Preview 2009 - Offense
2009 CFN Western
| 2009 WMU Offense
2009 WMU Defense
| 2009 WMU
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What you need to know:
The offense that finished first in the MAC
and 11th in the nation in passing should keep up the
production with veteran QB Tim Hiller working behind a veteran
line with four starters returning. Brandon West and Aaron
Winchester are talented all-around backs who can catch as well
as run with power and speed, but the offense is about the
passing game. And that’s the early problem. With Jamarko
Simmons, Schneider Julien, and Branden Ledbetter gone, the team
needs some new recruits to become major factors right away to
help out Juan Nunez. The key to the season could be the left
knee of Hiller, which underwent ACL surgery this off-season.
There are good backup options, but Hiller needs to be on the
field for the offense to explode.
Passing: Tim Hiller
339-522, 3,725 yds, 36 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Brandon West
204 carries, 1,026 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Juan Nunez
57 catches, 701 yds, 7 TD
Star of the offense: Senior QB Tim Hiller
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore OT
Unsung star on the rise: Senior TE Matt
Best pro prospect: Junior OG Phillip Swanson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hiller, 2) RB Brandon
West, 3) OG Phillip Swanson
Strength of the offense:
The passing game, starting offensive line
Weakness of the
offense: Proven depth, proven No. 2 receiver
The time is now for senior
Tim Hiller to take
the offense to another level. He came up with a terrific
3,725-yard, 36-touchdown season (along with ten interceptions),
but the offense sputtered in the final two games of the season
against Ball State and Rice, both losses, and while he threw for
471 yards against Central Michigan, the team lost. He was
playing through a balky knee that required ACL surgery this
off-season, and while it was as big a deal as the total
reconstruction that cost him all of 2006, he’ll still need time
to recover. At 6-5 ad 228 pounds, he has the size and he has the
arm, and after being around since 2005, he knows what he’s
doing. He’s not a statue, but he won’t run for many yards. When
all is said and done, he’ll obliterate the WMU record books, but
only if his left knee holds up.
Reserves: With Hiller’s knee an issue, junior
Drew Burdi has to be
at the ready to fill in. He got the bulk of the work this
off-season and he’s been around long enough to know what he’s
doing. The 6-1, 198-pounder is a good runner, amassing 120 yards
and a score in his limited action, and a decent passer, throwing
for 87 yards with a touchdown in mop up duty, with the best arm
on the team, he can make any throw in the book. He doesn’t have
an honest shot of winning the starting job, but he should be
more in the mix.
6-2, 205-pound redshirt freshman
Alex Carder will be a
major producer in the near future. A great recruit for the
program last year, Carder has a big-time arm and the mobility to
provide an extra dimension to the attack. While he’s the clear
number three option going into the season, he’ll be in the hunt
for the starting job next year.
Watch Out For
... Carder in 2010. Burdi has been around long enough to be the
clear number two this year, and the likely starter next season,
but Carder is an interesting option who needs developing.
Strength: Big time numbers. The Broncos led the MAC in
passing averaging 295 yards per game, and if Hiller is fine,
that won’t change. There are good backups at the ready in case
Weakness: Hiller’s left knee.
While Burdi is ready to step in and produce, he’s not Hiller
throwing the ball. If Hiller is healthy, the team can go into
every game with a realistic hope for 300 yards. He has to return
close to 100%, and he has to be able to last the season.
Outlook: Head coach Bill Cubit always likes to create
some sort of a competition, real or not, to keep the
quarterbacks on their toes. He doesn’t have to do that this
season with a clear cut pecking order of Hiller, Burdi and
Carder. However, the X factor all season long will be Hiller’s
knee. While it wasn’t as bad as it was a few years ago, the knee
can’t wear down by the end of the year. As long as Hiller is
under center, WMU’s offense should be able to throw on anyone.
Senior Brandon West
is back for his fourth year as the team’s most dangerous rushing
option, and he’s coming off his best year yet with 1,026 yards
and eight touchdowns. Also a receiver, he caught 38 passes for
280 yards and three scores. The 5-10, 188-pounder became more
dangerous around the goal line and had a few games as a
workhorse with 29 carries against Eastern Michigan and 25
against Northern Illinois. While he’s a speed back, he provides
good power for his size. Along with his talents as an outlet
receiver and as the main running back, he’s also a top-shelf
kickoff returner averaging 22.8 yards per try.
