2009 CFN Western
| 2009 WMU Offense
2009 WMU Defense
| 2009 WMU
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blogging about Western Michigan football?
Head coach: Bill Cubit
5th year: 29-20
10th year overall: 66-38-1
Off 19, Def 10, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 18
Best Bronco Players
1. QB Tim Hiller, Sr.
2. LB Austin Pritchard, Sr.
3. RB Brandon West, Sr.
Phillip Swanson, Jr.
5. LB Mitch Zajac, Soph.
6. WR Juan
7. TE Matt Stevens, Sr.
8. SS Mario Armstrong,
9. DE Justin Braska, Jr.
10. FS Doug Wiggins, Jr.
2009 Record: 0-0
9/5 at Michigan
9/12 at Indiana
9/19 Miami Univ.
10/3 at No. Illinois
10/10 at Toledo
10/31 at Kent State
11/14 at Eastern Michigan
11/24 Ball State
CFN Prediction: 8-4
8//30 at Nebraska L
at Idaho W 51-28
Tenn Tech W 41-7
9/27 at Temple W 7-3
Ohio W 41-20
at Buffalo W
10/18 at Cent Mich L 38-28
10/25 OPEN DATE
East Mich W
11/8 Illinois (Det.) W 23-17
Toledo W 27-17
11/22 OPEN DATE
at Ball State
12/30 Rice L 38-14
Western Michigan has been close to doing some really big things, but
it continues to be unable to come up with the really,
really big game it needs
to win to get over the MAC hump.
This has been a strange team to figure out. It was good enough to
beat Illinois last year, ruin Iowa’s bowl dream in 2007, and has put
up fantastic offensive numbers, but when push came to shove, it lost
a shootout against Central Michigan, was blown out by Ball State,
and was embarrassed by Rice in the Texas Bowl. Unfortunately, that
was with a veteran team that had everyone back on defense and a
receiving corps full of tremendous talents.
This year’s team isn’t going to be
any better talent-wise, there are several young, untested players in
some key spots, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more success.
Nine wins might be a stretch, but the areas the Broncos are good,
they’re really good and should be able to beat some teams on the
strengths alone. But the potential weaknesses could be glaring.
Last year’s secondary, led by Louis Delmas and Londen Fryar, was
supposed to be a killer, and it wasn’t close. Even so, a wholesale
change could be a problem early on unless Miami transfer Doug
Wiggins is the real deal at safety and if the corners are able to be
steady and stable. The receiving corps was tremendously productive,
and now it loses Jamarko Simmons and Schneider Julien along with
tight end Branden Ledbetter. On the plus side, there’s Tim Hiller to
make everyone better.
The veteran quarterback should make his
new receivers shine, and should help Juan Nunez turn into a No. 1
star, while a good defensive front seven should be able to help the
green secondary. Brandon West and Aaron Winchester form a solid
running back tandem that should do far more behind a line with four
good starters returning.
There will be times when nothing
works. There’s good potential at receiver and defensive back, and
the overall starters will be fine, but the depth is lacking and
there will be a disaster if major injuries strike. Even so, the
Broncos will simply outbomb their way out of several problems, while
the defense should be able to get into the backfield on a regular
This will be a fun team to watch, for good and bad,
and while there’s plenty of youth to develop, the time is now to
play for the MAC title again. It’ll take some work and some luck,
but the Broncos can do it.
What to watch for on
offense: The new receivers.
It’s asking a lot to replace Jamarko Simmons, Schneider Julien, and
Branden Ledbetter, who were all major producers in the passing game
over the last few years, but WMU’s cupboard might not be completely
bare. Juan Nunez flourished with all the attention paid to the other
stars, and now he has to prove he can be a decent No. 1 and more
than just a deep threat. Newcomers Ansell Ponder and Chleb Ravenell
could take starting jobs right away. If they don’t, there’s no way
the MAC’s best air attack can reach last year’s level of success.
What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. The
starting threesome of Austin Pritchard, Mitch Zajac, and Harrison
Porter should be among the most productive in the conference. All
three can move and all three can hit, but they’ll have to come up
with more big plays and they’ll have to do even more to keep decent
running games in check. Last year was about learning the ropes. This
year is about blowing up offenses.
The team will be far
better if … the secondary shows up. Last year’s secondary
boasted NFL safety Louis Delmas, all-star corner Londen Fryar, and
depth, experience and talent all across the board. It didn’t matter
as the Broncos allowed 255 yards per game, gave up 21 touchdown
passes and only came up with ten picks. This year’s secondary needs
Miami transfer Doug Wiggins to be a star at safety, while the
spotlight will be on Josh Price and David Lewis. The pass rush will
help out, but the corners will be on an island with so much blitzing
and aggressiveness. They have to come through.
Schedule: There aren't any big
breaks starting in early September and going straight through.
There's a chance to make some big early statements with winnable
road games at Michigan and Indiana, but the early November date at
Michigan State isn't going to be a breeze. The MAC slate gets two
big breaks with Central Michigan and Ball State coming to Mount
Pleasant, but going to Northern Illinois and Toledo in back to back
weeks in October will be nasty. Getting defending MAC champion
Buffalo from the East isn't a good break. Three road games in three
weeks before the regular-season finale against Ball State will be a
test of the team's toughness.
Best Offensive Player:
Senior QB Tim Hiller. He burst onto the scene as a freshman throwing 20
touchdown passes and three interceptions in 2005, but a devastating knee
injury cost him all of 2006. Still recovering a bit as a sophomore,
having problems with his consistency and with interceptions, he finally
got back into the swing of things as a junior with 36 touchdown passes
and just ten picks. He’s overcoming another knee injury, though not as
serious, and he should be ready by fall.
Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Austin Pritchard. The team’s new defensive star, Pritchard was
a tackling machine on the outside, highlighted by a 17 stop performance
against Central Michigan. Aggressive enough to get into the backfield on
a regular basis, he led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss to go along
with two sacks. He’ll be asked to do even more and to be the statistical
star the defensive scheme needs.
Key player to a successful season:
Senior DT Cody Cielenski. The corners have to come up with big years and
the new receivers have to play up to their billing, but outside of
Hiller, the team’s most indispensable player is Cielenski. The 6-2,
280-pound tackle is one of the only linemen with any semblance of bulk.
WMU is extremely quick up front, but it could have problems with anyone
who wants to pound away for a full four quarters. Cielenski is terrific
at making plays behind the line, with four sacks and ten tackles for
loss, and he has to be on the field as much as possible.
The season will be a success if ... WMU wins the West. This could be the league’s second best team
behind Central Michigan, but that could change if the secondary produces
and if the receiving corps doesn’t become a liability. The Broncos have
been hovering around greatness without being able to come up with the
big win to make it happen. With a good mix of veterans and young
talents, a star in Hiller, and the success of the last few years to
build on, anything less than a trip to the MAC title will be a
Key game: Oct. 3 at Northern Illinois. If WMU is as
good as it's expected to be, it should be able to handle Miami
University in the MAC opener. If there's any real hope of winning the
MAC title, or at least the West, beating Central Michigan is a must and
getting past Northern Illinois in DeKalb could be needed. The Huskies
are fantastic, but WMU can be the leader in the race if it can come away
with a big win.
2008 Fun Stats:
- Punt returns: Opponents 13.3 yards per try – Western Michigan 7.1
yards per try
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 97 – Western
- Fumbles lost: Western Michigan 15 – Opponents 5