WESTERN MICHIGAN FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEW See Also
The Western Michigan Broncos were one of the biggest surprises in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) during the 2011 season, and posted a 7-6 record overall and a 5-3 record in the conference. With a strong win at Connecticut, a near upset against Illinois and a good showing against their MAC opponents, the Broncos demonstrated that they were no fluke and have improved steadily over the past several years. The team even managed a bowl berth for the first time in years, but fell to Purdue 37-32 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Heading into the 2012 campaign, the Broncos have lost a few of their stalwarts on offense and defense, but should have enough returning pieces to make a run at a MAC title this year.
The return of Alex Carder at the quarterback position should bode well for the Broncos, as his 31 touchdowns and 14 interceptions ranked near the top of the national rankings for efficiency. The Broncos should use a running back-by-committee approach again this year, including Tevin Drake and Brian Fields. Carder will have to deal without three of his top receiving targets from a year ago, but junior wideout Josh Schaffer and tight end Blake Hammond should be his primary options through the passing game. Four starters will also return from a solid offensive line, so the Broncos offense should be able to jump right back into the swing of things.
On defense, the Broncos will return six starters but will have to replace the production of the departed MAC Defensive Player of the Year, Drew Nowak at defensive tackle. Travante Boles is expected to take his spot to anchor the run defense, while Freddie Bishop and Paul Hazel will provide pressure from the end spots. The linebacking corps looks like a bit of a question mark, as a smattering of underclassmen will be competing for the two spots in the middle of the defense. Finally, the secondary should be a much-improved unit, with Johnnie Simon taking over the hybrid linebacker/safety role, and Lewis Toler and Donald Celiscar manning the starting cornerback spots.
If the Broncos will make the jump to MAC supremacy during 2012, their schedule will be quite favorable along the way. While they will have to face non-conference opponents like Illinois, Connecticut and Minnesota, the Broncos could easily cruise through their MAC schedule and find themselves in the championship game quite easily. If the offense can gel quickly and the defense can get back into top form, the Broncos could be an even bigger surprise in 2012.
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