2010 Western Michigan Preview – Offense

Posted Aug 8, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Western Michigan Bronco Offense

Western Michigan Broncos

Preview 2010 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: A mega-flop last year with all the returning talent from an attack that was 11th in the nation in passing and first in the MAC in 2008, the offense will be changing up a wee bit and should be more productive. With a potentially devastating receiving corps, it'll be hard not to keep throwing the ball as much as possible (after finishing 21st in the nation last year), but the line is built with massive road graders who could pave the way for a quick stable of backs if the offense wants to balance things out a bit more. The key will be the emergence of a new starting quarterback in place of Tim Hiller. Alex Carder has the talent and the upside, but he'll need time to work through the growing pains.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Alex Carder
5-7, 27 yds
Rushing: Aaron Winchester
46 carries, 148 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Robert Arnheim
59 catches, 701 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Senior WR Juan Nunez
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore QB Alex Carder
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT Dann O'Neill
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Anthony Parker (as a guard)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Nunez, 2) WR Robert Arnheim, 3) WR Jordan White
Strength of the offense: Wide Receiver, Line Size
Weakness of the offense: Proven Quarterback, Proven Running Game


Projected Starter: Sophomore Alex Carder didn't get a whole bunch of work or a whole lot of chances to show what he could do behind Tim Hiller, completing 5-of-7 passes for 27 yards and ran for 16 yards in mop-up duty. Now he gets his shot to make the offense his. At 6-2 and 224 pounds he's a big, thick passer who was a huge recruit for the program a few years ago. He has a next-level arm and the mobility the offense has been lacking from WMU quarterbacks (particularly Hiller) over the past few years. The coaching staff won't be afraid to use him to bomb away.

Projected Top Reserves Senior Drew Burdi was the main backup option last year if something happened to Tim Hiller for a long stretch, but he wasn't needed much completing just one of two passes for two yards. The 6-1, 207-pounder has been around long enough to know what he's doing, but he doesn't have the upside or the talent of Carder. He's a decent passer and is a good runner who can step in whenever needed.

The coaching staff made a concerted effort to upgrade the young quarterbacks for the near future, and it got a good one in Mike Perish, a 6-3, 185-pound passer with a live arm and good leadership skills. He won't see the light of day this year unless a total disaster strikes, but his development over the season will be a big key to see if he can be ready to be a top backup next year. Zack Wynn is another good recruit and a star playmaker from Florida. 6-2 and 199 pounds, he's not huge, but he's mobile and is dangerous when in the open field.

Watch Out For … Carder to add another dimension to the attack. Tim Hiller was a special passer and he'll be missed for his tremendous smarts and his decision-making ability, but knee injuries left him totally immobile. Carder can run, and while he's not a passer like Hiller quite yet, he has great upside.
Strength: Young prospects. Carder has the potential to be special, while the addition of Perish and Wynn in the latest recruiting class should make for an interesting pecking order over the next few years.
Weakness: Experience. Hiller wasn't just the quarterback and the leader, he was the passing game and the offense for long stretches. He threw 309 of the 317 passes attempted last season.
Outlook: The passing attack didn't explode quite as well as it should've with Hiller under center, and while he was a good one, this year could be a slight step back to take a giant leap forward if Carder is the player many expect him to become. There will be some speed bumps, but WMU has some nice options and a good backup in Burdi.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: It'll be asking a lot to replace the all-around talents for Brandon West, who ran for 1,164 yards and ten touchdowns and caught 27 passes, but junior Aaron Winchester will try. The key to the 2008 recruiting class, he has been a big part of the rotation as a West understudy finishing second on the team with 148 rushing yards and a score, six catches for 27 yards, and eight kickoff returns for 117 yards. Now he has to show more pop. At only 5-9 and 174 pounds he's not going to run over anyone, he's extremely quick and he isn't afraid to run inside when needed. He has a little experience as a big playmaker, running for 111 yards in a win over Toledo two years ago, and now he gets to be the main man.

