Western Michigan Preview

Offense

Returning Leaders:
Passing: Tim Hiller
267-421, 3,021 yds, 20 TD, 15 INT

Rushing: Brandon West
183 carries, 848 yds, 4 TD

Receiving: Jamarko Simmons
84 catches, 980 yds, 6 TD

The starters are fairly talented, but there isn’t a great deal of proven depth behind them. QB Tim Heller is a veteran, but has had his share of problems with inconsistency and INTs. A year ago he threw for over 3,000 yards, but you never really know what you’re going to get. He threw five interceptions and just one touchdown pass in back-to-back losses to Ball State and Eastern Michigan, but cruised against Iowa throwing for 367 yards and three touchdowns.

Offensively the Broncos’ biggest weapon is WR Jamarko Simmons. Simmons is odd-sized at 6-2, 234-pounds, but has good hands and pretty decent speed. Nebraska needs to keep him in check as he began 2007 as one of the hottest receivers in the country with an eye-popping 38 catches in his first three games.

Running back Brandon West does it all for WMU. In addition, to his 800+ yards rushing a year ago, he also had 45 catches for 365 yards and two touchdowns and was great on kickoff returns averaging 25.9 yards per return with a touchdown. The team shouldn’t be overly dependent upon its running game and averaged just 3.38 yards/carry a year ago.

Western Michigan lost three seniors from its disappointing offensive line of 2007. The returners had a combined 28 starts last season. Rob Johnson is being counted on to anchor the line from his LT spot. His play along with the development of redshirt freshman Anthony Parker could be the key to a successful season.

Defense

Returning Leaders:
Tackles: Boston McCornell, 99

Sacks: Zach Davidson, Greg Marshall, 6.5

Interceptions: Several at 1

The WMU defense returns just about everyone from a team that was great against the pass, but will be looking to improve against the run. The defensive line is led by tackle Nick Varcadipane, who is a stud against the run and should be fun to watch against the Huskers interior O-line. He’s surrounded by two pretty good pass rushers at DE in Zach Davidson and Greg Marshall.

At linebacker expect to see Boston McCornell around the ball early and often. Dustin Duclo is another one to watch from his MLB spot, as he has a knack for steady play and smart decisions. The Broncos are looking to improve their pass rush, so expect some blitzing from the LBs on Saturday.

The Broncos’ best defensive player has a name that should be familiar to Husker fans, as London Fryar, the son of Irving Fryar, should push for all-conference honors in 2008. It should be strange to see Fryar shutting down the Huskers top receiver. Fryar is surrounded by three other returning starters in what could be the MACs best secondary. If Ganz is pressured into risky throws, these guys will eat up misguided throws. In addition, look for safety C.J. Wilson to light somebody up at some point.

Key Stats

Rush Defense: 179.1 ypg, 83rd nationally

Pass Eff. Defense: 120.85, 46th nationally

Total Defense: 399.25 ypg, 68th nationally

3rd Down Offense: 38.3%, 73rd nationally

Turnover Margin: -4, 88th nationally

Pass Eff. Offense: 130.94, 46th nationally

Total Offense: 398 ypg, 57th nationally

3rd Down Defense: 39%, 64th nationally

Pass Defense: 220.17 ypg, 46th nationally

Rush Offense: 130.42, 86th nationally

Pass Offense: 267.6 ypg, 31st nationally

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