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2008 CFN Western Michigan Preview
Western Michigan RB Brandon West
Western Michigan RB Brandon West
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Western Michigan Broncos

Western Michigan Broncos

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Western Michigan Preview | 2008 WMU Offense
- 2008 WMU Defense | 2008 WMU Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Western Michigan Preview | 2006 CFN Western Michigan Preview 

In the sports world, the idea of momentum is one of the most overused clich├ęs.

Granted, teams on a winning run tend to have the confidence to keep on playing well, and obviously teams that are struggling tend to keep going that way, but it's just about impossible in college football to keep the momentum rolling from one year to another. The turnover is always too great, injuries and coaching changes always kick in, and 18-to-22-year-old bodies change and develop, for good and bad. With that in mind, no team in the MAC has more momentum going its way than Western Michigan.

Head coach: Bill Cubit
4th year: 20-16
9th year overall: 57-34-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off 14, Def 19, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Bronco Players
1. WR Jamarko Simmons, Sr.
2. CB Londen Fryar, Sr.
3. TE Branden Ledbetter, Sr.
4. FS Louis Delmas, Sr.
5. QB Tim Hiller, Jr.
6. RB Brandon West, Jr.
7. LB Boston McCornell, Sr.
8. DT Nick Varcadipane, Sr.
9. DE Zach Davidson, Sr.
10. OG Phillip Swanson, Soph.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
8-4
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 at Nebraska
Sept. 6 Northern Illinois
Sept. 13 at Idaho
Sept. 20 Tennessee Tech
Sept. 27 at Temple
Oct. 4 Ohio
Oct. 11 at Buffalo
Oct. 18 at Central Michigan
Oct. 25 OPEN DATE
Nov. 1 Eastern Michigan
Nov. 8 Illinois (Detroit)
Nov. 15 Toledo
Nov. 22 OPEN DATE
Nov. 25 at Ball State

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
6-6
2007 Record:
5-7

Sept. 1 at W Virginia L 62-24
Sept. 8
Indiana L 37-27
Sept. 15 at Missouri L 52-24
Sept. 22
Cent Conn. St W 51-14
Sept. 29 at Toledo W 42-28
Oct. 6
Akron L 39-38
Oct. 13 at No Illinois W 17-13
Oct. 20 Ball State L 27-23
Oct. 27 at Eastern Mich L 19-2
Nov. 6 Central Mich L 34-31
Nov. 17 at Iowa W 28-19
Nov. 24
Temple W 16-3

The league is loaded from top to bottom with veteran teams looking to make 2008 their big year, but WMU has seven returning starters on offense, and depending on your criteria for a starter, welcomes back all 11 from one of the leagues stronger defenses. The experience is in place to tweak, rather than change, after a good finishing kick to last year.

Hanging tight with eventual champion Central Michigan in a 34-31 battle might not have been a moral victory, but it showed the Broncos were good enough to play with the league's best, and with a little more work, could be at that level. And then came the shocker in Iowa City, beating an Iowa team that needed the win to keep bowl hopes alive 28-19. After beating Temple to close things out, a dying season finished up at a respectable 5-7 and with all steam ahead towards this year.

The defense should be a killer. Even though it wasn't the jailbreak pass rushing group of 2006, when Ameer Ismail was hitting every quarterback that moved, the D still put up decent numbers in the backfield and did a good job against the pass. The run defense needs to be a little bit more stout, and it should be.

The offense will keep pace with everyone through the air, and it has a good back in Brandon West to work with. There's no reason Tim Hiller and the passing attack can't put up 300 yards or more on anyone other than the top secondaries with Jamarko Simmons, Schneider Julien, and TE Branden Ledbetter as dangerous as any trio in the MAC.

Winning the West and getting to the MAC title will be tough in a division with Central Michigan, Ball State and Toledo, but that doesn't mean the Broncos won't be right in the hunt as long as they can feed off all the positives from 2007.

 
What to watch for on offense: The backups. While Hiller stepped up this off-season and appears to be ready for a big year, he's only a year removed from a bad knee injury, and West will be the main man once he comes back from a knee problem of his own, the focus will be on the developed depth to keep the train moving if the starters aren't 100%. Glenis Thompson, a 5-8, 210-pound junior, proved this spring that he can carry the ground game if West isn't right. Quarterback is the bigger issue with neither Drew Burdi nor Robert Arnheim showing much so far.

What to watch for on defense: A return to 2006. Two years ago the Broncos were flying all over the place on defense wreaking havoc from the backfield to the secondary. Last year the D was a bit more tentative, but it was still effective and productive. This year, with everyone back, new defensive coordinator Steve Morrison will release the hounds. Expect more sacks, more movement, and more big plays.

The team will be far better if … it can win all the close games. Veteran teams tend to do better in the tight ones, and coming up with the big plays late should be the difference between a good year and a possible MAC West title. Last year WMU hung on to beat Northern Illinois, but lost to Akron, Ball State and Central Michigan by a total of eight points. If it had won those three it would've been 8-4 and off to the MAC Championship.

The Schedule:
It's not all that bad considering there's only one span of back-to-back road trips (at Buffalo and at Central Michigan in mid-October), and while there's a stretch of three road games in four weeks, it's followed up by an off-week. The key will be getting off to a hot start with a tough November to deal with. The final month begins with what should be the easiest MAC game of WMU's season, Eastern Michigan, before playing Illinois in Detroit, hosting Toledo, and finishing up with a trip to Ball State after another off-week. The battle with the Illini and the opening day trip to Nebraska will be tough, but the other two non-conference games at Idaho and at home against Tennessee Tech are almost certain wins.

Best Offensive Player: Senior WR Jamarko Simmons. If he's not the biggest wide receiver in the country, then someone else is calling a tight end a wideout. The 6-2, 234-pound Simmons might be built a bit like a fullback, but he has good speed, nice hands, and a nasty competitive streak, for good and bad. He started out last season as the nation's hottest receiver with 38 catches in his first three games and finished with 84 grabs for 980 yards and six touchdowns. He'll be an All-MAC star and Hiller's favorite target once again.

Best Defensive Player: Senior CB Londen Fryar. The son of former NFL star Irving Fryar has developed into a premier MAC cover-corner and top pro prospect. A good tackler with excellent speed, the 5-11, 192-pound senior got better in coverage last year with 16 broken up passes. No one will throw his way this season.

Key player to a successful season: Senior OT Rob Johnson and redshirt freshman OT Anthony Parker. The pass protection left something to be desired last year, and while part of that was Hiller's fault, the tackles have to be better. Johnson is a massive 6-5, 338-pound blocker who can hit, but he needs to be far better against speed rushers. Parker, a 6-5, 305-pound newbie to the line, will get tested early.

The season will be a success if ... WMU wins the West. It's a tall, tall order with road games against Central Michigan and Ball State, but the defense has the combination of experience and aggressiveness to be special, while the offense should be more efficient and effective. No one will be talking about the Broncos as title contenders, but they are.

Key game: Oct. 18 at Central Michigan. The Broncos have lost three of the last four games to their in-state rivals, and it's not a stretch to suggest they can't pull of a West title without breaking the streak. They came close last year, and blew a chance to take the West by the horns two years ago in a 31-7 loss. This year a win in Mount Pleasant could set the tone for the entire MAC season.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Western Michigan 95 for 785 yards – Opponents 72 for 586 yards
- Sacks: WMU in 2007: 46 for 327 yards – WMU in 2008: 28 for 196 yards
- Interception return average: Western Michigan 21.2 – Opponents 6.6