Projected Top Reserves Redshirt freshman Brian Fields was a top recruit two years ago and will be used in a variety of ways after lighting up the scout team last season. A high school all-star in Delaware, he's a very quick, very active runner and kick returner who could blossom into a star on special teams. At 5-8 and 195 pounds he's not big, but he can cut on a dime.

Brining more speed to the equation is redshirt freshman Marlon Miles a 5-8, 169-pound flash of lightning who was a part of the Oregon high school state champion relay team. He ran for almost 4,000 yards in his final two years and should be a home run hitter if he's able to find a little bit of space to move.

Watch Out For … a dangerous rotation of speedsters. There might not be a West in the bunch, but the top backs should combine to provide some semblance of a running game from time to time.
Strength: Quickness. Winchester and Fields are cut-on-a-dime quick and Miles is a flash of lightning. Jaron Deshazor doesn't have the same sort of talent, but he can move, too.
Weakness: Power. There isn't any. This isn't an offense built to crank out the hard yards, and that could be a problem more than ever with a new starting quarterback to work with.
Outlook: The WMU backs are fantastic for what they do (catch the ball out of the backfield, find the holes as a change up to the passing game, and use their quickness to make things happen), but they're not going to be workhorses. The ground attack came up with 1,348 yards and 13 touchdowns, with almost all of the production coming from Brandon West, but this group should be able to get over the 1,500-yard mark without much of a problem.
Unit Rating: 5.5


Projected Starters: WMU needed a new No. 1 target to replace Jamarko Simmons, and junior Robert Arnheim came through with a team-leading 59 catches for 701 yards and three touchdowns. The former star quarterback prospect moved over to receiver early in 2008 and he was a natural. Not a blazer, he uses his 6-2, 198-pound size, good route-running ability, and smarts to find ways to get open. While he came up with two 100-yard games last year, his worth is more as a go-to midrange target at the T position.

Jordan White is growing into a star despite having problems with a broken leg. The 6-0, 208-pound senior finished second on the team with 53 catches for 681 yards and four touchdowns with 21 grabs for 261 yards and a score in the final two games. A talented inside receiver, staying healthy is a must and he'll have to keep being a big yard-after-the-catch playmaker.

Senior Juan Nunez is the home-run hitter at the outside X position averaging 13.6 yards per grab and a team-leading six scores making 32 catches for 435 yards before getting hurt. The former high school sprinter is a whispy 6-0 and 181 pounds and has to show he can stay healthy after having issues with his knee injury. If and when he's right, he has All-MAC and game-changing potential.

Sophomore tight end Blake Hammond saw a little bit of starting time and made the most of his short range chances catching 13 passes for 80 yards and two scores. While not big at 6-4 and 239 pounds, he's a great weight lifter and his is strong for his size. The former high school quarterback is a smart, quick target with tremendous upside with a bigger role.

Projected Top Reserves Former JUCO star Chleb Ravenell came through when Juan Nunez got hurt finishing third on the team with 48 catches for 513 yards. He didn't score, but he used his excellent speed to get open. At 6-0 and 190 pounds he's not small, but he's not all that physical at the outside X position.

The hope was that sophomore Ansel Ponder would be the team's most dangerous target right away, and he still might be. The 6-2, 179-pounder spent 2008 at Hargrave Military Academy and showed off a nose for the goal line. 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, and he showed off a little of his potential with 39 catches for 308 yards and three catches, but he only averaged 7.9 yards per grab.

At 6-4 and 222 pounds, sophomore Trey Smith is built more like a smallish tight end than a big receiver, and he used his frame well making 14 catches for 147 yards and a score. Athletic for his size, he moves well and is great at going up to get jump balls.

6-4, 227-pound redshirt freshman Clark Mussman is a receiver who'll work at tight end in the rotation. An ideal H-Back, he's physical and can also stretch the field. He has the hands and he has the tools, and he'll be a major part of the passing game sooner than later.