Reserves: 5-9, 190-pound sophomore
Aaron Winchester was
the key to last year’s recruiting class and he showed why as a
key fill in late in the year when West was hurt. Like West,
Winchester is a fast with a little bit of pop when he has to run
inside, and like West he can catch, with nine grabs for 96 yards
in a limited role, and is a good kickoff returner averaging 23.5
yards per try. He was the star in a 27-17 win over Toledo with
111 yards on 28 carries, and he finished with 272 yards on the
Glenis Thompson provides the power to the mix. The 5-8,
210-pound former JUCO transfer didn’t get too much work, running
just 14 times for 47 yards, but he has the build and the
potential to do far more. Providing even more power, and a
fullback if needed, is redshirt freshman
Jamie Simpson, a 6-1,
237-pound thumper who’ll can block and be used in short yardage
situations as well as an H-Back.
Watch Out For
... true freshman Antoin Scriven. WMU isn’t afraid to
throw rookie backs into key spots, like it did with Winchester
last year. Scriven is a team-leader type of player with the pop
to be the No. 1 back if injuries start to strike.
Strength: Versatility. West and Winchester are the same
back. They can catch, run with power, run with quickness, and
return kicks. WMU’s offense revolves around the pass, but these
two are more than just complementary players.
The offense. The backs are great for what the Broncos do,
but it’s not like the backs are built to run 20 times a game,
every game. WMU’s attack finished 96th in the nation,
and 11th in the MAC, in rushing, and although West
will have a 100-yard game here and there, the overall production
won’t change much.
Outlook: The offense won't
ever revolve around the running game, but the backs are
ultra-effective and can carry the attack if needed. West is an
all-star back who might have a place at the next level as a
do-it-all specialist if he can come up with another big season.
Winchester is speedy, tough, and will be used more and more this
year. WMU will still try to throw for 300 yards a game, but the
ground attack is still a plus.
Step one is replacing the No. 1 target, Jamarko Simmons, at
the T position. 6-2, 180-pound sophomore
Robert Arnheim won’t
bring the same size, but he has promise. The former star
quarterback prospect moved over to receiver early last year and
finished with seven catches for 58 yards and a touchdown,
highlighted by four grabs with a score against Illinois. He’s
not a blazer, but he’s a good route runner.
The star of
the corps will be junior
Juan Nunez at the outside X after finishing third on the
team with 57 catches for 701 yards and seven scores. He blew up
for 10 catches for 145 yards and a score against Central
Michigan, but he was a steady producer all season long. While
he’s only 6-0 and 172 pounds, the former star high school
sprinter will stretch the field and be Tim Hiller’s deep threat.
Stepping in for Schneider Julien at the Z position will be
Jordan White, a 6-0, 206-pound junior who came up big this spring.
He’s talented and could be a game-breaker, but he has to prove
he can stay healthy after missing all of 2006 and all of last
Matt Stevens will
take over for Branden Ledbetter after starting five times and
making six catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. He’s
fantastic in the red zone and has the athleticism to become a
dangerous target up the middle on a regular basis.
Projected Top Reserves: The team’s best receiver could
be Ansel Ponder when
he gets to campus. The 6-2, 187-pound freshman spent last year
at Hargrave Military Academy scoring 13 times last year. He’s
being called the best combination of size, speed, and
athleticism of any receiver WMU has ever had, and that includes
Greg Jennings. He has all the tools to be special.
Trying to play a big role at the Z is
Seth Patterson, a
6-3, 185-pound redshirt freshman who spent last year on the
scout team. A decent prospect, he’ll have to battle be in the
hunt for the starting job and will likely end up being part of a
rotation instead of becoming a star.
Certain to find a
spot somewhere is JUCO star
Chleb Ravenell, a 6-0, 185-pound junior who caught 16 passes for 345
yards and seven scores last year for Georgia Military College.
He’s a home run hitter who’ll be a threat to score from
everywhere on the field.
