggest blast.
Outlook: The kicking game will be fine, but
nothing remotely special. The returners will be the best in the league
and will have to be a concern for every opponent. The punt coverage team
has to be better, but it needs help from Laney, while the kickoff return
unit should be excellent again.