Watch Out For … the second teamers. Nunez, Arnheim and White form, arguably, the best trio of receivers in the MAC, but Ponder and Smith could turn out to be far better before their careers are done. The Broncos have plenty of options.
Strength: Experience. The top five wideouts from last year are back and that doesn't include Smith or Hammond. The Broncos have speed to burn and the veterans to make the new starting quarterback look better.
Weakness: The quarterback. If Tim Hiller had another year (even though he seemed like he was around for a decade), the corps would explode with a smart, veteran passer throwing it. This year, the experienced receivers will have to adjust for Alex Carder and the rest of the inexperienced passers and will have to stretch the field to allow the small, quick backs to operate. If the quarterbacks are merely competent, the numbers will be terrific.
Outlook: The Broncos are loaded. Arnheim, White, and Nunez would be No. 1 targets just about anywhere else in the MAC, and so would Ravenell and Ponder. There are too many good players for any defense to double and an abundance of riches for the new starting quarterback to play with.
Unit Rating: 7

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Returning to be the anchor of the veteran line once again is junior Anthony Parker, a 6-5, 336-pound road grader who can play either tackle spot. The second-team All-MAC performer started every game at left tackle last season and struggled in pass protection, but he can bury any MAC defensive lineman in the running game. While he's a decent athlete for his size, he needs to keep his weight in check and he needs a little help against speed rushers.

Sophomore Sam Jaeger is hardly a sure thing to start with a big challenge coming from a few different options, but the coaching staff wants to go bigger up front and will give the 6-5, 323-pounder a long look. He saw a little bit of time last year with four starts, and now if the Broncos want to pound the ball, they have another huge, powerful body to work behind.

6-5, 308-pound senior Nick Clemens started at left guard throughout last year and now will move to the right side. While he's not as big as some of the other options, he's plenty large and has a ton of experience starting for the last three seasons. He's not great on the move, but he's strong and he doesn't make mistakes. A winner, he was the leader of a line that won a Wisconsin high school state championship.

Can senior Nick Mitchell hang on to his starting center job? He got the nod in every game but one last season and was good, but not great. He's a smallish (for this line) 6-1 and 300 pounds and could move over to guard if needed, but with his experience he's better suited for the middle.

6-7, 316-pound sophomore Dann O'Neill started out his career at Michigan after being ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation among offensive tackle recruits. His style didn't fit with what the Wolverines are trying to do and WMU got itself a great one. He's very big, very strong, and he has the frame and the upside to develop into a special blocker with a little bit of time. He'll start out at right tackle.

Projected Top Reserves Senior Phillip Swanson will end up starting somewhere. The main man at right tackle last season was pushed out with the addition of O'Neill, and he wasn't suited for the outside anyway. More of a guard than a tackle, the 6-5, 318-pounder is a sledgehammer who has to keep his weight in check and he has to come up with a good fall to take the left guard job. A 2008 All-MAC star, he's too good to keep out of the mix.

6-5, 311-pound sophomore Kevin Galeher might be the team's most versatile lineman. Originally considered a guard, he can move to tackle without a problem and will likely start the season getting a long look at the center job. Very physical and very tough, he was a key cog on an Illinois state championship line and he has the skills to be the anchor soon.

Watch Out For … more running. The WMU line wasn't exactly small over the past few years, but it wasn't as beefy as this group is. The coaching staff wants to pound away a bit more to ease in the new starting quarterback. A little more balance to the attack would be a plus.
Strength: Size. This is a massive line where a 311-pound blocker like Galeher looks small. There's little mobility on the front five, but it'll be hard to get around this group with the size to block out the sun at all five spots.
Weakness: Pass protection. This might not be as big a problem with a more mobile quarterback to block for this season, but it was a major issue last year with a sitting duck like Tim Hiller to protect. Obviously, the more time the new guy gets, the better.
Outlook: A major disappointment considering how surprisingly well the line played in 2008, there was little production for the ground game and not enough protection for the quarterback. This year there's experience, depth, and an upgrade in talent with the emergence of O'Neill in the equation. It's not a perfect line, but if everyone comes together and the right combination can be found, there could be a night-and-day difference from last year.
Unit Rating: 5.5

- 2010 Western Michigan Preview | 2010 Western Michigan Offense
- 2010 Western Michigan Defense | 2010 Western Michigan Depth Chart
- Western Michigan Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006