WMU finished last year at 4–8 (2-6 MAC), their worst record since 2004. New head coach P.J. Fleck and the Broncos start spring practice today, March 19 and culminating with the annual Brown & Gold Game on April 20. David Drew covers WMU sports for MLive and he breaks down the Broncos for us in our Western Michigan 2013 spring preview.
I don’t think anyone saw a 4-8 record coming last season. I thought WMU had the pieces to be a contender in the West Division.
The injury to quarterback Alex Carder in a win over Connecticut was a major loss. Backup Tyler Van Tubbergen stepped in and played well, but there was a bit of a drop off.
WMU had a second-half lead in almost all MAC games, including against Northern Illinois, yet the Broncos could not seal the deal. Overall, I think 2012 was a disappointing season for the Broncos.
The Broncos’ strength will be at the wide receiver position. Jaime Wilson enters his sophomore season as the go-to receiver. Senior Josh Schaffer should be a nice compliment.
Timmy Keith missed all of last season with a knee injury suffered on the opening kickoff against Illinois in the season opener. Keith had the makings to be a dynamic slot receiver and it will be interesting to see how he looks as a sophomore.
With a handful of starts under his belt, Van Tubbergen should at least have confidence in his ability to connect with receivers in new coach P.J. Fleck’s offense, which is expected to be a variation of the spread.
There are a lot of question marks on the defensive side of the ball.
Cornerback Lewis Toler left the program when Fleck was hired and that is a major loss. He had NFL potential. It will be interesting to see who takes over on the opposite side of Donald Celiscar, who will be without question the team’s shutdown corner.
Up front, defensive tackle Jonathan Harden also left the program after his freshman season. Senior Travonte Boles should be a solid starter, but behind him the Broncos will likely be playing young guys. The graduation of defensive ends Freddie Bishop and Woody Legrier also raise questions about who will fill their spots.
With three Big Ten teams on the schedule in the first four weeks, WMU will almost surely start 1-3, but I don’t think six wins is out of the question. I think a 6-6 record is realistic and seven or more wins would be a surprise.
I don’t see the Broncos winning at both Toledo and Northern Illinois. A lot will depend on the turnover ratio this fall. If WMU can protect the ball better and force more turnovers we could be looking at an 8-4 WMU team by the end of the season.
For more Western Michigan football analysis and commentary you can follow David on Twitter @Drew_on_WMU.