Dervon Wallace saw a
little action as a freshman catching two passes for 16 yards. At
6-0 and 180 pounds, he’s a quick, tough player who should shine
as the season goes on working at the Z in a combination with
While Matt Stevens is the starting tight
end, 6-3, 239-pound senior
Chad Baliko, 6-6,
215-pound redshirt freshman
Jeff Zipfel and 6-5,
236-pound redshirt freshman
Blake Hammond will
all see plenty of action. They’re all good receivers and the can
all work into the WMU attack that does a great job of using the
Watch Out For ... the JUCO
transfers. Nunez will be the team’s No. 1 target coming into the
season, but that could quickly change with Ravenell and Ponder
two tremendous talents who’ll be counted on shining from day
Strength: The system. WMU is great at
making stars out of receivers, and vice versa. If the newcomers
don’t do well right away there might be problems at wide
receiver, but Tim Hiller will find his targets and get them
numbers. The tight ends will be good, as always.
Weakness: Proven stars. Nunez is good, but can he carry
the receiving corps? The offense loses 209 catches, 2,452 yards,
and 19 touchdowns with Jamarko Simmons, Schneider Julien and
Branden Ledbetter gone.
Outlook: The numbers
will be there and the passing game will be fantastic once again
despite the loss of some star targets. Nunez is a good veteran
to build around, while Ponder has superstar potential and
Ravenell is good enough to quickly become one of Hiller’s
favorite targets. There are decent options all across the board
with Arnheim and Patterson good prospects to develop, but
they’re not stars. The tight ends could be used even more, and
they should be.
The line gets everyone back but Rob Johnson, a starter at
both tackle spots where needed. He played the first eight games
at right tackle before moving over to the left side. 6-5,
Anthony Parker will get the first look on the left side
after switching around with Johnson. He started out the year on
the left side before moving to the right. He was better on the
right side when he didn’t have to deal with the speed rushers,
but he’s a good athlete and he should grow into the role on the
The star of the line will be
Phillip Swanson, a
6-4, 307-pound All-MAC performer who came up with a consistent
year using his size to be a sledgehammer for the running game
and the feet to be decent in pass protection. Versatile, he got
two starts at left tackle before moving back over to his more
natural guard spot. Keeping his weight in check is the big
issue, he needs to stay under 310 pounds, but he’ll be fantastic
as the team’s anchor.
Paul Wasikowski had
to replace all-star Robbie Krutilla at center, and he did a good
job when he was able to stay on the field. He was part of a
rotation, but he started down the stretch in the final three
games of the year. At 6-3 and 291 pounds, he has decent size and
enough experience to start to be more consistent. He’s also
versatile enough to move to guard when needed; he started two
games, including the Illinois win, at right guard.
307-pound junior Nick
Clemens is back for his third year at right guard where he
was the team’s only lineman to start every game at the same
spot. He’s not all that quick and he’s not a star in pass
protection, but he’s strong, can open holes for the running
game, and he doesn’t make big mistakes. A winner, he was the
leader of a line that won a Wisconsin high school state
Getting the start at right tackle is the
massive 6-6, 340-pound sophomore,
Jonathan Jack. He has
the size, but he has to prove he can use it on a regular basis
to improve the running game. Even though he’s a bit too big, he
carries it well and moves stunningly well for a large tackle.
Projected Top Reserves: Depth is a problem
everywhere but center, where 6-1, 290-pound junior
Nick Mitchell split
time with Paul Wasikowski. He started seven times and was
more than solid when Wasikowski had to move over to guard. He’s
a good veteran who’ll be a major factor somewhere on the inside
throughout the season.
Adding more size to the equation
is Ben Samson, a 6-4,
345-pound tackle who’s being penciled into the rotation on the
right size behind Jack. A good prospect who needs to keep
working on his weight, he’ll be a key blocker on the outside
over the next few years.
Watch Out For ...
the freshmen. There’s little to no depth across the front line
meaning two redshirt freshmen,
Sam Jaeger and Kevin Galeher,
will be the key backups at guard, while true freshman Ben Samson
needs to be ready to step in at tackle.
The starting five. Assuming Jonathan Jack is ready at right
tackle, the starting five should be rock solid. The run blocking
was mediocre, but this group was fantastic in pas protection
allowing just 14 sacks in 535 pass attempts.
Depth. It’ll be a nightmare if there are major injury
problems early on. The Broncos will be relying on several
untested players to be see key minutes, and if they have to
start, it’s uh-oh time.
Outlook: One of the
better surprises of the season, the line rebuilt in a hurry and
became one of the team’s strengths. There aren’t any sure-thing
all-stars, outside of Phillip Swanson but there are good, large
veterans all across the starting five to form a brick wall in
pass protection. They could stand to do more for the running
game, but they’re good when they have to be. The problem is the
lack of proven depth, but there’s talent to build up and